West Michigan Historical Villages
Michigan Travel News ( Press Release )
Historical Villages Offer a Glimpse Back in Time
Grand Rapids, Michigan. April 2002: Historical villages offer an insight into life in Michigan hundreds of
years ago and with multiple buildings on site it is literally like talking a walk back in time.
Charlton Park Historic Village & Museum in Hastings features 25 historic residences,
businesses and community buildings that were moved from throughout Barry County to recreate
life in an early rural Michigan village.
The historic site began as one man's dream for preservation of the past. In 1936, Irving Delos
Charlton donated land to Barry County for the purpose of building a museum and recreation
facility for local residents. He named the place in honor of his parents, Frank and Rosemary
Charlton. After World War II ended, the museum became a reality and construction was
completed in 1950.
During his lifetime, Mr. Charlton collected thousands of artifacts which formed the core of the
collections now owned by the museum. Many of these were simple objects, which reflect the
lives of those who lived in the small communities of this region.
Charlton Park is a Michigan Historic Landmark and is open Tuesday through Sunday beginning
Memorial Day and running through Labor Day. 2545 S. Charlton Park Rd., Hastings, MI 49058-
8102. 616-945-3775 -- www.charltonpark.org
Much like Charlton Park, Ella Sharp Museum & Park in Jackson started with the donation of
land to the community. The Ella Sharp Museum opened in 1965 in the 19th century home of Ella
Merriman Sharp. Ella willed her 530 acre property to the city of Jackson in 1912, with the
understanding that a park and museum be developed for all to enjoy.
In addition to touring the elegantly furnished Victorian home, visitors to the Museum may visit a
one-room school, an exhibition of carriages, woodworking shop, printer's office, doctor's office
and general store.
The Hadwin Center connects three renovated galleries, which feature changing exhibits of art and
Jackson history, three hands-on Discovery Areas for families, the Friends of the Ella Sharp
Museum Gift Shop and Ella's Granary restaurant.
Ella Sharp Museum is open Tuesday through Friday year round and is closed on Mondays and
most major holidays. 3225 4th Street, Jackson, MI 49203. 517-787-2320 -- www.ellasharp.org
Historic Bowens Mills is a 13 acre historical park that includes an 1864 grist mill and cider mill,
just two miles north of Yankee Springs in Barry County. It is a working museum that still grinds
and sells fresh corn meal through the use of water-powered mill stones. The mill is a second
generation family-owned and operated State Historic Site. It is open year around for tours,
festivals, and large gatherings.
The antiquated four-story mill building's main floor houses a working water powered cider and
grist mill and a museum plus a gift and antique shop. There is a blacksmith shop and a water
powered machine shop in its lower level. The third floor has been transformed into quaint, cozy
living quarters. The top floor is home to Bowens Mills Studios and features a lot of original
machinery, gears and pulleys.
Other structures on site include an 1840s two-story Plank House, the oldest house in Bowens
Mills; an 1850's one-room school house, the oldest in Barry County; an 1860s 11-room
Victorian House built by the Bowens; a post and beam barn, a quaint covered bridge, a 17-foot
water wheel, "Ye Ole Craft Shoppe" an artisans woodworking and cooper shop; and The
Gathering Place -- a huge gambrel roof building for displays, social events, meetings and
performances. Briggs Road, Yankee Springs Township. 616-795-7530 -- www.bowensmills.com
The Celery Flats Historical Interpretive Center in Portage offers tours of its museums and the
viewing of artifacts depicting the region''s celery farming heritage. An historical marker was
erected in 1957 at intersection of Crosstown Parkway, Balch and Park streets in Kalamazoo that
A Scotsman named Taylor grew the first celery in Kalamazoo in 1856. Diners at the Burdick
Hotel regarded it with curiosity. Cornelius De Bruyn, a gardener, who came here from The
Netherlands in 1866, developed the modern type of celery from the earlier soup celery. Other
Dutch farmers by 1872 were turning the Kalamazoo mucklands into fields of celery. J. S.
Dunkley sold medicines and condiments made of celery. Soon Kalamazoo celery was known the
nation over. Michigan has been a leading celery producer ever since.
At Celery Flats, you''ll also find an 1856, one-room schoolhouse, the Stuart Manor Greek
Revival home and a 1931 grain elevator. Enjoy summer entertainment at the Celery Flats
Amphitheatre or the Hayloft Theatre. Summer festivals include the Family Festival, Great Lakes
Bluegrass Festival and the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.
Park facilities include a playground, bicycle livery and hard surface trail connecting to
Bicentennial Park Ponds, an ice skating rink and warming house and more.
The park facilities are open from 8 a.m. until sunset. 7335 Garden Lane, Portage. 616-329-4522
The Allegan County Pioneer Village at the county fairgrounds is maintained by the Allegan
County Historical Society. As you walk about the southwestern corner of the fairgrounds, you
can take part in some of Allegan's past history. These buildings have been moved to Allegan
and put back together piece by piece just as they were originally constructed many years ago.
They are all permanent structures at the fairgrounds.
You will see a church that is more than 100 years old -- brought down from Michigan''s Upper
Peninsula. There is a general store, blacksmith shop and barn. The 1880s Jewett one-room
schoolhouse used to stand out by Dumont Lake. The Schmitt log cabin was built around the
1870s and there's a little home that was built around 1840. A replica of a 1920 Cook Oil gas
station is on site as well. A doctor''s office was moved to Allegan from Hamilton and the 1900
Allegan Town Hall is loaded with past history from throughout Allegan County.
The historical village is open throughout the annual fair, September 6-14, 2002 and for school
groups and others by appointment only. 150 Allegan County Fair Drive, Allegan, MI 49010. 616-
673-5511 or 616-673-6501 -- www.allegancountyfair.org
Dutch Village in historic Holland is where the Netherlands from 100 years ago comes alive.
From picturesque walks, canals, flowering gardens and authentic Dutch architecture, a visit to
Dutch Village is like a European day-trip.
Stroll the village streets, watch Klompen dancers perform to the tunes of the 120-year old
"Gouden Engel" Amsterdam Street Organ, ride a Dutch "zweefmolen" or chair swing and 1924
Hershell-Spielman "draaimolen" or carousel and just have a great time. Established in 1958,
Dutch Village is a bit of Old Holland.
The gift shops of Dutch Village are open all year and the theme park is open April 20 to October
10, 2002. 12350 James Street, Holland, MI 49424. 616-396-1475 -- www.dutchvillage.com
For regional travel information, contact WMTA toll free at 800-442-2084 or log on to
www.wmta.org. Founded in 1917, WMTA is the oldest continually-operating tourist association
in the nation. Representing 41 counties from the Michigan/Indiana state line north to Mackinac
Island and covering the entire west half of the Lower Peninsula, WMTA is dedicated to proving
that "Nobody Knows West Michigan Like We Do!"