GREENVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Flat River Historical Society and Museum is looking forward to telling the stories of Greenville for another 50 years.
Opened on Oct. 10, 1972, the Flat River Historical Museum at 213 N. Franklin St. near Montcalm Street, has spent the last five decades inviting guests to take a walk back in time.
“The museum is located where our first white settler, John Green, settled. He built a sawmill right where the museum is located,” Keith Hudson, president of the Flat River Historical Society, said. “A horse barn was built on that site to supply horses to a sawmill that was directly across the street.”
Years later, T. J. Ridley bought the building and used it for cold storage — mostly eggs, Hudson said. After a fire destroyed the building in 1904, it was rebuilt a year later on the existing foundation that is believed to have been laid in the 1870s.
Inside the present-day museum, visitors learn about the history of Greenville.
“We have a great Native American Heritage, fur trade, lumbering — we were actually a lumbering town, that’s how we got started. Manufacturing, agriculture moved in, right away actually,” Hudson said.
From the ‘Potato Capitol’ of the U.S. to the ‘Refrigerator Capitol,’ Greenville’s history and nicknames cover a wide range of industries.
“We’re just a very diverse community and we try to put this all on display,” Hudson said.
On the main level, the museum is displayed in chronological order with visually stimulating and hands-on exhibits.
The museum even has an exhibit on Meijer, which was founded in Greenville in 1934.
“We celebrated Sandy’s (Meijer’s mechanical penny horses) 60th birthday here. We had over 70 people attend that,” he said.
On the upper level, guests can walk down a recreated main street and peek into period rooms such as a general store and barber shop which feature two of Hendrik Meijer’s barber chairs and his tools.
“We also have three original shopping carts that Meijer used when they first opened,” Hudson said.
On the lower level, guests get a glimpse of harness-making, carpentry and blacksmiths at work in their shops.
Outside of the museum, there is Victorian Garden with interpretive boards.
“We have a brick pathway that winds around, and the bricks were from the original streets. They were laid down in 1910 in Greenville,” Hudson said.
The museum is open from mid-April to November on Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. During the summer, there is a concert series that takes place across the street and the museum opens for an hour beforehand. Hudson said private tours are also an option.
On Monday, Oct. 10, the museum is having a 50th anniversary celebration with a rededication at 6:30 p.m. — the same time the museum opened. The event will feature dignitaries, presentations, a time capsule, refreshments and museum tours.
For more information, visit the museum’s website.
*Editor’s Note: This article is the beginning of a series on woodtv.com spotlighting small museums around West Michigan. The following articles will be published in the coming weeks.