SAND LAKE, Mich. (WOOD) — A museum with limited open hours that is run by a small group of history lovers tells the story of a small village in northern Kent County.
Located in an old Adventist church turned village library, the Sand Lake Salisbury Park Museum opened in 1978 but could only be visited on rare occasions.
“I can’t find any record of it being open on a regular basis other than the Fourth of July,” Margaret Merritt, president of the Sand Lake Historical Society, said.
That changed in 2019 when Merritt went to the chamber to ask why the museum wasn’t open more often.
“They said (it was) because we didn’t have anyone who would do it. I said, ‘I want to do it,'” she said.
At the time, the museum didn’t have heat or air conditioning. With the help of donations, both were added and the museum started welcoming visitors once a month. The museum was closed from March 2020 to March 2021 because of the pandemic but is now back open.
When visitors stop by, they can explore the history of the village.
“(There are) some things, many things that came from people who lived here in the village,” Merritt said.
The foyer of the museum showcases village history like farming history and ice houses.
“Wood Lake, which is just north of us, had ice houses before refrigeration. And they cut ice out of the lake and stored it and delivered it to people’s houses to store their food with the ice,” Merritt said.
A spinning wheel owned by Shick and Simpson families is on display in the foyer. This was brought to the area from England.
The museum also highlights a beloved member of the town.
“She was Grandma Grimes to most of us,” Merritt said. “…She worked at the school, that elementary school. When she turned 100 years old, the whole elementary school walked from the school to her house, which was on the other side of town, to wish her a happy birthday… It turns out she was born the same year that Tootsie Rolls were invented or first sold so she had Tootsie Rolls for each of the kids as they came through her house to wish her a happy birthday.”
A half wall separates the foyer from the main room, where visitors can explore antique kitchen and housing items, church items, school information and more.
“Sand Lake High School, which was dissolved in 1963, (and) there’s a lot of information from there,” Merritt said.
When the VFW closed in town, the museum acquired a lot of military and veterans’ historical items. A wall in the museum has been dedicated to the veterans and their stories.
In the main room, there’s an exhibit dedicated to the Fourth of July celebrations. Merritt said there’s a binder with all the local homecoming and Fourth of July festival queens going back to the 1950s and a TV that plays films from 1955 and 1958 that show the celebrations.
“They called it a ‘Homecoming Celebration.’ It was more of a 4-H geared, farmer kind of stuff than it is today,” she explained.
There’s also a set table and menu from the “kind of famous” steak house known as Steer Haus.
“People came from all over Michigan to eat in this place. I can remember when I was a child that people would stand all the way down the street to get in there,” Merritt said.
The museum also houses village genealogy, a book written by a local woman in the 1960s that chronicles the first 100 years of Sand Lake and a computer that stores historic newspapers like the Cedar Springs Clipper, the Howard City Record and the Sand Lake Herold.
The museum is free to visit and is open on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Appointments during other times are available. Anyone interested in asked to message the historical society’s Facebook page or call the phone number posted on the museum’s door. For more information, visit the museum and historical society’s Facebook page.