The year 2017 marks the 125th anniversary of the historic Shay Hexagon House located at 396 East Main Street. Ephraim Shay, notable creator of the Shay geared locomotive, built the Hexagon House in 1892 where he lived until his death in 1916. But this year marks another important reason to celebrate this remarkable stamped-steel building. The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society (HSAHS) is excited to announce that it has acquired the historic Shay building from previous owner Mary Cay Bartush Jones.

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“The Historical Society is honored and humbled by this ultimate gift of history,” said Mary Cummings, executive director of the Historical Society. “Mary Cay Jones has entrusted us with this historic treasure, and we will continue to steward the building as she has done during her 30-year ownership.”

The Shay Hexagon House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was renovated in 1990 just after Jones first acquired the building. The outright gift of the building to the Historical Society has sparked its board of trustees to look toward the future, both for the historic structure and for the organization as a whole, now in its 27th year.

“The Historical Society has a wonderful opportunity with the Shay House,” according to Tim Tippett, current HSAHS board president. “We plan to explore potential uses for the building that both strongly align with the Historical Society’s mission as well as serve and benefit our entire community. We thank Mary Cay for recognizing the Historical Society with this generous gift.”

The 14-member board of trustees has already embarked on a strategic planning process that includes the Shay Hexagon House and is currently exploring a future comprehensive campaign to complete needed renovations to the Shay House with an endowment component to be able to maintain both it and the museum building for generations.  At the heart of the Historical Society is its mission to connect learning about the past with appreciating the present by preserving our histories and traditions.

For more information about the Historical Society, please call (231) 526-9771.

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The Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of our new Voices from the Vault recording space inside the Harbor Springs History Museum. Once this metal and brick vault on the east side of our building kept important records safe for the City of Harbor Springs; now the space has been turned into a recording area to capture and safeguard our community’s stories. (The building's east vault is visible in the photograph below, taken around 1910).

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The Voices from the Vault recording space will officially open on Friday, May 26, 2017 during the museum’s regular exhibit hours of 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The community is encouraged to stop by to view the new space, which will remain a permanent part of our exhibits after its opening. 

The idea for the recording space came to Historical Society staff members after interactions with museum visitors kept uncovering great stories; stories that unfortunately vanished as soon as the visitors left. 

“We feel that it’s an important part of our mission to find a way to chronicle and preserve these treasured memories and stories from our visitors,” said Mary Cummings, Executive Director of the Historical Society. “Reclaiming the unused vault area inside the temporary exhibit gallery seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.”  

The Voices from the Vault space will provide a dedicated area for both impromptu recordings from museum visitors as well as traditional oral history interviews. We hope the community will take advantage of this unique space and are happy to answer questions or provide more information to interested individuals. Call (231) 526-9771 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more. 

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Voices from the Vault was made possible in part through the generous support of the
Ayrshire Foundation and the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. 

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Welcome to the fifth and final installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about restaurateur Myrtle “Myrt” Johnston.johnston myrt

Myrtle Johnston was born in Cross Village in 1917 to Edna and George Kruzel and was raised there. Later she attented Harbor Springs High School before marrying Samuel Johnston in 1934.

Known for her hardworking nature and generous spirit, "Myrt" took on the chores that face the wife of a would-be dairy farmer while earning extra money by working at the Old Trail Inn. Her summer routine was to arrive at 7:00 am to bake pies, cook breakfast, then lunch and dinner, returning home at 9:00 pm.

Myrt is best known for her years running Johnston’s Restaurant at State and Bay streets. She took over the restaurant from her brother-in-law Roy and ran the store for 17 years. The restaurant and especially her presence there made Johnston’s a fixture in downtown. Generations of Harbor Springs residents, both year-round and summer, will long remember Myrt for her hospitality and homemade cooking as well as for her fiesty temper and generous heart.

Myrt passed away in 2012 at age 94.

