In Jackson south of Lansing is a unique museum that has grown into more than a museum. Indeed, it has become a complex integration of local history and art in mid-Michigan. It combines historical and contemporary structures to display its treasures and has also morphed into a venue for festivals and other social activities. This ambitious undertaking is the Ella Sharp Museum, but it sits on a kind of campus that is so large that it encompasses far more than routine museum activities. With well over five hundred acres at the site, there is space enough for a golf course across the street from the main entrance and other recreational uses. It seems to redefine conventional ideas of educational and instructional endeavors.
History of the site
The core of the complex is still the elegant Ella Sharp house, which is gracious both inside and out. Indeed, it resembles an almost miniature version of George Washington's own Mount Vernon in Virginia, although of obviously more recent date. The museum opened in 1965 in the home of Ella Merriman Sharp, who had left the house in her will to the city of Jackson in 1912. This action was similar to that of James Curwood, recently profiled in these pages (see the author's article at www.examiner.com), who willed his castle later to the city of Owosso. The much more recent Hadwin Center connects six galleries, including a children's gallery, to tell the story of the art and history of the Jackson area, and features changing exhibits. Elsewhere on the grounds are to be found a log cabin and a one-room schoolhouse, as well as a general store, by now familiar themes to readers acquainted with these pages, and reminiscent of the Meridian Historical Village in Okemos (again, see the article at www.examiner.com). A gift shop together with Ella's Granary Restaurant round out the picture of comprehensive family education and entertainment.
A truly interactive experience
This entire complex must surely rank as one of the most self-contained experiences available anywhere in mid-Michigan. Where else can one find history, art and recreation so extensive and attractively packaged? With its natural park setting and attached golf course, Ella Sharp Park and Museum stands in a class by itself, and offers an integrated museum going adventure that is hard to beat.