The Coopersville Area Historical Society was founded in 1980 to preserve area history for the enrichment of both visitors and local residents.
The Historical Society is a 501 (c)(3) organization. Its members, who do not have to be originally from Coopersville, are from out of town and out of state as well as from the immediate area. A monthly newsletter with updates and interesting pieces of history is included with membership. Contact Jim or Lill Budzynski by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (616) 997-6978 for information on joining the Historical Society. Such inquiries are most welcome. Each new membership strengthens the Historical Society in its preservation efforts.
Education and entertainment are very much a part of the Society’s activities which, with few exceptions, are open to the public. On the first Thursday of most months, the Historical Society holds monthly meetings at 7 p.m. These gatherings, which include historical programs and special speakers, are often held at the Coopersville Area District Library. There are also social events and visits to local points of historical significance.
During the Historical Society’s early days, its members met in the town’s former interurban railway depot when it was used by the Coopersville Public School System as an alternative education site. In 1987, the Historical Society acquired use of the building from the City of Coopersville. The facility was then open seasonally as a museum with some regular and special exhibits. With assistance from a state grant, renovations were made on the building. An official ribbon cutting ceremony was held in 1991.
Two separate but connecting buildings presently comprise the Museum. Visitors often say they are surprised by the amount of space and interesting exhibits they find since from the street, the Museum appears to be quite limited in size.
The original Museum building, as already mentioned, was a former interurban depot and substation. It served the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon Railway, an electric powered line that came through the area from 1902-28. The charming brick structure is a Michigan Historic Site and on the National Register of Historic Places. The building houses railroad, interurban railway, military, household, early drugstore and business exhibits.
It also has an special exhibit on the life and career of early rock and roll star Del Shannon, raised in Coopersville as Charles Westover. In 1996, an impressive monument in memory of him was placed in front of the Museum. It was funded by friends, family and fans from the U.S. as well as several other countries. Del was posthumously inducted into Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
A second part of the Museum, the rustically designed Sawmill & Early Settlers Building, was constructed in 2000. It contains a full size sawmill exhibit circled by a model “G” gauge logging train. Early tools, logging items, photographs, a schoolroom, a buckboard, sleigh, loom, spinning wheel, plus other displays, commemorate the early settlement of the region. Children especially enjoy the Lincoln log table, the model train, schoolroom desks and caulk boards.
Another historic treasure is found on the Museum grounds. In 1990, the Historical Society acquired a rare wooden bodied passenger car that was once part of the area’s interurban rail line. The car – originally known as Car #8, Merlin – was rescued by the Historical Society when the Depression era house built around it was scheduled for demotion. Car #8 was transported to Coopersville to rest beside the Museum. A canopy was built for it, and in the years that followed, a considerable amount of exterior and interior restoration work was carried out. Other stages of restoration continue yet.
Future plans for the Museum call for another addition to totally enclose the interurban car for further protection from the elements. The addition will also provide more exhibit, activity and storage space. Architectural renderings can be viewed at the Museum. Grant applications and fundraising strategy are to be developed. To help with this project or for more information, call the City of Coopersville (616) 997-9731 or the Budzynskis at (616) 997-6978.
Visit the Coopersville Area Historical Society Museum Facebook page for updates on activities and for views of Coopersville from long ago.
Tuesday: 2:00 pm~5:30 pm, Wednesday: 10:00 am~2:00 pm,
Friday 1:00 pm~4:00 pm, Saturday: 10:00 am~4:00 pm.
Other times and group tours by appointment.