How did the Depression affect Muskegon?

The Scolnik House – A Historic House of the Depression Era opened in May 2007. The house, located at 504 W. Clay Avenue, has undergone an extensive renovation and tells the story of common families living during the Great Depression.

In fall 1929, stocks fell 75%, income fell 40% and a quarter of the workforce was unemployed. People who had previously been able to take care of their families found themselves struggling to survive.

A fictional Polish Catholic family owns the two-story home which was built in the late 1880s in classic Queen Anne-Inspired Folk Victorian style. The family includes a couple, their five children and the paternal grandmother. They initially lived on both floors of the home, but because of the depression, now only occupy the main floor. The second floor is now an apartment which serves as home to a young fictional Polish-Jewish couple, their two children and the wife’s brother. They immigrated to the United States before the Holocaust.

Museum curators and staff spent more than two years renovating the interior of the Scolnik House. Period appropriate carpet, paint and linoleum cover the floors, the furniture is a variety of styles and radios on each floor play music from the era. The first floor kitchen has a 1928 refrigerator and an ice box is in the second floor kitchen. The Muskegon Garden Club planted and maintains a vegetable and flower garden beside the home.

The house was purchased by the Muskegon Heritage Association and Hackley Heritage Association following the death of its owner. The two organizations then turned the house over to the Lakeshore Museum Center to be developed as an additional local attraction and educational opportunity for school children. The house was a crumbling eyesore and has undergone an extensive renovation.

The project was funded through private donations and grants. The home is named for Herman and Ida Scolnik who raised their family during the Depression. Their son Bob and his wife Merle are longtime residents of Muskegon County who believe in supporting the community through contributions to such projects as the Depression Era site. Bob said the fact that his father was employed throughout the depression was one of the things his mother was most proud of. The house is a way for his parents to live on.

The Scolnik House is located at 504 W. Clay Ave. Muskegon, MI 49440.