Pages Navigation Menu

The Knowles House and Central Lake Area Historical Society

The Knowles House and Central Lake Area Historical Society

by Brad Glasgow

In 1891 the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad sold a vacant lot to Ella Coviness for $244.50. In 1892, she sold that lot to Richard Sisley for $1,000. It was sold again in 1893, then again in 1895, and in 1898 William Gardner presumably had a house built on the lot. Then in 1902 William R. and Mary Ann Knowles purchased the house which would eventually become a museum and site of the Central Lake Historical Society.

With one look you can tell it is an historic house, built in the old two-story style so different from today’s houses. Denise Shooks was kind enough to give me a tour. The entry room is large, with a round table holding dozens of old books and documents, surrounded by thin wooden chairs. A china cabinet lines the western wall, filled with 1930 and 1940 era china from the Central Lake Hotel. There is a bookshelf holding dozens of historical books about the area.

To the left as you go in is a modern kitchen which was placed there for the practicality of serving luncheons and dinners during fundraisers at the house. To the right is another room with a table, holding dozens of newspapers. This room serves as a researching area, with several old cabinets filled with the old Torches and Antrim Reviews. There are binders with obituaries and sports stories. A stairway leads up from here to a room that has been set up to look like a period classroom, as well as a bedroom along with one room currently used for storage.

Further in is a small parlor, decorated neatly with antiques affixed with labels. There are two mannequins dressed in period clothing that do not look at all comfortable. This is the time machine; upon entering the room and viewing the furniture and decorations it is easy to imagine that you are experiencing Central Lake through our forefathers’ eyes.

This is a house filled not only with documented history but the palpable feel of history, from its sturdy yet creaking floor to the ripples and waves in the old glass windows. It is the perfect place for the Historical Society.

I sat down with Denise Shooks of the Historical Society to get an idea of what the Society is about. “Our earliest minutes go back to 1976, but I believe we go back to 1974 or 1975.” The Society’s goal is to preserve and display the history of the area so that future generations may enjoy it. After a short while, Lois Dawson of the Society came in and sat with us.

Unfortunately, the Society is facing tough times with dwindling membership and more importantly, limited ability to continue with the tasks required to run this non-profit organization. “Right now we’re just getting by and we’re all getting older, so it’s getting difficult to maintain it,” said Denise. “I used to climb up a ladder and do this or do that, but after a couple tumbles you start to wise up,” agreed Lois. They are currently re-organizing and a meeting will be held on July 30 (after we go to print) to hopefully gather new members and get some help running the Society.

“We need people to be on our board. We have no president or vice president right now,” said Denise. “We need computer people for historians, people that want to do research,” said Lois. They are also looking for people to assist with grounds and maintenance, especially some strong men to help out once in a while, like with mowing the lawn and fixing the house. They are also looking for people who can volunteer their time at the house to keep it open for visitors, even if it is only two hours once a week. It is even difficult for them to hold fundraisers at the moment because they have so few active members able to put their time and energy into these tasks.

Not only are they looking for volunteers, they are looking for old photos, yearbooks, newspapers, or any other historical item, regardless of how late or early they are. If you have an old photo but can’t donate it, they can copy the photo right there. Once entered into the computer they hope to build a database so that people can look through their family’s history in town. If you have any materials you can bring, “don’t throw them out. Bring them here, so the future can have them!” said Denise.

It is the hope of the Central Lake News that the membership drive is successful for the Historical Society. They perform such an important duty and desperately need help from the community to continue. If you are able to donate your time, money, materials, anything, please contact the Historical Society at their e-mail address at

The Historical Society’s reorganization meeting will be held at the Knowles House on Tuesday, July 30th at 7pm.

Share This:

click mapClick to go to our Facebook page!
Facebook IconYouTube IconSubscribe on YouTubeTwitter Icontwitter follow button