Hermansville museum opens blacksmith shop

HERMANSVILLE — Hermansville may be considered small but that hasn’t stopped organizers of the historical museum in the Menominee County community from thinking big.

The IXL Historical Museum at W5551 River St. has a new feature in its multi-building complex — a working blacksmith shop, where local smith David Hudson will do live demonstrations once a month during the summer.

The IXL Museum has hosted special events featuring ironwork on the grounds over the past several years.

“Having this permanent structure is something we wanted to do for awhile,” said board member and volunteer, Kevin Olson, who headed the project.

The shop became a reality thanks to several donors, Olson added. Construction began last spring with the pouring of a concrete slab donated by board member Marilyn Popp and her husband, Mike.

“The shop was built from repurposed lumber from a structure donated by Donald Frances Strahl,” he said. “We had a crew that help tear down the old building and reconstruct the new one.”

Volunteers included Jeff Paholski, Jim Vivo, Tim Bal, Dave Deau, Michelle Olson and Jeff Grailer.

Sturgeon Millwork & Lumber Co. also donated additional lumber and Bruce and Russell Whitens provided the tin.

“I think this is a great addition to the grounds,” Olson said.

Other museum upgrades and changes made for the new season include opening up a room in the former main office building to the public for the first time: a second-story kitchen.

“Everything in the small kitchen is original except for the table that was donated to the museum,” he said.

Wanting access to the second-story restroom is what led to the opening up of the kitchen, Olson said.

“It’s just another added feature,” he said.

The board is also in the process of replacing some of the old, deteriorating furniture with items that are in better condition.

To protect the furniture, Olson built wooden handrails that only allow visitors to look into the room.

They have also changed up several of the room exhibits. “We want to present each display so it’s easy to view to the public,” he said. “We have so much stuff in there to see.”

The caboose has received a new coat of paint and windows.

“We are always making changes, always trying to get better,” he said. “We want to draw more people in.”

Another historical topic Olson would like to focus is how Hermansville was the first village in the Upper Peninsula to have a police post.

“I would really like to expand on that, but we don’t have enough artifacts to support making a display,” he said.

Anyone who has police-related items — such as uniforms, badges, billy clubs, photographs, etc. — they would be willing to donate is encouraged to contact the museum, Olson said, adding if the museum obtains enough material he would put up another building.

The history of the community traces back to when Charles J.L. Meyer opened a mill for pine and cedar in 1878. Meyer operated this mill until 1883, sending most of the product to Fond du Lac to stock his sash and door factory. At that time, Meyer organized the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company, which acquired the mill and landholdings as the principal stockholder. Dr. G.W. Earle acquired almost all the stocks and bonds of the company in 1900.

The IXL Historical Museum was the main office building, which dates back to 1881-82. Artifacts housed in that building are 99% original, with the office equipment still the way Earle left it.

The second story of the building was a residence that features the company’s living area, complete with living room, dining room and bedrooms, all furnished with decor from that period.

In addition, visitors can tour the original “company house,” one of the oldest homes in Hermansville; carriage house; Hermansville’s original produce warehouse that contains a representation of a company store from the early 1900s; and railroad depot.

The IXL Museum was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

The museum’s annual Vintage Day is planned for Aug. 27. Details about special events as well as metal forging demonstrations will be announced in the near future.

“We are talking about extending the hours that day,” Olson said.

The museum is open from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.


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