ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A home built over 100 years ago is filled 90% with artifacts from Allendale Township’s residents. It serves as a portal back in time.
The Allendale Historical Society began in the 1980s by a group of people who wanted to preserve local history. In 1994, the township purchased the Knowlton House.
The American foursquare home was built in 1911 by Hiram and Emma Knowlton after they sold their farm in Bass River.
“They were in their 70s. That’s what people did. They retired and moved into town because it’s much easier to get around, get your groceries, go to church, things like that,” Betsy Groendyk, director of the Knowlton House Museum, said.
In 1995, the historical society was asked to turn the home into a museum.
“The house is set up very much as if someone lives there,” Groendyk said.
Most of the artifacts are from Allendale homes and families “so that we can show other people what Allendale people used to live like,” Groendyk said.
When visitors stop by the museum, they enter through the side porch.
“We have things that would probably normally have been kept on a porch like a washstand, washtubs, milk bottles and a milk box. We have a plant stand that was owned by the first settlers in the Allendale area,” Groendyk said.
Inside the home, visitors can explore the kitchen, which features a porcelain table used for baking and a Detroit Jewel stove, and the dining room, which features a set from the 1930s and dishes from the early 1900s.
“There is (also) a cupboard which opens from the kitchen and into the dining room so that once you’ve cleaned your dishes, you can put them in the cupboard. But then, (you can) go into the dining room and open the other side of the cupboard so you can set your dishes in the dining room,” she said.
Also on the main floor is the living room, which houses two organs, an old baby walker and buggy as well as a Victrola.
“I’ll often play that for visitors. We have old records, and this is from the early 1900s,” she said.
On the front porch, visitors can explore one of three Danish looms that exist in the United States.
Upstairs, visitors can explore an attic, which serves as a research room, and three bedrooms.
“In one of the bedrooms, we’ve dedicated that to be the heritage room where we have many things from the history of Allendale,” Groendyk said. “We have the second switchboard from the Allendale Telephone Company, which was founded in 1910 and is still in operation today. We have WWII uniforms, we have a baptismal font that was handmade by the same man who carved the oxen downstairs, (and) baseball uniforms from the 1940s…”
In the master bedroom, visitors can see several vintage quilts, wedding gowns, leather curlers and clothes from the mid-1800s. The children’s bedroom features an old bed, toys from the early 1900s, a doll house and more.
In the backyard, visitors can explore the Carriage House Museum of History.
“The front half of the building is set up like an old general store, and one of the things we really like having in that is (popular former township supervisor) Roger Rycenga’s … barber chair,” she said.
Occasionally, Groendyk will bring out a metal trunk from one of the first settlers who made their way to Allendale in 1854 from England.
“There is a little metal trunk from the Robinson family that has ledger books that are covered with sheep skin that are probably from the mid-1800s. They’re all handwritten, and they look like lesson books. They’re math and figuring and English language lessons,” she said.
The museum is open the first and third Monday from April through September from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is also open by appointment. Anyone interested in making an appointment is asked to call 616.617.5496. Admission is $1 for adults and free for children. For more information, visit the historical society’s Facebook page.