Mason County history finds a new home in Ludington

Mason County residents and visitors alike can now explore the county's history year-round, with the opening this week of a new 10,000-square-foot research and welcome center in downtown Ludington.

Previously housed at Historic White Pine Village, the Mason County Historical Society’s move to East Ludington Avenue has been a long-time coming. The society not only needed more space but also a controlled temperature system to help preserve stored artifacts.

The Mason County Research Center also will serve as a welcome center, helping guide visitors to Ludington’s historic sites, which not only include Historic White Pine Village but also the nearby Port of Ludington Maritime Museum. The center also includes the Emporium and Sweet Shop, which boasts an old-fashioned candy counter, gifts, and apparel.

What will the new center accomplish: Executive Director Rebecca Berringer hopes the move from White Pine Village to downtown East Ludington Avenue will allow the center to better connect with the community year round.  “We want to be more accessible,” she says “Moving to this location allows us to be more part of the community as well as share our resources. We also want to be there for those visiting the area -- some that come every year, some coming for the first time. We provide a cultural asset for visitors.” 

At the center, visitors explore displays and artifacts (the collection boasts more than 100,000 items), conduct research and purchase tickets to Historic White Pine Village, a living history museum, as well as the nearby Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, located in a historic Coast Guard station and featuring state-of-the-art exhibits exploring the county's maritime past and hands-on activities for children. The "ghost" of Captain Van Dyke is sure to delight -- through a hologram replicating his quarters within the center. 

The logging industry, a critical part of Michigan's and Mason County's history, is widely showcased throughout the center. For example, there is a very rare Calendar Clock built for the Cartier Lumber Company in 1978,

“We encourage an understanding and appreciation of the value of preserving your own history. That’s important to share,” Berringer says. 

A Mason County Ancestry database is in the process of being developed at the research center to allow guests to conduct genealogy work with help from the center’s full-time staff members. The Research Center has a Mason County archival database. 

New facility and its uses: The Mason County Research Center is housed at one of Ludington’s former banks, National Bank of Ludington, and includes an original 1964 Diebold vault named Mason County Heritage Vault. Artifacts are displayed on shelves and inside drawers of the vault. These artifacts, some ordinary and others extraordinary, offer glimpses into bygone eras. Artifacts range from clothing and women’s purses to iconic photos.

Sports Hall of Fame: Berringer says the center keeps a space to encourage values taught through sports. “So much of what we see in sports leads us to leadership opportunities and overall success in life,” she says. Ludington was once home to a minor league baseball team, the Mariners. The center contains a Sports Hall of Fame that details the legacies of Mason County athletes. 

Mason County Township Mural: The center features an 8-foot-by-50-foot mural of the county's 15 townships, each named after significant people, nostalgia and memorable Civil War generals. The mural features characteristics of the county, named after Michigan's first governor, Stevens T. Mason, including agriculture fields, forests, and sandy lakeshores. 

Legacy Multipurpose Room: A multi-purpose room that will be used for presentations, and can be rented out for gatherings. The room honors residents who have helped shape the county. Profiled are individuals and families who have developed successful businesses and became philanthropists who gave back to the community and inspired others. 

The Mason County Research Center, 130 E. Ludington St., Ludington, is open year round. Appointments are required to do research, and admission tickets for a guided tour can be purchased at the Emporium; tours will be offered at 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. The Emporium and Sweet Shop is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday - Thursday, and 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Friday - Saturday, seasonally. 
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