Current Exhibits 2016-10-17T04:42:34+00:00


Hotel Ottawa (1886-1923) Interpretive Kiosk on Lake Macatawa walkway

The handsome structure shown below is a  unique four panel interpretive sign which explains the history of the Hotel Ottawa. This huge Victorian era hotel stood on this spot from 1886 until it was accidentally destroyed by fire in the Fall of 1923. According to insurance maps from the 1910’s overlaid on aerial photographs of the area, this new interpretive kiosk is standing just where the Southeast corner of the hotel porch was located.

Area historian and exhibit designer Valerie van Heest has skillfully blended text and photographs to clearly and plainly tell the story of the hotel in each of the four phases of its existence. Here one will learn that the hotel was originally built at the top of the bluff North Northeast of the new kiosk, and was moved down to the Lake Macatawa waterfront – on rolling logs!

To find this interpretive kiosk, we suggest walking or driving to the Fisherman’s Cove parking lot off Ottawa Beach Road just before one enters the Holland State Park Lake Michigan Unit. From the parking lot, locate the broad sidewalk  leading Southeast. Once on the sidewalk, a walk of  a few short steps will lead one right to the kiosk. There’s a neat audio history available at the kiosk with the touch of a button, perfect for the visually impaired, and the ample overhang on the roof ensures you can enjoy the Hotel Ottawa Intrepretive Kiosk even in rainy weather.
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The “Pump house”

Originally an electric lighting plant, this building was constructed in 1901 to generate power to illuminate the newly expanded Ottawa Beach Hotel. As technologies changed, the use of the building changed. After the hotel burned in 1923, this building was used to pump groundwater from wells for the cottages at Ottawa Beach. At that time, the building became known as the “pump house,” a term still in use.

Since 2005, Ottawa County serves as stewards of the pump house. It is the future home of the Pump House Museum and Learning Center to be operated by the nonprofit Historic Ottawa Beach Society.

Electric Generating Dynamos

Thomas Edison’s design in 1882 for the first practical dynamo to generate electricity, coupled with development of the steam-powered turbine in 1890, made the operation of central power stations practical. In 1896, planning began for a power station at Ottawa Beach to bring the first electric lighting to the Ottawa Beach Hotel.

Building the Power Plant
In 1901, the Furniture City Electric Company of Grand Rapids constructed this Edison electric lighting plant for the Pere Marquette Railway, owners of the hotel, at the same time as the hotel was significantly enlarged. Cottagers were given the opportunity to purchase electric. In addition, a 125,000 gallon wooden water reservoir for the hotel was built on top of Mt. Pisgah supplied by a pump house (which still stands at a private home). Cottagers continued to operate private water wells pumped by windmills or gasoline engines.

Operating the Electric Light Plant

The south half of the building housed a hand-fed, coal-fired boiler which drew its water from Black Lake and vented out through a tall smoke stack. The boiler generated steam, piped through the dividing wall to the north half, to drive an engine which spun two dynamos generating electricity for hotel lighting. The equipment was similar to Holland’s interurban power plant pictured left. Joint Archives of Holland Collection

Site for this plant
The electric light plant was located adjacent to the freight dock and Black Lake for access to coal delivery and water to feed the boiler. After railroad service was discontinued in 1913, a concrete road was constructed over the track bed, accounting for the narrow road and its proximity to this building. Holland Museum Collection

Becoming a Pump House

The electric light plant remained in service as built until 1915 when the Muskegon Power Company brought power to Ottawa Beach, at which time the boiler was removed. The railway continued to generate power for hotel lighting and added water pumps to expand the hotel’s system. After the hotel burned in 1923, Consumers Power and later the Service Machine Company provided water for the cottages using pumps and a large water storage tank (pictured above) and the building became known as the “pump house.” Eventually the cottagers formed the Ottawa Beach Water Authority to continue water service.

Discontinuation of Service

This building ceased operation in 1988 when Holland municipal water came to Ottawa Beach. Soon thereafter, The Ottawa Beach Historic Committee preserved the pump house by repairing roof trusses and replacing the original slate roof with an asphalt roof. Additional exterior restoration began in 2015.