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Welcome to the fourth installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about Josephine Darling Ford. 

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The 1960s and early 1970s were a difficult time in Harbor Springs despite its distinction as a summer resort town. In the mid-1970s the charming yet sleepy town was reborn, and Josephine Darling Ford helped foster that rebirth.

Born in Harbor Springs in 1911 to Willard S. and Bertha (Stutsman) Darling, Josephine Darling Ford loved her home town and the people in it. She showed that love through service to the community on the school board for eight years, city council for four, and a term as mayor in 1975-76. During her tenure as mayor, the City of Harbor Springs was recognized as an “All American City” by the National Municipal League. Harbor Springs was one of ten cities and the smallest among the honorees. 

“I feel Harbor Springs has a lot to look forward to,” Ford was quoted in a 1976 interview about the award. “We aren’t stopping, we want to continue to make this a better place to live.” Cited in the city’s application for the designation were revitalization of the downtown business district, creation of the Kiwanis Sports Park, community school programs and a new senior center. Also listed were projects Ford championed including the creation of a public boat launch. Today that boat launch bears her name.

Following her unexpected death in 1977, city manager Robert S. Anderson, Jr. delivered Ford’s eulogy: “Josephine Ford was in a very real sense a mother to all of Harbor Springs. Sitting in the window of Rosenthal’s watching Main Street as a mother watches her children at play, seeking a chance to solve citizens’ problems as a mother waits to bandage a scraped knee, Jo tackled her community responsibilities as a mother guards her brood.”

This short feature is a part of the fourth volume of the Essence of Emmet magazine. A digital version of this magazine can be found here and hardcopies are available throughout Emmet County. 

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Welcome to the third installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about teacher and Odawa leader Margaret Boyd.boyd margaret

Margaret Blackbird Boyd (pictured at right as portrayed by local artist Jane Cardinal) was born in Harbor Springs around 1817. She is best known for her role as an educator and for defending Odawa land rights during the 1870s and 1880s. Margaret grew up in Harbor Springs with her family, including her brother Andrew J. Blackbird, but in her life also ventured away from the Little Traverse Bay. 

Around 1825, missionaries and local Catholic Odawa, realizing the growing importance of a Western education in a rapidly changing time, began choosing promising young Odawa to send to school. Margaret was chosen along with her brother William and their cousin Augustin Hamlin Jr. to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio. Their elders hoped that an education at the large convent school in Cincinnati would mold the young students into adults who could then help their community.  

Margaret completed her schooling and fulfilled that wish, first teaching in Detroit and later returning to the Harbor Springs area where she took up a position as a schoolteacher. She worked as a teacher off and on before marrying Joseph Boyd and establishing a farm and family of her own. 

In later years, Margaret faced harsh discrimination along with the rest of the Odawa community as a result of the flood of white settlers to the area. Hundreds of Odawa lost their land and homes, often due to illegal seizures, unethical tax hikes and intimidation. Margaret was outspoken in fighting against these forces, writing numerous letters to government officials in Michigan and working with her brother, Andrew, to help Odawa families. In 1876 she took it upon herself to intervene by traveling, alone, to Washington D.C. to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant. 

An accomplished beadworker and basket maker, Margaret sold her art along the way to pay for train fare and food and eventually arrived at the White House. She was allowed to see the President but barely had time to state her case before Grant excused himself. Devastated but not beaten, she returned to Harbor Springs are continued to lobby and fight for the rights of Odawa people for the rest of her life. 

Sources:
- Gah-Baeh-Jhagwah-Buk: The Way it Happened- A Visual Culture History of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa      by James McClurken.
- Blackbird's Song: Andrew J. Blackbird and the Odawa People by Theodore J. Karamanski

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Business Hours

Tuesday-Friday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Exhibit Hours

Friday and Saturday
11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Museum Address

349 E. Main Street
    Harbor Springs, MI 49740

(231) 526-9771

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