By Emily Cervone
Living In the Ledge
On a non-descript street in Grand Ledge is an old house that was set for demolition many years ago. However, instead of meeting its inevitable fate, a group of people decided that it was worth saving—and turned it into one of the most notable places in the town.
“The home was owned by the Methodist Church, and they were planning to tear it down in order to make way for a parking lot,” Grand Ledge Historical Society president Marilyn Smith said. “It was just too interesting to let go. So we bargained with the city, and they decided if we restore the building and kept it in shape for five years, we could keep it.”
Hence, in 1984, the Grand Ledge Historical Society was born. The house still retains much of its original structure and amenities, and the upstairs bathroom that is frequented by visitors has framed pictures of the restoration process, said Smith.
“It was so tacky on the inside—these huge, orange plastic globes, ugly wall paper, holes in the plaster, only one railing left,” said Smith. “It was a disaster. But we were determined to fix it up.”
The intensive collection of Grand Ledge related artifacts began in the late 1970s, and has since grown so large that two garages and multiple rooms of storage space have began to fill up, said Smith. In fact, they have some of the rarest pieces in the area.
“There was an old brick factory here and the workers used to make these clay animals through folk pottery,” said Smith. “I’m talking from the early 1900s, and we have about 20 pieces of them. It’s a collection that is shared with MSU.”
GLHS is currently focusing on Grand Ledge’s agricultural history with their new exhibit, Farm to Table, said Smith. Partnering with the Grand Ledge Public School District, the organization offers opportunities for field trips as well.
“We have milking machines, cheese makers, everything from every facet of the farming process in the early 1900s,” said Smith. “A lot of these artifacts are from local families, so it is great to involve them as well.”
The exhibit even has homemade examples of farm-fresh food: jars of flavored jam, honey and fish made by locals, said Smith.
“We hope the community will enjoy it,” said Smith. “A lot of hard word has been put into it, and we want to showcase that.”