Today is March the 6th. I’m looking out of my office window at snow flying, snow on the ground and snow on the window ledge. The sky has that “January in Michigan” hue to it.
The other thing I see out my window is opportunity. I see people walking about. They are going in and out of the two restaurants across the street. They are going into Gene Pringle’s barber shop. They are visiting Sonja and Bob Seaks. NAPA is bustling with activity. The Eaton Rapids District Library is, as usual, a hub of eclectic people. I can see Molly in the window at Mr. Dale’s Tradin Cards and people exploring the newest addition to our downtown, the Corona Smoke Shop.
On the opposite corner from City hall I see Rick Carpenter’s building still under construction. What a grand place it will be when he completes his project. Breathing new life and energy into our community.
On this March morning myself, accompanied by several community Champions, boarded an ERPS School bus for the ride into Lansing to make our presentation to the MEDC Michigan Main Street review board. We had one shot to get it right. The written application had already been submitted and reviewed. Now, they wanted to meet “Eaton Rapids” face to face. “WE R ER” was the moniker for the day. We sold us as best we could. It is my hope that the MEDC is willing to make the purchase. We will find out if we have been granted the “select level” status in a couple of weeks. Cross whatever you can. Toes, fingers, arms, legs etc. The acceptance into the Main Street program, overseen by the Downtown Development Authority, is anticipated to bring major changes to our downtown and to our community as a whole. It will be the “marketing” tool that we are missing to move Eaton Rapids further forward. We are genuinely hoping to be successful. This will go far in bringing big city amenities to our town while helping us to retain our small town charm.
The community asset for this month is the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Museum and Memorial Hall. The Museum is located in the 200 block of S. Main St. on the west side and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum is the repository of over 4,000 artifacts relating to the G.A.R. .
It is aptly named after an Eaton Rapids man, James B. Brainerd, who served under the Union Flag during the Civil War. Lt. Brainerd died during the conflict.
It is the only such facility in the State of Michigan that is entirely dedicated to ensuring that the memory and the accomplishments of the Grand Army of the Republic and its members in Michigan are not forgotten.
As you walk in you are immediately struck by the significance of this time in our history. Try to imagine what it must have been like to stand shoulder to shoulder with your comrades in arms. Brother against brother. State against State. Two polar opposites in their beliefs but both passionate about their way of life.
The museum is dedicated to the men and women that served bravely during the War between the States and returned home to tell about it.
First chartered in 1883 the original G.A.R. hall was constructed in its current location in 1886 and served its G.A.R. purpose until the post was disbanded in 1929.
Between 1929 and 2012 the building served as a drug store, milk packaging plant, hardware store, the local Grange Hall, a dairy, a bowling alley and lastly as the home of Marceil and Lisa’s Island Dance Centre.
In 2012 the building was purchased by Mr. Donald Limpert of Manchester, Michigan. Mr. Limpert is a long time collector of G.A.R. memorabilia and had been looking for a place to house his collection. What better place than a real G.A.R. Hall. Remodeling and restoration of the building began in earnest and it held its grand opening in September of 2013.
For many years the G.A.R. park (better known as Island Park) was the site of G.A.R. encampments. Men and Women traveled from all over the country to attend. The two parret rifles on either end of the island stand as silent sentinels to honor their service.
The museum is open the first two Wednesdays of each month from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. It is also open on patriotic Holidays, during various city festivals and events and by appointment. The G.A.R. volunteers serve as tour guides, assist with community events and keep the spirit of our heritage and history alive.
The G.A.R. is a not for profit organization and gratefully accepts donations under its 501 (c3) designation. Take an hour and pay this remarkable spot of history a visit.
As a gentle reminder, spring will be upon us shortly. Sometimes, during the winter, our property maintenance takes a back seat to all things “cold.” We are in the process of doing a community assessment. This is being done by our Building Inspector, our Fire Chief and the ERPD. Don’t wait for a reminder letter to show up in the mail. Take the time to improve your property. The City of Eaton Rapids will be expanding its Curb Side Appeals Grant program to assist you with those costly projects. Information about the Curb Side Appeals grants is available on the
City of Eaton Rapids website or by contacting Quality of Life Director Lindsey Zeller at 663-8118 ext. 8178.
As always, continue to make Eaton Rapids your home. It truly is a great place to live, work, recreate and raise your family.