The history of the Elk Rapids Area Historical Society (ERAHS) is a fascinating journey that highlights the dedication of individuals to preserve and celebrate the rich heritage of Elk Rapids. This four-part historical narrative provides a comprehensive overview of ERAHS, from its early beginning to its present-day mission.
Part I - Early Beginning of ERAHS (1939-1972)
The interest in forming a historical group was documented as early as 1939, but formalization did not occur at that time. In 1940, a historical club was mentioned in the Elk Rapids Progress, focusing on tracing the history of Elk Rapids for the Antrim County Centennial. ERAHS was officially founded on April 20, 1972, with the objective of collecting detailed history and preserving the heritage of Elk Rapids. The first organizational meeting was held on November 2, 1972, and officers and directors were elected. The restoration of the "Old Town Hall" became the focus of ERAHS during the 1976 United States Bicentennial celebration.
Part II - ERAHS' First Project (1972-1974)
The first major project undertaken by the ERAHS was the restoration of the Elk Rapids Township Hall, now known as the HEARTH, which had fallen into disrepair after years of disuse. Despite initial challenges and proposals to tear down the building, the ERAHS successfully spearheaded its restoration, cleaning, and repairs.The renovated Town Hall was opened to the public on February 23, 1974, with an Open House event. Local artist John Groomes created the Town Hall logo for the ERAHS, which was used for several years.
Part III - ERAHS First Location (1984 to 2011)
The lower level of the Township Hall was established as a Museum in 1984, providing a home for the ERAHS' growing collection of artifacts. The Museum required various repairs and improvements over the years. For 24 years, the ERAHS operated out of the lower level, engaging in activities such as artifact collection, historical programs, house tours, and fundraising events. In 2011, the First Methodist Episcopal Church building was donated to the ERAHS.
Part IV- ERAHS Current Location (2012 to the Present)
The final phase of the ERAHS' history began with the move to the former First Methodist Episcopal Church building in 2012. Updates and renovations were made to the building, addressing issues such as flooding, accessibility and general maintenance. The First Methodist Episcopal Church building, now known as the Elk Rapids History Museum, received historic recognition, being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015 and receiving a Michigan Historical marker in 2017. ERAHS' mission focuses on historical preservation, community collaboration, educational programs, and research documentation.
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