The restoration efforts of the Kilmanagh are showing great signs of progress. When this post was first published, many feared that the iconic general store was going to fall in. The store and the little town surrounding it were still life subjects for artists. One model maker from Germany made a scale model of the store based on photographs found on the web. (Which I wish I would have saved!)
The Rummel and Woldt General Store is being transformed. The owner, Tim Voss is literally doing a labor of love to restore one of the last general stores in Michigan. He has made great progress.
You can keep track of the restoration progress and even donate to the effort at the Kilmanagh Store page on Facebook.
The Road to Kilmanagh
So the situation is this… it’s a typical Michigan road trip. You’re hurling along Colwood Road north of Caro toward the Saginaw Bay shore, and you start seeing signs to slow down. First, it’s Bach. A nondescript place on a map with no stop sign, and no light, but you notice a huge Pepsi-Cola/ General Store painted on one side of a building. This is the first of your ghost town road stops. Bach is a place where unknown but talented photographers go to hone their craft. Many come to places like Bach and end up with a few shots that end up on Etsy, hoping to sell a Canvas shot online for $9.99. I stop and snap a few myself.
Bach General Store Now an Abandoned Museum
It’s a disheartening sight. The sign on the front beckons potential customers to call a phone number or knock on the main house’s door for a peek inside. I lean on the glass and see relics from times gone by; someone’s extensive beer can collection is neatly stacked on circa 1930s mercantile shelves. I spot some vintage metal and wooden toys. I see an old-school desk stacked neatly near the door. You can tell that someone was trying to make a good effort for this antique store. Now it sits silent and unvisited. Someone later tells me that the owner picked up and moved to California. I move on.
A Four Corner Country Village of the Past
Kilmanagh is a place stuck in lore and time. In the Spring of 1891, this western Huron County village hosted a grist mill, two general stores, a blacksmith shop, and two or three saloons. Only a couple of relics of the village remain. The aging general store, a 1940’s service station, and a closed liquor store. It is an interesting stop on your way north to Bay Port or Caseville. If you stop, treat it respectfully, as it’s literally a museum exposed to the elements.
Walk among its ruins. Snapshots and hopefully write a few words on your find. The general store is what takes your attention first. There is beauty in the decay.
I’m lucky to have been given a set of pictures of Kilmanagh from my mother. In the late 1980s, my parents had a small business called Thumb Impressions. They had the opportunity to travel around the Thumb in a 1990 LeBaron GT convertible to capture the Thumb as it had been. The area was changing, and many of the WWII generations were passing on. With it were some of the landmarks of the area.
Kelly’s Bar 30 Years Ago in Kilmanagh
This set of photos was taken around 1990 in Kilmanagh. The lovely lady tending bar that day was Bernice Kelly. From the comments from those who remember those times, she had a great sense of humor. Someone asked her for a dark beer. She replied, “All my beer is in brown bottles…”
By 2016 the bar and shop are closed. When last I drove by the building, it was still neat and tidy and it looked like it could be opened in short order. Like many small Michigan villages, there is no vibrant business other than the spectacle of decaying past glory. This is depressing. I wonder if these beautiful four corner villages will ever rebound.
Kilmanagh: An Artist Delight and Hopeful Restoration
Kilmanagh is a gold mine for still-life artists. A modeling artist in Germany did a scale model of the general store. (If anyone knows who that is please pass it along) The best example of someone who really invested himself in this is John Nagridge, who in several seasons, painted Kilmanagh Fall, Winter, and Spring themes. You can visit John’s website for more knife renderings of Kalmanagh’s general store.
In 2017 the owners of the Kilmanagh General Store began restoration work. Which is a hopeful sign. Visit their Save the Store page for more information on how you can help save the Kilamanagh General Store. You can also visit the Kilmanagh General Store Facebook Page and check out the progress of the restoration efforts.
Michigan Small-Town Getaways
- Michigan’s Bean Town and Polka Capital – Kinde – Many want to keep this place a secret. It’s a slice of a true American farming community in the Thumb of Michigan. John Kinde founded the village in the 1880s during the region’s transition from lumbering to agriculture. A lumber yard, general store, grain elevator, and post office were established, followed by a train station in 1882 for the Port Huron and Northwestern Railroad.
- The Pinnebog General Store – Gone But Not Forgotten – Walter Hume, “the Daniel Boone of Hume Township,” became the first settler in the area in 1844. This little four corner settlement was first called Pinnepog (Chippewa for partridge drum). However, another Pinnepog five miles north on Saginaw Bay, so this one changed to Pinnebog (“a high sounding and dignified way of saying pine bog”).
- The 1881 Fire that Almost Wiped out Parisville – The Great Michigan Fire of 1881 devastated one town above all others; Parisville. Parisville, Michigan, was founded by Polish immigrants escaping the Prussian Empire’s oppression; this community claims to be the first Polish settlement in North America.
- The Corner Drug & Jewelry Store Harbor Beach, Michigan – The Corner Drug and Jewelry Store in Harbor Beach is estimated to be 1910. It shows a steam tractor towing a wagon and another team following behind. Originally I wanted to focus on the tractor. I still don’t know what the make is, but I suspect it may have been a Case.
- Marlette Railway Depot – The railroad was key to the economic growth of the Thumb’s agricultural business. By 1910 Marlette Railway depot was twice a day stop for passengers and freight between Port Huron and Saginaw.