The Hillsdale Historical Society will have a new barn and museum to hold the 88-year-old original Seagrave Firetruck on the Poor House grounds. According to Hillsdale Historical Society board member Darin Sheffer, the City of Hillsdale purchased the 1931 Seagrave and it was delivered to the city in January of 1932.
“It has a vignette of Chief Baw Beese on the hood, and it was called the ‘Baw Beese,’” Sheffer said. “It’s very cool that it honored the Natives of Hillsdale County when it was ordered.”
Hillsdale Historical Society member Kathy Fowler added that the Seagrave was one of the first mechanical firetrucks that the City of Hillsdale owned.
“Older residents who remember it being here originally have such fond memories of it,” Fowler said.
Due to the vintage character of the Seagrave, the Historical Society knew it would need to build a climate-controlled barn to store the artifact.
When the society first acquired the Seagrave, Sheffer said, it looked into building a small climate-controlled barn. When one family, however, heard about the Society’s need for a new building, they offered to donate the funds necessary to complete the project.
“It’s been over a‑year-and-a-half process of dealing with the donor family and agreeing on the structure,” Sheffer said. “We certainly appreciate the donor for doing this in memory of the society member. She passed away, but the family and the society agree that she would be proud of this structure and how it’s going to look, that it’s keeping in line with the historic nature of the property.”
Sheffer said the new barn will have metal siding but have a similar appearance to barns from the early 20th-century.
Matt Taylor, the project manager from Foulke Construction, designed the building.
The Historical Society gave him 18 different historic building images to work off of as inspiration for the new museum, according to Sheffer.
“We didn’t want a standard pole barn sitting there,” Sheffer said. “Our long-term plan for the site is to have other historic buildings there, to have a small depot, a one-room classroom, like a mini-village. We wanted this barn to fit into the era of the turn of the 20th-century type structure.”
Taylor said he incorporated as many historical aspects into the museum’s design based on the images.
“We’re just happy to be involved with the project because we see ourselves as a community member,” Taylor said. “We appreciate the historic society allowing us to be part of this project.”
In addition to the Seagrave, Fowler said the Historical Society will also store the Deal Buggy, which was originally made at the Deal Buggy Factory in Jonesville, in the new museum.
The museum will also house other historical displays.
“Things that we currently have sitting in the barn we can get put into a better storage facility, we’ll get those moved in and can hopefully accommodate other donations as they get moved in, easier and better,” Fowler said. “Our house right now is full. When people do want to donate, we can’t always display something because we don’t have room for it.”
Sheffer said the society does not have a specific date set to begin construction. Once Foulke Construction begins ground-breaking, Taylor said the project is expected to take eight to 10 weeks.
“We are very hopeful, and Foulke is as well, that it will happen this year,” Sheffer said. “Matt was going to make calls immediately after the check was deposited, we gave him the go-ahead. Hopefully, we should know quite soon if it’s going to commence building this year.”