The Lost Railway Museum-Jackson

The Big Guide to Museums in Jackson County Michigan

With its important place in Michigan history, Jackson County is bursting with historical homes and marvelous museums that are just waiting to be discovered.

Whether you’re a Jackson County resident or just a curious Michigander planning their next Mitten State road trip, the museums in the county offer something for everyone.

Want to travel back in time to the days of the pioneers? Anxious to see some Jackson-made classic cars? Looking for the perfect spot to let your kids play and learn? You can find all of it and more in the museums in Jackson County County.

Ella Sharp Museum

3225 4th St., Jackson

Named after former Jackson civic leader Ella Sharp, this museum is one of the most popular spots in Jackson County and is located in Ella Sharp Park.

Sharp bequeathed her farm and house to the city of Jackson for use as a park and museum. That became a reality when the museum opened in 1965 and over the years it has come to encompass 11 different buildings on its 6-acre property.

The centerpiece of the campus is the Ella Sharp House, which houses the museum. The museum is home to seven different galleries, including rotating exhibits, a clock collection, wildlife art, and permanent Jackson historical exhibits.

Another jewel of the museum is the Hurst Planetarium, which uses a state-of-the-art projector to present a variety of shows.

If you love astronomy and the stars, visit the planetarium for virtual night sky tours, live star presentations, night sky observations, and more.

Take a stroll down Historic Farmlane, which includes many of the buildings that were moved onto the museum property in the 1960s. The farm lane includes:

  • Dibble Schoolhouse
  • Stillson Loghouse
  • Hillside Farmhouse
  • A general store
  • A tower barn
  • A granary
  • A gazebo
  • A woodshop

Jackson Historic Prison Tours

100 Armory Ct, Jackson

A makeshift fort built in 1839 holds the designation of being Michigan’s first state prison and vistors can explore this historic place that paved the way for future Michigan prisons.

Jackson is known among Michiganders as the home of the Michigan State Prison and has four separate prisons today. But Jackson is also home to the state’s first prison, which is open to the public for fascinating historical tours.

Go behind the brick walls of this historic facility, which are teeming with history. They hold stories of notorious criminals, of escape, and tales of daily prison life.

There’s something that’s spooky yet exciting about visiting historic prison sites and this one in Michigan holds more than a century of history that’s waiting for you to discover and explore.

Michigan’s Military Heritage Museum

311 N. Wisner St, Jackson

History buffs, especially those who enjoy military history, will enjoy this shrine to Michigan’s vast and storied miltary history.

Throughout its history, Michigan and Michiganders have played an important part in the nation’s military campaigns. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln is said to have exclaimed, “Thank God for Michigan.”

Michiganders have served honorably in campaigns dating back to the Civil War to becoming the “arsenal of democracy” during WWI and WWII to modern military campaigns.

The Military Heritage Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing Michigan’s military history through written and oral histories, pictures, artifacts, and more. 

Visitors will be impressed by the sheer amount of artifacts on display, including historical clothing, weaponry, vehicles, wax figures, and more. 

The Lost Railway Museum-Jackson
The Lost Railway Museum | photo via experiencejxn

The Mann House

205 Hanover St, Concord

There’s something so majestic about Victorian-era homes and you don’t have to travel far in Jackson County to see one up close!

Located in the village of Concord, the Mann House showcases daily life for a family in the 1800s. Open since 1970, it’s the former home of Daniel Sears Mann and Ellen E. Mann and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

The house itself is built on a rectangular frame and features a pyramidal tower at one corner above the house’s entrance. There are also three entrances to the house with porches.

Visitors can visit seasonally and explore the inside of the house, which features multiple bedrooms, a pantry, a kitchen, a dining room, a parlor, and an entrance hall.

Most of the home’s original furnishings and implements are here, but some renovations have been made over time.

Coe House Museum

371 W Michigan Ave, Grass Lake

If visiting historic homes is your thing, you’re in luck because this brick Italianate house is immaculate and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places!

There’s just something so fascinating about visiting historic homes. It’s like taking a trip back in time to see how people lived and kept their homes in such good shape.

