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.