Every community needs a remembering place …
We all need a place that tells our stories, through artifacts, through our dreams; a place that shares how our community came to be what it is today and why we live the way we do. We also need a place that inspires us to keep our story going.
The Heritage Museum at the Priscilla U. Byrns Center is our remembering place in St. Joseph, Michigan. This carefully preserved and beautifully appointed museum presents our area’s history, stories, artifacts, archival collection, and research library all within our classical building along Main Street; offering an interactive setting for your trip to the past. Not only does it present our stories in spacious exhibit halls, but it allows you to create new memories in the elegant Shepard Hall.
Every person’s story is important and because we believe sharing these stories is just as important, Museum admission is free to everyone. Come journey into our past, gain a deeper understanding of our present and thrill at the possibilities for the future. There is a fundamental human need to understand the past in order to relate to the present and plan for the future. We are responsible to provide the resources to meet that need for everyone.
The mission of the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center is to engage the public in a vibrant organization that promotes historical preservation, education and research that relates to Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and the surrounding region. We seek to inspire our visitors to make a personal and emotional connection to the past by providing on-going historical exhibits and programs that enable all persons to see their present and future more clearly. The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center will become a model for historical research, preservation, and education.
The Heritage Museum’s Archives & Collections reflect the history of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor and its place in Michigan and Great Lakes regional history. Our archives and storage areas provide a professional environment for the long-term care of a wide range of artifacts and archival resources. Object and archival collections are shared with the public and other preservation organizations through changing exhibitions and a museum loan program.
Museum Services Include:
Public programs and events
Museum exhibits and education programs for schools, homeschoolers and scouts
Research library and archives- please call for an appointment so we can better serve you
Frederick S. Upton Fellowship Program in Public History
Support for the preservation of historical buildings and neighborhoods
Whether you’re a visitor or a long-time resident, let the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center take you on a journey through the history of Michigan’s lake frontier.
The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center proudly presents historical tours around our community!
Spooky St. Joe Cemetery Tours [We regret this tour is unavailable for 2018]
The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center and the History Center at Courthouse Square are teaming up to offer historical walking tours of St. Joseph this fall, for the fifth consecutive year. In October 2018, two separate tour programs will be presented in the City Cemetery and through the Old St. Joseph Neighborhood. Reservations are strongly advised; reserve a tour time by calling the Heritage Museum at (269) 983-1191. A $5 donation per person is requested to support the ongoing historical programs of both non-profit organizations.
The City Cemetery on Lakeview Avenue is the final resting place for hundreds of the town’s residents, including settlers who helped found the village in 1834, war veterans, lake captains, and entrepreneurs. Tour Guides will show grave monuments and share incredible but true stories of shipwrecks, mysterious deaths, and other local incidents. Groups will also be taken inside the cemetery’s beautiful mausoleum, dedicated in 1914, for a closer look at the names inside and amazing stories from the past about those individuals.
Haunted Historic Neighborhood Tours [We regret this tour is unavailable for 2018] Houses in the Old St. Joseph Neighborhood date from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century and many of them have witnessed tragic and mysterious events over the last 160 years. For example, ship Captain Cornelius McNeil took his wife, Persilla, and their three children with him aboard the bark Sunshine in 1859. The ship capsized on Lake Erie during a storm and only Persilla survived. The house from which they left on their ill-fated voyage still stands on State Street—one of the oldest in St. Joe. At another home, the John F. Duncan House built in 1892, various people claim to have seen the ghost of a teenaged girl.
North Pier Walking Tours and Lighthouse Open Hours [2018 Season Closed] Public Walking Tours of the St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouses are offered seasonally (Memorial Day through Labor Day) by the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. The City of St. Joseph took ownership of our Lights from the federal government in 2013 and has restored them through support from the Lighthouse Forever Fund.
In addition to walking tours, the first floor of the Inner Light and Fog Signal Building will be open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, free of charge, weather permitting. The goal of the expanded programing at the Lighthouse is to make the tours more flexible and accessible to the public. “These are such iconic structures,” said Lighthouse Tour Manager, Claire Herhold. “Everybody has a story about their experience on the pier or at the Light. We’re so excited that even more people will have a chance this summer to come inside and learn about the incredible history here!” All tours and open hours are subject to last minute cancellations due to weather or lake conditions, and all visitors will be required to sign a Waiver of Liability. “The public’s safety is our number one priority,” added Herhold. More important information is included below about Lighthouse Tour policies and advisories.
