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The 1932 vintage firetruck will be on display at the His­torical Society open house on Dec. 4
Courtesy | Hillsdale County His­torical Society

The Hillsdale County His­torical Society will pub­licly open the doors of the Will Car­leton Poor­house barn on Dec. 4, fea­turing its vintage fire truck from 1932.

“We pur­chased a 1932 Sea­grave fire truck that was orig­i­nally pur­chased by the city of Hillsdale back in 1932, and we needed some­place to store it,” board member and project manager Kathy Fowler said.

The HCHS fin­ished the year-long project of building the barn in the summer of 2020, and moved the his­torical fire truck to its final resting place in November of that year. 

“A woman by the name of Rebecca Lou McCavit passed away and her family knew we were looking for a place to store our fire truck,” Fowler said. “They thought we would be a great orga­ni­zation, since we were near and dear to Becky, to give us money to build a barn so we could house our fire truck.”

Aside from the fire truck, the barn also con­tains other antiques from Hillsdale’s history. 

“The barn houses our col­lection of Civil War items related to Hillsdale County, as well as our nice col­lection of Native American arti­facts,” board member Dennis Sheffer said. “One such item is the small chair that Chief Baw Beese would sit in while vis­iting a pioneer family.”

Other items include a wagon made by the Deal Buggy Co. of Jonesville, along with antiques belonging to pio­neers of the Allen, Church and Kirby families. 

During the building process, the HCHS also placed bricks under­neath the fire truck. 

“The bricks under­neath the Sea­grave are from around 1915,” Dennis said. “They were removed during the Broad Street recon­struction approx­i­mately 15 years ago. The Sea­grave would have driven on these bricks from its time of delivery to the City in 1932 to the time they paved over the brick streets.”

The his­torical society named the barn “Poor­house,” because the farm property orig­i­nally served the finan­cially dis­ad­van­taged back in the day, Fowler said. 

Built with a wooden frame and steel siding, the barn keeps the integrity of its predecessor. 

“Matt Taylor of Foulke Con­struction designed the building for us based on examples of old barns we pro­vided,” Sheffer said. “We wanted a building with an antique barn-look that would blend in more with the old time feel of the property.” 

According to Sheffer, COVID-19 delays caused most of the trouble throughout the stages of building the barn. 

“It was nice though to watch the building go from a design on paper to the fin­ished barn we have today,” Sheffer said. 

Cur­rently, the barn is closed to the public, but Sheffer said in the future, the HCHS hopes to open the Poor­house Museum to the general public.

“This is a long term goal and as with any non-profit orga­ni­zation, funding is a major factor for us being able to take the Poor­house to this next phase,” he said.