By Sue Moore
The Vicksburg Historic Village was once a landfill, otherwise known as a dump. Since 1997, the area in the triangle between Spruce Street and 300 N. Richardson Street has grown from a decrepit depot at the intersection of the Grand Rapids and Indiana and Grand Trunk Railroads into a bustling re-creation of small town Americana.
This dream of curators Maggie Snyder and Bonnie Holmes came to light somewhat out of necessity as founding members of the Vicksburg Historical Society. They had collected all kinds of objects depicting life in this area at the turn of the 20th century. To house the artifacts, the grounds grew from the one building to a dozen.
The latest, the General Store and the Doris-Lee Sweet Shop, will be dedicated Sunday, May 22.
The shop will be formally accepted by the village of Vicksburg representatives during an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Several of the people instrumental in constructing and furnishing the buildings will be honored during a 3 p.m. ceremony.
Ken Evensen as head of the “Thursday Guys” for 11 years will be honored as a John Vickers Fellow along with his wife Lee, who has spent those 11 years as a cataloging specialist for the collections committee. They are both retiring from these duties and looking to spend more time with their other love, the Tin Can Tourists.
Maggie Snyder, who has assembled most of the collections showcased in the Historic Village, will be similarly honored as a John Vickers Fellow. She has capped off her work with a display of objects in the General Store. She and her husband, Bill, also love to travel and expect to spend only a few months each year in Vicksburg.
A special salute by Warren Lawrence is being prepared for Gail Reisterer, who has made a gift of $100,000 to the Historical Society. Lawrence will announce the matching gift campaign being launched that day to build the endowment of the Society to help with future expansion in the Historic Village. “This gift is forever and will keep on giving well after all of us are gone,” Lawrence says. The principal of an endowment can never be spent. Interest on the investments will be used for projects on the drawing board. They include a doctor’s office, a barbershop and opera house.
Also being remembered for her volunteer work with the Historical Society is Karen Hammond as a John Vickers Fellow.
The public is urged to attend to tour the dozen buildings from 2-4 p.m. and attend the dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. The newest buildings will be open after the presentations with complimentary ice cream being served from the Sweet Shop by Apple Knockers.
Future plans are underway to open the buildings to tours and individuals each week from Wednesday through Sunday, with docents available to spin yarns about each building and its unique collection. “This is an amazing place, full of history dating largely from the 1890s to 1934 when rural electrification came to the Vicksburg area,” Ted Vliek, president of the Society, says. “Very few people have actually been in the buildings and we are eager to open them up to the public on a regular schedule of 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.”