HSAHS Turns 34!

Thirty-four years ago, a group of local residents gathered at Hillside Apartments to talk about creating a society to preserve and share the history of the Harbor Springs area. By the end of that meeting the group had already drafted bylaws, opened a checking account and reserved a post office box! To commemorate that historic beginning, the seven founders of the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society (Arthur Barnes, David DeWindt, Nancy Gurney, Marge May, Jan Morley, Nancy Morton and Linda Rosenow) signed a $2 bill. That bill was later framed and became the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society’s first artifact.

“We are deeply grateful for the passion and vision of those early volunteers. Their hard work ensured the strong foundation for our operations today and into the future.” said Kristyn Balog, Executive Director of the Historical Society. "From a small, all-volunteer organization, we have grown to include four staff members, 11 board members, two historic buildings and a yearlong calendar of events, programs and exhibits.”

In 2023, more than 5,400 visitors came to the society’s historic sites to learn about the compelling back-stories of Harbor Springs and the surrounding region, representing a 16% increase over 2022. We presented 27 history talks last year and will again be hosting an average of three programs a month in 2024. “These educational efforts underscore for all generations the importance and relevance of preserving our history,” Balog said.

In 2022, the society publicly announced a transformational $3 million fundraising campaign, “Bringing History to Life.” The goals of the nearly completed campaign are to develop a Harbor Springs Historical Corridor at the eastern approach to Main Street (including Shay Park), create a new museum of innovation in a restored 1892 Shay Hexagon House, refresh exhibits in the 1886 Harbor Springs History Museum and build a preservation and operational endowment.

Much of the society’s work in 2023 and up to the present, made possible by donations of hundreds of community members, has addressed infrastructure preservation and renovation of the Shay House, both inside and out. The new Ephraim Shay Innovation Museum will pay tribute to the famed geared locomotive inventor’s life by focusing interactive and hands-on exhibits on the importance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) to economic and societal progress. The lower level will serve as an event venue and activity space. The museum is scheduled to open in late 2024.

“It is with the deepest appreciation and gratitude that we thank all who have contributed to the Historical Society’s growth and success. We look forward to celebrating these incredible anniversaries and to continuing to serve our community as we enter our next chapter,” Balog said.

View this video from 2019 to see some fun images of the early days of our organization's history.