Maritime museum demolition

Contractors are shown in September demolishing the 40-year-old, single-story building that had been home to the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. The 1,000-square-foot building will be replaced by a new $3.6 million facility to be called the Heritage Center.

Michigan Maritime Museum’s $8 million plan to build a new two-story museum and expand its riverfront campus is inching closer to reality thanks to two grants totaling nearly $600,000.

Museum officials received word this month that the Greater South Haven Area Community Foundation plans to donate $90,000 to the museum’s fundraising campaign. That grant comes on the heels of an announcement by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that it will donate $500,000 from its trust fund toward the museum’s capital improvement project.

“These grants will enable the museum to enhance our ability to attract more tourists to South Haven and serve our community,” said Patti Reinert, executive director of the Michigan Maritime Museum. “We are grateful for the numerous supporters of the museum and look forward to the completion of this project, so we can expand our educational and community service.”

The DNR grant will not only help the Maritime Museum expand its outdoor and indoor museum exhibit space, it will also protect the city’s harbor infrastructure and waterfront access.

News of the two grants follows the groundbreaking ceremony a month ago on the new $3.6 million, 17,000-square-foot Heritage Center that is the cornerstone of the fundraising campaign’s first phase.

The Heritage Center will be home to a large exhibit space that includes bathrooms, a learning center for children’s programs, and an atrium spanning both stories. The second floor will have more offices, conference rooms and an event space and catering kitchen for gatherings.

The museum is expected to be completed in the summer of 2022.

Looking ahead

With the nearly $600,000 boost in funding from the two grants from the DNR and the foundation, museum officials are now eyeing the capital campaign’s second phase.

“If we can raise the whole $8 million in 2022, bar any unexpected issues, our timeline for completion for both phases is summer 2023,” Reinert said.

That goal could become a reality sooner than museum officials had anticipated. As of August, the museum had raised more than $6 million for the capital campaign. The two latest grant announcements puts the fundraising at $7 million.

The first phase of the capital improvement project began two years ago when the museum bought the Jensen fishery buildings at the entrance to the harbor, next to the museum’s campus and the Dyckman Avenue drawbridge.

Earlier this year, contractors removed the old Jensen marina clubhouse and are in the process of restoring one of the fishery buildings into an indoor facility to showcase South Haven’s role in commercial fishing during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The other two-story building on the Jensen property will be used to house the museum’s extensive small craft exhibit. Due to record high water levels along the Black River channel last year, $275,000 worth of work also was undertaken to shore up the grade on the Jensen property to avoid future flooding.

The second phase of the expansion project entails construction of a new two-story building on the Jensen site for use by the museum’s excursion captains and for small conferences; replacement of the Jensen parking lot with grass for outdoor events and workshops; construction of two new docks for longer vessels and tall ships that visit the museum; construction of an outdoor patio that will include a large, three-season tent for outdoor events; and improving the museum grounds by making them more accessible for walking to the museum’s other boat buildings.