CRUISING THE GREAT LAKES #10: MEMORABLE MUSKEGON, MICHIGAN

Our last port of what turned out to be a fabulous cruise was Muskegon, Michigan, located on the state’s west coast.  The city’s population is only about 38,000; however, it is the most populous city along Michigan’s western shore.

What makes this city a popular vacation destination is its beautiful beaches, excellent fishing, sailing regattas, and scenic forests, along with interesting historic architecture, museums, theater, public art, and farmer’s market.  There is a lot to offer in this small city!

Historically, Muskegon was a fur trading post and had a thriving lumber industry.  At one point the city boasted more millionaires than any other town in America.

One of those millionaires was Charles H. Hackley, who came to Muskegon with only $7 to his name and died worth $12 million, in 1905.  His fortune was made in lumber, and when the industry declined, he administered the Chamber of Commerce program that rebuilt Muskegon into a center of industry.  The city ultimately became known for manufacturing all sorts of well-known name brand products.

Hackley was a great philanthropist, leaving behind gifts and endowments to the community totaling over $6 million, supporting parks, statuary, schools, churches, a hospital, and a beautiful public library.

Public Library with beautiful stained glass windows (below)

The philanthropist’s fortune also paid for a fabulous three-story wood frame Victorian house, which is now administered by the Muskegon County Museum.  Built in the late 1880s, it features 15 stained glass windows, hand-stenciled walls and ceilings, hand-carved woodwork, and seven tiled fireplaces.

Next door is Thomas Hume’s house, which is also part of the museum.  Hume was first Hackley’s bookkeeper, and then business partner, from 1881 until Hackley’s death.  After Hackley died, Hume was instrumental in transforming Muskegon into a major manufacturing center. 

Between the two homes, was “City Barn,” which was shared by the two families and reflects the features of each house.  All three structures were designed by David S. Hopkins.

Charles H. Hackley House (left), Thomas Hume House (right), and their shared “City Barn” (middle) with architectural elements from both houses (Click on photo to see full size.)

Our included hop-on-hop-off tour of Muskegon included tours of both homes.  Bruce and I have toured many historic and grand homes throughout our years of traveling, but I can definitely say this tour was one of our favorites.  Glass and wood are my two favorite mediums, and the Hackley house was loaded with both.  It took fifteen men two years to complete the hand-carved woodwork alone!

This bedroom was upstairs in the Hume House. The acoustics under the curved ceiling were amazing!
Hume House fireplace
Hume House kitchen

Although these two homes are the gems of Muskegon, the entire neighborhood was beautiful.  One street over, we toured the Scolnik House that was built during the 1930’s depression era, and the Fire Barn Museum.

Check out those 1936 grocery prices!
Fire Barn Museum

Muskegon Heritage Museum was our final museum visit for the day.  Inventions and products of over 80 local companies were represented, including one by a late friend of ours, Sherman Poppen, who died in 2019.  Sherm and Louise lived in our Sun City community, and we first met them in 2009 when Bruce and I moved in. 

In 1965, Sherm, known as the “Grandfather of Snowboarding,” invented the Snurfer, which later became known as the snowboard.  He was inducted into the U.S. Ski-Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2019.

The small doll is the first Raggedy Ann doll

Two other Muskegon products:

Our visit to Muskegon was on a Saturday, so Muskegon Farmers Market was in full swing.  We walked through town to go have a look.  On the way, there was a downtown street music festival in the process of getting set up for the weekend, so we took in the sights and smells of food trucks preparing their cuisine for the expected crowds.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day, so when we returned to the ship after browsing the farmers market, I decided to head out with my camera one last time for a stroll through the park where Ocean Navigator was docked.  Watching the geese feed, a young bird venturing out on his own, and taking in views of the ship was such a relaxing and satisfying way to conclude our last full cruise day.  In the morning, we would be disembarking for a three-night stay in Chicago.

Bottoms up!
Goodbye, Muskegon!

Next up:  Captivating Chicago

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