Many Northport and Leelanau Township people are 6th and 7th generation descendants of the early settlers. The new generations may wonder what to do with all the accumulated memorabilia from the earlier years, such as precious photos, documents, and artifacts that are "too good to throw away".
The Concept Jells:
The 1999 Sesquicentennial aroused interest. Afterwards things were displayed in the old 'potato' building at Haserot Park. After Betty Mork, (long time village clerk), died, some of her memorial fund money was given to Northport Women's Club to explore and nourish the museum idea.
A meeting was held:
On June 11th, 2003, a meeting was held. A nucleus consisting of members (Lynda Wrisley, Suzanne Landes, Sandy Biagini, Debbie Alley, Carol Thomas, Charlotte Foote, Virginia Thomas, Mary Frank, and Phyllis Kilcherman) met at Lynda's home on Northport Point. Lively discussion followed. Assignments were made for the next meeting which was set for June 25th at the Library. Later meetings were held in the village hall and more people invited to come.
At the September meeting officers were selected to serve: Stefanie Staley as president, Sue Landes as Vice President, Margot Thomas as Secretary, and Carol Thomas as Treasurer. Other Board members selected were Mary Frank, Martha Roberts, Jackie Kilgren, Virginia Thomas, George Anderson, Will Thomas, Lynda Wrisley, Phyllis Kilcherman, and Debby Alley. Deciding on Northport Area Heritage Association (NAHA) as the name, writing a Constitution and By-laws, making Collections Policy, obtaining IRS tax exempt status, devising a logo, and preparing the various forms needed to receive money and artifacts were accomplished in '04. We thank Stef Staley of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum for help in getting these necessary measures done in a timely manner. Because we already had collections of Cherry Scott and Norma Fretheim waiting, space for storage was needed urgently. Luckily, the former Fire Station on 3rd Street was made available. Soon collections and financial support came in. We were off and running! Our FIRST place!
Our second location was the former pharmacy room at the north end of LMHC (Highlands). Here, we began to seriously sort and log in our collections on the computer. By '06 this room eventually filled and we couldn't display anything. People were still keeping things at home. The third location occurred when we moved into the Beech Tree House, owned by John and Susan Bryant, situated on the SW corner of Main and Waukazoo Streets. In lieu of rent we paid for the utilities. On July 27th '06 we had our first Grand Opening at the Beech Tree. The ribbon was cut and Northport area had a museum open to the public. The Community Band played at this gala event. Our fourth place became the classic train Depot on the bay, which George Anderson made the depot available to us. We had outgrown the Beech Tree spot in late Fall '06. Time seemed to pass quickly as we were in the Depot for four years! Then it was put up for sale by George and we had to move again. Isn't there a song?
On to the next:
Woody's on Waukazoo Street was for sale by the Buzz Goebel family. Formerly it was Hotel Northern in the "olden days" but in recent years a restaurant. After deliberations, it was given to NAHA. We assumed the responsibility for taxes and the several problems known to exist with the structure. It was a generous gift. We at NAHA are very grateful to the Goebels! While we were clearing it out and readying it for remodeling an offer to buy us out came from developer Ben Walraven. The price and timing were just right! We accepted after due consideration. It became a crucial turning point for NAHA because simultaneously a more suitable site for a museum presented itself.
The money received from Woody's put us in a good position to buy the Masonic Lodge building (across from the post office) that had just become for sale. The Lodge members deserve our thanks as they worked with us to make the purchase possible. A land contract was signed. The move put us in a central location in an historic structure. William J. Thomas built this two-story building about 1880 for his carpentry and undertaking business which was there until 1907. His horse-drawn hearse was reconstructed for the 1999 sesquicentennial and was donated to NAHA in 2005 by Will and Virginia Thomas as it awaited completion of the new addition which occurred in 2016. NAHA now owned its own place. Many hands and backs carried numerous boxes of artifacts and other items up the street. Those persons raise your hand! Thank you! We opened to the public in June of 2012 and have been hard at work with displays and archival collections to create an enjoyable and education experience.
Family History Days, Cemetery Walks, Barn Tours, and monthly local history programs in our spacious upstairs room have been held. Displays are frequently refreshed. Tours are given regularly, come check it out!
NAHA Board Members
Stef Staley, President
Margot Thomas, Secretary
Kaye Jean Wilcox
Kathy Garthe, Vice President and Treasurer
If you are interested in becoming a board member please feel free to contact via telephone or email!