Harbor Country Gazette
By John Gunner Gooch
LAKESIDE — Guests at the May 22 Region of Three Oaks Museum Gala fund-raiser at Chikaming Country Club enjoyed more than a pleasant evening of dinner and dancing.
They also received an update on plans to construct a new museum building — a project expected to begin in the very near future.
During a Powerpoint presentation on the new facility in Three Oaks that will house artifacts originally part of the collection of the Chamberlain Memorial Museum that closed in 1952, Three Oaks Township Supervisor Chuck Sittig explained that the museum’s holdings were transferred to Michigan State University.
“In recent years, MSU agreed to start returning items to Three Oaks, and many of those items have been put out on display on the second floor of the Three Oaks Township Public Library,” he said.
According to the supervisor, the original plan involved incorporating the empty third floor of the library building to display more of the returned artifacts; however, a historical architectural review revealed that it would be more cost-effective to move to a new building rather than trying to undertake an extensive and expensive restoration project on the third floor.
Thanks to donations and two grants from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, 40 support footings for the new building, to be located on Featherbone Avenue west of the library, should be put in place soon. The work will be done by Carey Brown Construction, which has been contracted to build the new museum. Fund-raising efforts are now being focused on getting money that will be used to complete the building’s interior.
Sittig told the audience that a delay in the original construction timeline was caused when it was discovered that a sewer line was located running diagonally across the property where the building was to be erected. Fortunatey, a donation of additional adjoining land by the Wojdula family has allowed the building to be repositioned so that the plan could move forward.
Architect Chris Rudolph of Rudolph Architects said that his blueprint for the building incorporated a simple and efficient design that would be cost-efficient to operate and could be expanded as the museum’s collection continued to grow.
“In keeping with the character of the area and what the building is going to be used for, there will also be some historic components incorporated in its components, such as using reclaimed barn wood and incorporating an archway reminiscent of the famous ‘Three Oaks Against the World’ arch that was present in Three Oaks during the Spanish-American War and helped encourage citizens to donate funds that led to the village being awarded the Dewey Cannon,” Rudolph said.
He said the building’s interior design includes a mezzanine and allows for a “very flexible display area.”
“In addition, the building’s exterior will make a nice backdrop for some of the larger museum items that may be better suited for display outside,” he added.
Museum Board president Harold Russell said that some of the bigger items from Three Oaks that MSU is still holding include a vintage fire engine, a stage coach, and a hearse.
“It would be nice to get some big items like that back here now that we’re going to have much more room in our own building,” he said.
As a rule, Russell said most libraries usually have about 30 percent of their collections out on display at any one time, with the remaining 70 percent in storage, and they try to rotate the display items on a regular basis.
“We’ve come a long way to this point, but we still have a long way to go, so we continue to welcome volunteers to join in our efforts,” he said. “And, of course, we could always use more donations, Thank you all for your support, and we look forward to keeping this going.”