This historic home was originally built in 1871 and had several owners, including Archie and Myrta Coe, who bought the house in 1953 and lived there until 1974.

Myrta eventually arranged for the house to be purchased and turned into a museum by the Grass Lake Area Historical Society.

The home is open seasonally in May and June, but those who love architecture will love walking through this Tuscan Vernacular Home, which includes a kitchen, a parlor, bedrooms, and a barn.

In the last several years, the museum has undergone renovations, including window repair, repointing foundation walls, and first-floor painting.

The Lost Railway Museum

142 W Michigan Ave, Grass Lake

One of the most fun things about visiting any museum is that it allows visitors young and old to step back in time and imagine what life was like in the days of old.

Visit the Lost Railway Museum and imagine a simpler time; a time before motorized vehicles, paved streets, and modern technology. That’s what you’ll find here as you’re transported back to early 1900s Grass Lake.

Once upon a time, more than a half dozen railways all intersected in Jackson County as they traveled here and there to deliver passengers all over the state.

The museum offers a glimpse at that railway system by offering a look at several railway lines and sharing the stories behind them.

Visitors can step inside old rail cars and view historic artifacts to really get a sense of the importance of the railways to Michigan and Jackson County.

Ye Ole Carriage Shop Auto Museum-Jackson-
Ye Ole Carriage Shop Auto Museum | photo via speedandshinetv

Ye Ole Carriage Shop Auto Museum

3538 Henderson Rd, Spring Arbor

Detroit is known as the Motor City, Michigan is known for the Big Three automakers and Flint is known as Vehicle City. But did you know Jackson County has played a role in vehicle manufacturing too?

Simply put, Ye Ole Carriage Shop is a delightful museum that showcases Jackson’s manufacturing history. Though the museum focused on vehicles made in Jackson, it’s also home to a diverse collection of collectibles and other cars.

The car collection here includes more than a dozen cars made in Jackson, including the 1902 Jaxon Steam Car, the 1909 Jackson, and the 1914 Imperial. The rest of the museum’s collection includes favorites like the DaLorean, the Thunderbird, the Silver Cloud Rolls Royce, and more.

Wander through the museum and see a collection of stickers, toy cars, model planes, Coca-Cola memorabilia, furniture, boxed toys, and so much more. It really is like stepping back in time!

The museum does accept donations of cars and memorabilia, so if you have something you’d like to donate, it can be put on display for future generations to enjoy.

Hubbard Memorial Museum

317 Hanover St, Concord

It covers less than one acre, but the former Paddock-Hubbard House is fascinating nonetheless. Visit this single-story Concord home for yourself and marvel at its architecture.

This museum, which opened in 1991, is the former home of both George Paddock and Truman and Cora Piper Hubbard and dates back to 1846. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

This 1.5-story home is built in the Greek Revival Style and has many of its original features. The home has an open hearth fireplace, several family heirlooms, and its original kitchen.

Tours are offered by appointment only, so phone ahead if you plan on taking a tour.

The museum is also a popular spot for annual events, including the annual Celtic Festival in March, Civil War Days in July, and the Ecumenical Christmas Program in December.

The museum foundation has other properties to explore too, including a 19th-century carriage house that’s home to the Bicentennial Pulaski-Concord Covered Wagon,  the Riceville Greek Revival One Room School from the 1850s, and the Crittenden-Scranton House.

Waterloo Farm Museum

13493 Waterloo Munith Rd, Grass Lake

Ever wondered what pioneer life was like? You can experience it for yourself as you explore an 1800s farmhouse, a windmill, a log house and more!

For those who love getting a glimpse into the past, the Waterloo Farm Museum is the perfect place for an up-and-close-and-personal experience.

Imagine the days of old as you explore a blacksmith’s workshop with a working forge, a wooden Perkins windmill, an 1850s farmhouse, a log house (complete with a stone fireplace), and other buildings.

Throughout the year, the Farm is home to several fun events, including Pioneer Day in October, Christmas on the Farm in December, and the Antique Tractor, Truck, and Farm Equipment Show in August.

