This week marks the unofficial founding of the Frankenmuth Historical Association, the organization that preserves Frankenmuth’s history. In the 1960s, Frankenmuth residents were rediscovering their German heritage. The Bavarian festival increased in popularity, businesses adopted German “alpine” accents, Gunzenhausen was established as Frankenmuth’s Sister City, local residents met German cousins they never knew they had, and a small group of locals began meeting in the old high school, in each others houses, and even in basements to discuss the prospects of forming a historical organization. In 1963, the group formally organized the Frankenmuth Historical Association.
With no physical building to their name, the Association created and displayed artifacts in local businesses and at the school. In 1970, the Association created a campaign to raise funds from the local community. Thanks to the generosity of the town, the Association raised enough to purchase its permanent and current home at 613 S. Main Street, the former home of the Kern Hotel (1905-1942) and the Frankenmuth News (1942-1970).
After extensive renovations, the museum opened its doors on August 8, 1973. Under its new Director, Carl Hansen, the FHA quickly expanded. It created temporary exhibits and began adding to its impressive collection. By 1983, the Bavarian Inn donated Fischer Opera Haus (built in the 1890s) to the FHA. Using trucks and trailers, the Fischer Opera Haus was moved from behind the Bavarian Inn restaurant and attached to the existing museum. Renamed Fischer Hall, it gave Frankenmuth a home for parties, events, and rentals, and is till used as such today.
That same year, a resident purchased a house North of Frankenmuth on Maple Road. As he began tearing off siding to renovate the house, he discovered a rare original log house. A group of Jaycees volunteered to deconstruct the original log house, log by log, marking them each with a number. Then, the Jaycees transported the logs to Cross Park and reconstructed the house. Again, log by log.
Today, the FHA maintains the Museum, a large collection of over 30,000 artifacts, Fischer Hall, and the Wolkensdorfer Log House. Its staff remains dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of its community.
We do know that the FHA was officially established on May 27, 1963. We know a decent amount about the FHA and the organization that preserves its community’s history. But, among all their hard work to preserve the history of Frankenmuth, the founders of the FHA forgot to document their own achievements and history. We don’t have documentation for exactly when the first conversation, or first meeting was, to establish the FHA.
But we do know that it started as many things do in Frankenmuth. With a conversation and an idea.
Nathan is the Director of Education, Events, & Exhibits at the FHA.
We are proud to present History at Home! History at Home is a virtual learning program that includes fun educational content, including a blog and our podcast. Even if you cannot visit us in person, there is still so much to do!