The Knowlton Museum expands hours, finds new artifacts to display

What’s happening: The Knowlton Museum, a uniquely St. Clair County experience, has extended its hours of operation. The museum is now open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What it is: The Knowlton Museum, also known as Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America, claims to have one of the largest — if not the largest — collections of ice-making tools and implements in the country. Their inventory of 19th and early 20th century ice equipment is estimated to number upwards of 10,000 unique items, its original founders traveling the country to bring the artifacts back to the 10,000 sq. ft. museum in Port Huron.

The Knowlton Museum has been at its current location since the year 2000.
Why it’s important: The expanded hours allow visitors better access to the museum, the type of small, local museum so unique and specific in its focus that it puts Port Huron in the pages of travel guides like Atlas Obscura, which documents off-the-beaten-path travel destinations throughout the world. The museum is classic roadside attraction Americana — think: Cadillac Ranch in Texas or Garden of a Thousand Buddhas in Montana. It’s the type of place you can’t find anywhere else.

One of a kind: “So many things here are one of a kind,” says Emily Reitzel, one of two inventory project co-leads at the museum. “You can try to go to Google and research things, trying to describe anything you can about the item, and there’s nothing. They have items here that I don’t think they have anywhere else — it’s very unique.”

A busy year for ice-making artifacts: In January 2021, the Community Foundation of St. Clair County announced that the Knowlton Family Private Foundation had gifted the museum and its assets to the organization. It’s a relationship that had started years previous: Mickey Knowlton, who created the museum with his wife Agnes, first set up the Mickey & Agnes Knowlton Endowment Fund with the Community Foundation in 2008.

Inventory project co-leads Emily Reitzel (left) and Shelly David.
Old treasures new to us: “One of the treasures that we found downstairs recently was this big binder full of tool catalogs from the 1800s and 1900s,” says Shelly David, inventory project co-lead at the museum. “One of the things that we will do in the future is change up the exhibit space a little bit and bring out items like this that we hope people will want to see.”

The Knowlton Museum is located at 317 Grand River Ave. in Port Huron.

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