If you have time, head three miles north to visit the Dewey School Museum, a one-room schoolhouse that dates back to the mid-1880s.

Waterloo Farm Museum-Jackson-
Waterloo Farm Museum | photo via avalanchevalhalla

Tompkins Historical Society/Stewart Farm Museum

10138 N. Tompkins Road Rives Junction

There’s history tucked into every corner here and plenty of stories to tell at this small museum that’s open by appointment only and for special events.

This museum may be small, but it’s packed full of history. There are antiques and fascinating pieces of the past including rug looms, blacksmith demonstrations, a replica log cabin,  a windmill, and an 1880s-era schoolhouse.

As you tour the house, keep your eyes peeled for all of the historical artifacts featured in the house.

You’ll see everything from punch cups to an antique sewing machine, to old photos, to a piece of fabric that’s said to be the oldest in Jackson County. 

Tours may be available by appointment, but the museum is also the site of annual events, including the Freedom Festival which includes a car show, a flea market, and a steam engine show.

Whitetail Hall of Fame Museum

4220 Willis Rd, Grass Lake

For many Michiganders, the Mitten State is a deer hunter’s paradise and opening day of firearm deer season is just as important as Christmas. This museum is truly a deer hunter’s paradise!

Outdoor enthusiasts, especially deer hunters, will be in heaven as they explore this family-owned business. Here, they can take self-guided tours to see live deer (and feed them too), dozens of trophy bucks, and cool, one-of-a-kind antiques.

Opening and closing hours vary, but admission here is just $6 for adults and $2 for children, so it’s a very affordable place to visit.

Impressive collection of antique farm tools! Excellent value for the money. Family friendly experience! Owner lives on site. Extremely friendly and helpful people. Surprisingly, huge barn has a large tennis court and farm tool collection. Well maintained and clean! Well worth stopping.

– Ellen G. via TripAdvisor
Whitetail Hall of Fame Museum-Jackson
Whitetail Hall of Fame Museum | photo via bethmanyen

Imagine Planet

730 Tomlinson St, Jackson

Looking for the perfect museum to take your kiddos? Imagine Planet is the perfect place for them to learn about the wonders of science through hands-on exhibits as well as animals.

This free kids’ museum was founded by Jean McKim, who used her background in teaching and working for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with her love of the outdoors to create a wonderful experience kids will love.

Imagine Planet’s animal ambassadors include snakes, parrots, and ferrets, and youngsters who visit love interacting with them.

The hands-on science activities change frequently and include subjects like astronomy, animals, chemistry, and rocks. There’s no better way for kids to learn as they play.

Hanover-Horton Area Historical Society

105 Fairview St, Hanover

If you like museums that offer a little bit of everything, this is one you don’t want to miss! From historic organs to local artifacts, this museum is overflowing with history!

The centerpiece of the historical society is the Conklin Antique Reed Organ Museum, which features one hundred organs on display in the former Hanover High School.

Starting with a collection of dozens of organs from Lee Conklin’s collection, the collection has become a well-known local and international museum with fully restored organs that visitors can sit and play.

The museum is also home to hands-on children’s displays in most of its rooms as well as local artifacts. When you’re done there, step outside and explore the rest of Heritage Park, which showcases agricultural history in Jackson County.

Heritage Park also boosts perennial gardens, a sawmill, a maple sugar shack, and a woodland walking trail; little wonder then that it’s often the site of so many annual events like a maple syrup festival and Corn Maze Days.

Plan Your Visit to a Jackson County Museum Today

If you love visiting museums, Jackson County offers plenty of variety no matter what your interests are. Whether you love historical buildings, classic cars, antiques, antique instruments, or wildlife, there are plenty of options for having fun and soaking in some history. 

No matter if you’ve lived in Jackson County your entire life, you live on the border, or you’re visiting Michigan from out of town, the museums are an eclectic mix packed with plenty of delights that will impress even the most skeptical visitors.

So start planning for a visit to a Jackson County museum today. You’ll have fun, you’ll learn a thing or two and you’ll gain a greater appreciation for Jackson County’s rich history. 

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