The Coe House Museum
The Coe House is the home of the Grass Lake Area Historical Society (GLAHS) and has been since 1972. The building itself was constructed in 1871 in the Italianate Tuscan Vernacular style. It was contracted through the Shelly Lumberyard by Henry Vinkle, owner of the furniture and hardware store in Grass Lake at the time. The Vinkles left Grass Lake for the Dakota Territory in 1887. The next known owner was the Detroit, Jackson, and Chicago Railway Corporation, one of two competing interurban lines through Grass Lake, in 1901. The Herman Mellencamp family owned the house from 1909 until 1926, when Catherine Walz purchased it. The front parlor was rented out as a tourist room during her tenure. In 1953 Archie and Myrta Coe bought the home, and it was from Mrs. Coe, by then a widow, that the GLAHS bought the house in 1972 for $12,500. Mrs. Coe was invited to live in the house as long as she wished. It was agreed that the building would be called the Coe House Museum. In 1974, the GLAHS started renovating the house, and the museum was opened to the public in 1977.
During the years since 1971 when the GLAHS was founded, it has had four presidents. Between 1971 and 1987 Jim Stormont, Pat Kooiman, Diane Loring, and Sam Knecht served in this capacity. Mike Fensler has held the office since 1987. During most of this time, a tenant has rented the upstairs of the Coe House, giving a sense of security to the building as well as bringing in some additional income.
The house was restored and the interior refurnished by volunteers working between 1974 and, actually, never stopping! The kitchen and bathroom were renovated several years after the living room, dining room, parlor, and downstairs bedroom, and the barn behind the house is the latest part of the property to be “fixed up” and open for viewing since the summer of 2004.
The GLAHS has two events during the year, one on the Labor Day weekend in September (this event is now shared with Whistlestop Park) called Heritage Day, and a Christmas Auction now held on the first Tuesday in December. The house is also opened by appointment by contacting the GLAHS. The Coe House has a good collection of local historical artifacts, but the historical society is always looking for anything tying in to Grass Lake history.
The GLAHS has been setting up displays at the Jackson County Fair for several years to help others in the area become aware of the Coe House Museum and what it offers the community. In addition, the GLAHS has provided a History Award scholarship to a deserving high school senior every year since 1987, and for the past few years, the award has been in the form of the Alfreda Atkin Foust Scholarship, currently a presentation of $600 to help defray college expenses.