Hunts' Guide to The Upper Peninsula

Chassell Heritage Center

This local museum is worth seeking out because it does such a good job of interpreting the area's history. Hours are limited, but it's also open by appointment. Call Millie Pyrola at (906) 523-4782.
The heritage center would be a good model for small museums aspiring to tell their communities' stories, in contrast to the more typical "community attic" organizational mode. One visitor from California stopped by on a bike tour. As a self-described aficionado of local museums, she called this "one of the best regional and local heritage museums I've seen. I've toured many museums in several countries. This seems more French."

One room in this handsome former elementary school coordinates enlarged photos and excellent captions with artifacts and a big map of Chassell. The resulting Chassell Township Timeline Exhibit lets visitors "read" the past and its vanished places with reference to present landmarks. The timeline begins with pottery in the Laurel style (up to 500 AD). Here are descriptions (often illustrated) of old Indian fishing sites, the lumber mill, the fishing docks and fish packing plant. Memorabilia have been chosen for the stories they tellólike the wicker trunk of an immigrant family. Some of the timeline can be seen online at by scrolling down to the history area. Permanent exhibits now include "From Lumber Kings to Strawberry Kings." Captions add context through the details of everyday life. (They don't flinch from occasionally showing the darker sides of local history.)

"Le Jardin de Paradise," the description of the Chaput farm between Boundary Road and Broemer Road, states, "By 1900 much of this land was cleared and ready for farming. Crops such as oats and wheat were planted, and since the Canadiens loved buckwheat pancakes and pea soup, quite naturally buckwheat and peas were also grown." Prospective farmers who bought logged-over land had to find work before crops were planted. Four or five times a summer they worked for $5 to $8 a day loading lumber from the mill onto a lumber hooker. "It would take 25 to 30 men two or three 10-hour days to load the steamers and their barges. After working long hours at the docks, farmers went home to pull stumps with root hooks and horses."

A separate room houses each year's exhibit of the FRIENDS OF FASHION. The group not only collects and preserves vintage clothing but also uses its collection for public education, especially in women's history. Each year's exhibit interprets garments in terms of the lives of area women who wore them, featuring old family photos and stories whenever possible. Recent topics have been "Seldom Seen" (the history of undergarments) and "Fashion and the Finnish Immigrant." For the Strawberry Festival there's always a fashion show Saturday at 2 p.m. The Friends also stage educational fashion shows for other groups: "Roaring Twenties," "100 Years of Bridal Customs," "Historical Review," and more. For details, e-mail Nancy Leonard at, or call her at (906) 523-4612.

The 12-room frame schoolhouse itself, set up on a hill away from busy U.S. 41, was the K-12 school until the new school was built on U.S. 41 south of town in 1991. The museum is now a Keweenaw National Historic Park heritage site. The link with copper mining is that Chassell timber was used in the mines.
The museum is a block up (west) from U.S. 41 on Second Street. Look for the sign at the north end of the village. (906) 523-1155. Free admission; donations appreciated. Regular hours during July and Aug: Tues 1-4, Thurs 4-9. Or call Millie at (906) 523-4789 for an appointment. During the Strawberry Festival it's open the Saturday and Sunday after the July 4 weekend. Wheelchair access: too many stairs.

Return to Chassell

Sturgeon River Sloughs Natural Area. A lookout tower provides a relaxing sweeping view of a former wet pastureland now managed as a stopover point for migrating waterfowl ... more

Einerlei. A restful, handsome gift and clothing shop, greenhouse, and garden in a rambling series of indoor and outdoor spaces ... more

Chassell Heritage Center. A fine little local history musuem, using memorabilia to tell stories of ancient Native American life and much more recent immigrant life ... more

Chassell Centennial Park. A peaceful view of the water just off the highway from this well-equipped park with swimming beach and peaceful view, chutes-and-ladders playgroun, volleyball and basketball courts, picnic tables and grills ... more

Mageia Mineerals. Minerals from around the world, with an emphasis on the KeweenawóLake Superior agates, greenstones, copper, and datolite ... more

Portage Quilt Shop . An excellent selection of fabrics from around the world at this shop ... more

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Michigan's Upper Peninsula - Hunts' Guide to the U.P.

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