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The Port Huron Museums: The Carnegie Center

By Kathleen Knowles

Introduction:

In a day and age where history and culture are not being taught in some schools, the importance of museums around the country has increased greatly. The Carnegie Museum is located at 1115 6th Street in Port Huron, Michigan.

Although the building was constructed in 1902 by philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), it was not built as a museum. Carnegie was a Scottish American industrialist. He was well-known for gifting public library buildings. He paid for the construction of 2,509 library buildings around the world. That year the city of Port Huron secured funding of $40,000.00 from Mr. Carnegie to build a library. The building was dedicated on May 26, 1904.

The Port Huron Public Library, as it became known, operated for 63 years. In 1967, the city merged the library into the St. Clair County Library. A new building was constructed, built, and still operates to this day at its location at 210 McMorran Blvd. in Port Huron. A decision had to be made as to what to do with the now-vacant building, which was slated for demolition. Interested citizens send a letter to the City Commission, requesting the building be used as a culture-building to house a museum. A committee was formed by then-Mayor Charles R. Chandler to study the feasibility of turning the building into a museum. The city agreed to lease the building to an incorporated group for $1.00 per year for the purpose of running and maintaining a culture museum. The city also agreed to pay for the lights and heat for the building. However, the operation of the museum would have to be provided by public funding. The Port Huron Museum of Arts and History came into existence.

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The museum would display art, historical, and scientific objects for the public. The objects obtained would become the property of the City of Port Huron. Structural changes to the building were expressly forbidden without the written approval of the City.  

It was declared a Heritage Site in 2006, approved by the Michigan State Historical Preservation Office. As with all buildings, the Carnegie became in need of repairs. The Port Huron City Council approved $387,000 in funding in 2016 for necessary upgrades to the building to be completed in two phases. Today the Carnegie Center houses over 45,000 objects of history and culture related to the Blue Water Area. It includes the larges ship model collection in the entire state of Michigan (James C. Acheson Marine Gallery). It also offers traveling exhibits as well.

On display at the Museum right now is a traveling exhibit of the states’ role in the Civil War. This display from the Detroit Historical Society can be viewed through August 30, 2019. One of the most popular traveling exhibits in the past included an exhibit of dinosaurs.

Group tours can be arranged by contacting the Museum at 810-982-0801, extension 118. There are programs to be enjoyed including Log Cabin Pioneer Days and Michigan Heritage Days. To arrange for these programs, contact the number above.

Don’t miss out on this historical display of artifacts! Take advantage of what the museum has to offer, and travel back in time with the fascinating exhibits on display! You won’t regret it!

Kathleen Knowles

Blue Water Healthy Living Contributing Writer

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Kathleen Knowles is a life-long resident of Port Huron and a 1973 graduate of Port Huron High School. After attending St. Clair County Community College, she has worked for credit unions all of her life as well as a professional dog show handler, known for handling Pekingese. Kathleen has been writing fiction for years as a hobby, having posted many stories online.

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