To collect, preserve, and share Newaygo County's history and culture.
The building that houses the Heritage Museum of Newaygo County has had a long and varied history serving the community. Earliest records indicate the structure was built sometime around 1918 as an automotive repair facility and Sinclair Gas Station. About 10 years after opening, an iconic shot of the principal façade (shown here) was taken, and later used as inspiration for the design of future home of the HMNC.
By the early 1930s, a new Standard Oil gas station was built next door, and the building became the City of Newaygo Department of Public Works. At least two expansions, both following the original design, occurred during this time, based on physical and photographic evidence. Two subtle changes in the construction of the exposed roof trusses, as well as oil stains and “ghost marks” from old machinery still visible in the original concrete floor are testimony to these uses.
In the early 1950s, a radical change occurred. The building was heavily renovated and expanded to become the New-Ay Food Mart. A large side addition and a new stepped façade with showcase windows, as well as blond brick cladding, complimented the renewed structure. In the 1960s, another addition housed a laundromat on the rear of the building.
At the same time as all of this was happening, what would eventually become the HMNC was beginning life. Eva Larsen and her brother Enus Swanson opened a museum in Croton in 1964, and by November of 1965, The Newaygo County Historical Society was formed as a non-profit organization and granted 501(c)3 status. In 1973, The Newaygo Museum formed by combining the two entities, and items from the Fremont Grange, the Croton Museum, and donations from the Newaygo area formed a physical collection housed in the Old Powerhouse Building on the river in Newaygo.
The mid-seventies saw another major change to the structure, when it was given yet another façade, and the interior was converted to serve as a recreation hall and office space for the nearby 1st Baptist Church. The interior renovations spoke to their era, with dark paneling in all the rooms, an asbestos-laced dropped ceiling, and harvest gold linoleum flooring. Major systems received a hodgepodge of dubious “updates”. The Museum continued along at the powerhouse, and by 1982, the name was changed to Newaygo County Society of History and Genealogy.
In 2006, the powerhouse building was no longer in a condition to use and was contributing to the deterioration of fragile items, so the Board made the difficult decision to close the Museum, although the society continued. By 2008, the Fremont Area Community Foundation was in possession of the artifacts and partnered with the City of Newaygo to build a storage building to house them. By 2011, due to strong interest in the museum, a temporary site in the city of Newaygo at 12 Quarterline Road was found, and funding was secured through a grant from the Foundation to reopen the Museum. A fundraiser in 2014 raised enough money to purchase 12 Quarterline as a permanent home for the museum.
By 2016, limitations with the aging facility had become apparent, and a committee was formed to investigate the possibility of expansion or relocation. An architect was engaged to draw up plans for a major expansion and remodel of the current facility. Funding to hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study was secured from the FACF, and the study showed that a capital campaign would most likely be successful. Based on this, the board and staff begin to work toward a capital campaign to fund a remodel and expansion. In 2018, a new director with years of training and experience in Museum management and exhibit design is hired.
What it’s like to be involved
We have a mission to educate and entertain our visitors about our unique history, and we need YOU!
We have a strong and vibrant volunteer group who loves history and wants to see it preserved. Check out our wide array of our volunteer’s tasks
The Terry Wantz Historical Research Center is happy to assist you with many of our local and regional resources in your next heritage research endeavor. We have partnered with the TWHRC in Fremont, who have an excellent facility and a dedicated staff to help with any research needs.
Board of Trustees
Ryan Coffey Hoag, President
Government & Public Policy & Community & Economic Development
at Michigan State University
Ed Fedell, Vice President
Mayor of Newaygo
Jackie Roseberry, Secretary
Director of Fremont Library
Bruce Essebaggers, Treasurer
Todd DeKryger, PhD
Agricultural Development Director, Gerber/Nestle Nutrition
Director of Business, Community Development & Alumni Relations
Retired, Global Vice President of Marketing, Haworth
President & CEO, Fremont Area Community Foundation
Muskegon River Watershed Assembly – Executive Director