This Being the 20th Anniversary of the Museum Move...

by Ed Howard
Reprinted from Society News, the newsletter of the Arcadia Area Historical Society
June 2014. Volume 20 Issue 1.

It seems only fitting that we begin this “News” with a little of our Museum’s own history. Yes, it will be 20 years ago November 14 that our Victorian beauty was transported to its present site; probably even many in our current cadre of volunteers know much of the early beginnings. This is a brief summary, so we’ll need to dispense with specific names of the Museum’s myriad benefactors, originators, and volunteers. The names of these generous, unselfish heroes can be found in the many Museum records and journals, or on the plaques adorning its walls.

In May of 1991 the Arcadia Township Board answered a constituents’ calling to preserve the area’s unique history and restore some pride in the community; they established, by ordnance, a five-member historical commission to carry out that purpose. A local retired couple with long ties to the area donated eighty thousand dollars in real estate to help initiate the effort.

Members of the newly established Arcadia Township Historical Commission vowed immediately to serve without compensation, and thus, began this giant, totally volunteer community project. To this day, no taxpayer dollars have been used; the success in creating and operating the Arcadia Area Historical Museum has been totally through the generosity of donors and the creative efforts and energy of local volunteers.

The first Commissioners had the awesome task of establishing a facility in which to preserve and present local history and, with that, find the manpower to manage it. There was much to learn and much to do. They affirmed their purpose, established by-laws and mode of operation, studied the history and operation of existing local museums, and then began considering suitable locations and structures.



HistoricalCommission1993Early Commissioners Meeting at Finch Park
Left to right: Eugene Bischoff, John Paulson, Bobbie Counsell, Ed Howard, and Ruth Starke Burkhead

After considering many sites (and existing structures, including the Drugstore, the old VFW hall, and expansion of the Township Hall), the Commission in August, 1992 chose the present location; it would eliminate what had become an empty, “eye-sore” building in the center of town and would establish the museum as an attractive centerpiece. The Board agreed.

That same August, to provide that needed manpower to operate and maintain the anticipated museum, the community, via the Commission, established the Arcadia Area Historical Society. The Society, with a five member executive board (since expanded to nine), quickly organized, established bylaws and developed the committees (work units) needed to begin finding, preserving, and presenting Arcadia area history. By the summer of 1993, the Society was operating a temporary museum out of a one-time store (with a no-rent lease) on Lake Street, Arcadia. Commission minutes reveal that on June 13th, 1993, ninety-three persons had already visited the temporary quarters.



The 1993 Temporary Museum in the one-time Schafers Store


From the beginning, and especially throughout 1993-94, Commission and Society members had been considering design, layouts, and existing structures that might be appropriate for the community’s historical museum. The frontal look of the one-time “Company Store” had become the favorite. But, in the summer of 1994, decision was made to obtain and preserve an abandoned 1884 Victorian house that sat on Consumers Power land about two miles out of town. The structure, the once magnificent home of an early Arcadia Township supervisor and sawmill owner, had historical significance; it was about to be demolished.

MuseumParadeFloatEarly Parade Float
This was the Society's parade float representing the museum that might have been, the old Company Store.

November 14, 1994 was a very historical day in Arcadia. With full radio and television coverage and great celebration, the Victorian home was moved onto its new site. A local excavating company had previously, and gratuitously, demolished the eye-sore structure, cleared the grounds, and dug a basement for the arriving building. Many other volunteers had also been preparing the grounds; commissioners had previously negotiated much discounted work costs with utility line, limb cutting, and trash removal companies. A local paving company would later pave the entire parking lot at no charge. It was, indeed, a great day.


The House in its Original Location
It needed work, but it was history. It was worth the work.

While the site was being prepared, the house was made ready to move.



Removing a building from the site.


Digging the basement


Dividing the house into two pieces to make the building easier to move to the prepared site


The First Piece Loaded onto Girders and Wheels


Moving the Rest of the House

Museum-17-Ready to StartLet the renovation begin!

Let the renovation begin!

By this time, the Society had over two hundred members, and volunteers began in earnest to renovate the future museum. The Society began publishing a newsletter (which continues to this day) so that members could be kept informed and encouraged.


The Museum in its Original Glory
This picture is from the 1903 Manistee County Plat Book.



July 15, 2000 marked the grand opening of the Museum. The Commission’s extremely successful “Room Sponsorship” project (where-in families and groups had generously gifted to complete the renovations of specific Museum rooms and the Tower) had advanced the Museum’s completion by over a year. State Representative David Mead spoke to the estimated three hundred people who attended, and local radio personality (Arcadia raised) Bernie Schroeder emceed the event. By this time, of course, Society volunteers had also held many fundraising projects (home tours, sales, auctions, socials, etc.} and the Museum was beautifully complete and fully operating. The Society had already established its weekly management teams, temporary and permanent committees (Events, Membership, Exhibits, Accessioning, Building and Grounds) and had a long list of ready docents.

Restoring the tower

OpeningCeremonyThe grand opening

Of course, success brings need; by 2002 there was already need for more space to house and exhibit incoming artifacts. History is ongoing and increases daily. After much consideration, the decision was made to build the Museum a complementing carriage house. To that purpose, a contract was made with the Manistee County Community Foundation to establish a short term fund (for donors) to build the “Carriage House.” The basic, usable structure was completed within the intended three year period; a second, Commission-driven, “phase two” fundraising project finished the building in 2007. It should be noted that while setting up the temporary “Carriage House” fund, the Commission arranged with the MCC Foundation another fund meant to assure the future (perpetuity) of the Museum itself. This was, and is, the permanent, on-going “Arcadia Area Historical Museum Fund”.

How You Can Help

The Carriage House

To the present, our Society continues with solid membership, including families, organizations, and businesses. It continues to support and maintain the Museum through memberships, fundraisers, donations, and sales. It continues to promote interest and education through its events, changing exhibits, publications, and website. The website, in fact, won the Historical Society of Michigan’s 2008 award for “best newsletter or website.” Add to this the Museum’s 2011 prestigious “Presidential Award” from the Keep Michigan Beautiful organization, and we might say that the Museum is not only our center piece for history, but also a center of beauty.