The most comprehensive way to experience the Lighthouse is to attend an hour-long guided walking tour of the North Pier, which culminates in an optional climb up to the lantern room inside the Inner Light. North Pier Walking Tours are scheduled every Friday and Saturday, June 2 through September 2, at 10:00am. Anyone climbing the tower must meet the minimum height requirement of 48 inches. Following the Friday and Saturday Walking Tours, Open Hours are scheduled at the Inner Light & Fog Signal Building from 11:00am to 2:00pm. Volunteer guides will help connect visitors to the history of the Keepers who maintained the lights and the many vessels who relied on them.
St. Joseph Walking Tours [2018 Season Closed] Presented in partnership with the Krasl Art Center. These organizations will offer public history and sculpture walking tours alternating every Thursday from June 1 through August 31. The guided tours begin at 5:30pm and run an hour in length. While both tours are free, a suggested donation of $5 will support the Heritage Museum and the Krasl Art Center.
The tours will gather and begin inside the Whitcomb building (509 Ship Street). The Whitcomb Senior Living Community welcomes walking tour guests to enter the lobby of their historic building, constructed as a modern resort hotel in 1928. St. Joseph Walking Tours will meet in the Living Room, which features hand-painted murals depicting Pere Marquette meeting Native Americans and stunning views of the bluff.
Beginning June 1, the Krasl Art Center presents the “Sculpture Walking Tour.” Trained docents will guide you along the Margaret B. Upton Arboretum riverfront to explore contemporary sculptures from the Krasl Art Center Biennial Sculptural Invitational, along with some staple permanent artworks in town.
Starting June 8, the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center presents the “Historic Walking Tour”. This tour looks at our fascinating past, covering landmarks such as the Maids of the Mist Fountain and Silver Beach. A stroll on State Street will help us tell the stories of some of the most historic buildings of Old St. Joseph.
Benton Harbor History Tours [2018 Season Closed] Presented in partnership with the Morton House Museum. A series of historical tours scheduled June through September 2017. Tours will take place on foot, on bike, and on the water, using the preserved streetscape and landscapes around the community to travel back in time. The tours will feature photos, maps, and stories from times past, collected over many years by the Morton House Museum and the Heritage Museum. Benton Harbor History Tours are free to attend, but a donation of $5 per person is suggested to support these local non-profit organizations. Guests are advised to wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
The Heritage is a wonderful place to start your family’s history. Its striking balance of Victorian and contemporary elements allow you to bridge your families’ pasts with the excitement of your future — and do so as simply or elegantly as you wish. You’ll find the intimacy or spaciousness you want in each carefully appointed room or garden. The history galleries will draw your guests together to share memories and enhance your celebration. Because on your wedding day, it’s this moment in time that matters most.
Whether you are looking for a destination wedding location along the shores of Lake Michigan or a reception hall near family and friends living in Southwestern Michigan, the Heritage Museum is a lovely place to begin your future together. Your unique space includes:
Shepard Hall – Beautifully appointed and spacious, this room offers ample seating and dancing space for up to 200 guests. Features include a hardwood floor, chandeliers and picturesque second-floor balcony. The grand piano, scenic windows, and graceful columns contribute to the hall’s elegance.
Parlor – This is a charming place to hold a private rehearsal meal or intimate reception for up to 35 guests. Its vintage décor includes a fireplace, chandeliers, and antique furnishings.
Founders Garden – Beautifully landscaped, this natural setting offers a lovely backdrop for outdoor photographs or a place to dance under the stars. To mark your day in a special way, ask us to engrave a commemorative brick for the garden path.
Museum Exhibit Halls – You and your guests will have special access to the exhibits that celebrate our area’s multi-faceted past in the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center.
Professional Catering Kitchen – We welcome you to make your own selection of a licensed caterer.
Wireless Internet – Available throughout the building.