Jackson, Michigan: Discover Rich History and Hospitality
By Shannon Doe Ewing
There are many interesting communities surrounding Detroit; one in particular I was rather curious about was Jackson, about an hour’s drive from the big city. I was excited to get some fresh air and check out some local history.
One of Jackson’s main industries, interestingly enough, is the Michigan Department of Corrections. The history of how the community is connected to the prison system is fascinating. With museums, a fun craft brew scene, a pioneer village and a lively arts centre, Jackson is a really unique and interesting place to discover.
Ella Sharp Museum
Visiting the Ella Sharp Museum was such a treat. I absolutely loved the diversity of exhibits, from World War II photographs and memorabilia from many Jackson residents who served in the war, to beautiful Tiffany stained-glass panels and an exceptional antique clocks exhibit. Be sure to check out their online calendar as the many changing exhibitions. It’s a great venue for families to check out.
Cell Block 7 Prison Museum Cell Block 7 Prison Museum
You can combine your admission to the Ella Sharp Museum with the Cell Block 7 Prison Museum. This is different from other famous prison museums in the United States (such as Alcatraz near San Francisco) in that it’s located in an active, working prison. Cell Block 7 is not a working section anymore, and yet you feel the imposing nature of the massive prison around you. After all, this was once the largest walled prison in the world. On my self-guided tour, I took my time reading the stories from the exhibits. Many different perspectives are given, from a guard’s to an inmate’s point of view. It’s thought provoking, to say the least!
Waterloo Farm Museum
After the serious nature of Cell Block 7, we took a fun and easy drive winding through beautiful, tree-lined country roads to visit the Waterloo Farm Museum. Members of the Waterloo Area Historical Society, who volunteer to maintain the grounds and operate the museum, greeted us warmly. Come experience a fascinating tour of this authentic 1800s farm with hosts in pioneer dress. The gift shop has excellent hand-made souvenirs.
Creativity & Craft Beer
Next, we travelled downtown to discover Art 634. This was such a cool venue: an arts centre within an 1850s manufacturing facility. Walking in, I was excited to find a lounge area where a sea of delicate cranes hung gracefully from the ceiling. I could hear the thump of dancing feet from a ballet class upstairs. This centre has everything from visual arts to the performing arts. On your visit, check out a class or find a special gift to take home.
After so many activities, I was famished and ready to relax and unwind. A fun local venue that has excellent craft beer and lovely local wines is the Grand River Marketplace. At this combination restaurant, brewery and live music venue, you can have a full night of foodie bliss, drinks and music.
Jackson is a friendly community with lots hospitality and history to explore. Make it a day trip from Detroit – you’ll love it!