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ATHENS AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

101-103 South Capital, P.O. Box 22, Athens, MI 49011

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THE HISTORY OF THE ATHENS AREA SOCIETY (AAHS)

In the Beginning

Founded in 1981 by local residents bound by the common belief that the history of Athens needed to be not only saved for future generations, but shared with the community, the AAHS was formed. Led by elected President Raymond Pontoni, owner of the then prosperous and thriving business, Nottawa Gardens, the small group set out to obtain a museum to display artifacts. Funding that was secured from local community members, Nottawa Gardens, Kellogg's, and other businesses, led to the procurement of the old "Dr. Fox House". This home had a prominent location just south of the heart of downtown, and served the AAHS well, as it had storage and display space, and provided well for meetings of small groups. Once community members saw that there was a safe place to house and display Athens artifacts, great donations were made of local memorabilia during these years, and the Museum's collections grew by leaps and bounds.


In 2011, the decision was made to acquire the former "Brunner Building" as the new home for the AAHS Museum. The old Dr. Fox home was in need of major renovations, and costly repairs that simply were not affordable to the small group.

  "Pave a Path to the Courtyard"

The Brunner Building is one of the oldest surviving buildings left in downtown Athens. At more than 150 years old, it has survived two major fires that wiped out all of the surrounding businesses. When the exterior siding was removed. it was discovered that the south east corner of the building had been badly charred by one or both of the fires. An extensive, ground up renovation was needed, and a new fundraising campaign was born.


On the south side of the building lay an unsightly and overgrown eyesore of an alley. It was

decided by members of the AAHS that this area needed to become a place of beauty for the people of Athens. A courtyard would be the destiny of this small space. Led by then Vice President, Eladio "Chico" Ramirez and his wife Judy, the "Pave a Path to the Courtyard" fundraising campaign began in earnest in 2012. Engraved pavers were sold to fund the complete renovation of the newly acquired museum. Completely new plumbing, electric lighting, and HVAC were installed. New flooring, exterior siding, windows, and roof and insulation were installed. The walls were rebuilt, the foundation was reinforced and the floors were leveled.. Beautiful new display cases were constructed to house the rich treasures of Athens' history! This was a major undertaking, but the people of Athens came through, and all the work was accomplished.


In addition to the sparkling new museum, the courtyard was also completed. The old fieldstone drinking fountain that had served generations of thirsty Athenians, was restored to working order and has a permanent home in the courtyard. One of the original street lights that was once powered from the hydroelectric dam, was restored and now illuminates the courtyard. Authentic "Athens Block" brick planters were constructed. The original hitching post from the old "Dr. Fox Home" was installed. A huge mural painted by renowned Kimber Thompson adorns the south bordering wall. Beautiful plants and flowers are abundant here.


When the former "Stone Inn Restaurant" building was demolished the Society acquired the stone arch which was in the lounge of the restaurant. The arch was originally from the 1910 Athens High School. Now it sits beautifully in the courtyard.


In the heart of all this beauty and history, lie the names of the people who genuinely love and support Athens. Their names are forever engraved in the pavers that they purchased in support of our cause. 

Moving Right Along

(The Greenfield House)

In early 2019, members of the AAHS voted to accept the generous offer of acquiring the lovely,albeit long neglected and decrepit "The Greenfield House" for $1.00, with the understanding that substantial funding for renovation would be provided. A new metal roof, and complete renovation of the main floor, and windows would be paid for by current AAHS President, Eladio R. (Chico) Ramirez and his wife Judy. They purchased the home in 2017 with the hopes of saving it from certain demolition. It sat vacant for decades, withering before our very eyes. A sad sight to say the least. The home that was once a grand and proud landmark in the area, had been reduced to a used-up rental property not fit for occupancy.


Once again, a ground up renovation would be needed. A committee called the "Friends of the Greenfield House" was formed, to make recommendations to the AAHS board, and to head up fundraising efforts, as estimates for renovation of the exterior of the house and property have exceeded $150,000. New plumbing, electric, and HVAC have already been completed. A new metal roof was installed in March of this year. Windows have been renovated and reinstalled at a blistering pace. Things are seriously moving right along!

Looking Forward

Looking forward, we see a thriving mixed-use Community Center being housed in the Greenfield house. The Athens Area Community Foundation (AACF) has committed to leasing office space in the Greenfield house, covering future operating expenses. With the close proximity to the Quonset Hut Theater, we see much collaboration in the arts. Murder mystery nights, meet the actors, high tea social gatherings, wine and canvas events, craft shows, weddings, birthdays, meetings.... We now own land on the tailrace to the Nottawaseppi River. We would some day like to see a kayak/canoe launch here. One could paddle out to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) reservation instead of driving to it. The Greefield House is across the street from the beautiful and alway bustling, John Wilson Park. We anticipate being part of activities held there, as well. A true community center.

How You Can Help

1. Become a Supporting Member! - Membership dues support the day-to-day operations of the AAHS. They keep the lights on, the insurance paid, and the heat on, among other operating expenses. This year, in honor of our Greenfield House endeavor, dues paying members will receive a wooded Greenfield House plaque. Only so many will be made, and 2019 will be the only year they are created. Membership information can be found elsewhere on this website.

 

2. Become a volunteer! We always need help with projects and have plenty of them to keep up with.

 

3. Support the activities of of the Athens Area Historical Society (AAHS)! - Every year we have two main fundraisers: Homecoming and the Annual Tombstone Tour and Town Tales Event.

 

* Stay Tuned for further advertising of these events next year*

 

4. Support the Greenfield House directly! The AAHS has established a separate fund held by the Battle Creek Community Foundation (BCCF). All gifts are tax deductible, as we are a registered 501 (c) 3 charitable organization. We are in the midst of fundraising to complete the renovation. One of our successful fundraisers was "Adopt a Shutter" campaign. A gift of $1,000 for one of only 38 shutters, supported not only the installation of a historic shutter, but it went go to support the overall exterior restoration efforts. An additional fundraiser of "Adopt a Paver" is currently in process for further restoration efforts and landscaping. For more information contact Kacie Brunner: kaciewayne@sbcglobal.net, call or text 269-317-7591

BOARD:

Officers:

President-

Eladio (Chico) Ramirez

 

Vice President-

Leslie Barton

 

Treasurer-

Kacie Brunner

 

Secretary-

Shelly Madden

 

Trustees:

Annette Bornor

Kim Hoag

Dorothy Weeks

Phil Carpenter

Lois Wadsworth

Vacancy

UPCOMING EVENTS:

The Santa Slaying

(A Murder Mystery)

on Sunday, December 31, 2023 at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets will be available at the Athens Area Historical Society Museum on Mondays from

9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Also, they will be at the Greenfield House Community Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays  from

9 .m. to 11 a.m.

Tickets are also available by appointment.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK-. .

OUR LOCATION: We are at the four corners in the middle of the Village. To find us click the MAP.

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