This Deming Triplex Pump, first installed in 1901, replaced a wind and later steam-driven pump and operated using both gasoline and electric-powered engines. This pump operated continuously for almost 90 years drawing ground water up through pipes, and sending it to a water reservoir for drinking, bathing, and fire suppression. The basic pump design dates to the 1880s when first manufactured by the Silver & Deming Co. with improvements, including a special piston connection for easy maintenance and a gear hub to reduce stresses that cause crankshaft failure, patented by the Deming Co. on August 31, 1897.

From 1867 until its sale in 1961, the Deming Company held rank and the nation’s premier pump manufacturing company. Ironically, the man who founded the company began in the grocery business.

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The 35 years in which the Hotel Ottawa existed at Ottawa Beach (1886 – 1923) was a period of enormous technological change as the sources of power to operate machinery transitioned from wind, to steam, to gasoline, and finally to electric.

Evolution of Water Systems at Ottawa Beach


The first water system at Ottawa Beach was installed in 1886 when the Hotel Ottawa was built. A windmill-powered pump drew groundwater to fill an 18,000-gallon, elevated wooden tank, which fed the hotel via gravity.


Wind power proved inefficient, and in 1888 a concrete tower to house a steam-engine and water pump was erected north of the hotel to draw groundwater to fill the existing tank, which fed the original hotel. It continued to supply water to the hotel’s “Annex,” built in 1891, and the hotel after its relocation in 1896.


In 1901 the Ottawa Beach Hotel was enlarged. The existing steam-powered pump and water tank were transferred to the neighborhood association to supply water for the cottages. A new water system for the hotel was installed that included the new Deming Triplex pump, powered by a gasoline engine, located in a small pump house on the south side of Auburn Avenue, that fed water a 185,000-gallon reservoir on top of Mt. Pisgah. At the same time, this building was constructed as an electric light plant with a steam boiler and two dynamos to generate electricity for the hotel.


In 1915, the Muskegon Power Company began providing electricity to Ottawa Beach, and the steam boiler was removed. The Deming Triplex pump was then relocated to this building so that it could be powered by a more efficient electric motor to fill the water reservoir on Mt. Pisgah.

When the Ottawa Beach Hotel burned in 1923, the dynamos in this building were removed, and this pump began furnishing water to the cottages, to replace the older steam-powered pump. It operated until 1988 when public utility water was run to Ottawa Beach. During this period, the building was referred to as “the Pump House.”


In 2016 from June – September the Historic Ottawa Beach Society (HOBS) hosted scheduled open houses along with two evenings of events. For 2016 HOBS provided visitors with an exhibit titled “Icebound: the Ordeal of the SS Michigan.” This topic was chose because of its application to Holland—the shipwreck of the Michigan was found several years ago by the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association, and it rests 18 miles off Holland.

The SS Michigan, an iron-hulled steamship, was built in Detroit for the Goodrich Transportation Company in 1881. It sailed briefly for Goodrich before the Detroit, Grand Haven, and Milwaukee Transportation Company purchased the steamer and moved it to Grand Haven as its home port. It was called out of winter layup in January 1885 to go to the rescue another Grand Haven steamer owned by the railroad, which has become trapped in the pack ice during what was a very brutal winter.  Instead of rescuing that steamer, the Michigan instead also became trapped in the ice.

Through a series of wall hung panels and 2 freestanding kiosks in the exhibit, visitors learn of the ordeal that took place over the next 43 days as the crew tried to save themselves and their ship. The courage and heroics of the youngest crewmember, Grand Haven’s George Sheldon, is woven through the whole exhibit.  In the end, his actions helped save all the members of the crew, but the ordeal took its toll on George’s health. He died 5 years later and is today buried in Grand Haven’s Lake Forest Cemetery.

The exhibit was designed by Valerie van Heest and is based on the story of the SS Michigan as told in her two of her books: “Icebound: The Adventures of Young George Sheldon and the SS Michigan”, for children, and “Lost and Found Legendary Lake Michigan Shipwrecks.”  During the summer Valerie presented a companion program based on the exhibit, which provided visitors with the re-enactment of this 1885 sinking. Attendance was overwhelming as we received ~130 visitors. Valerie also introduced the great, great grandchildren of hero George Sheldon who today live in Grand Haven and Grand Rapids. During the event, and through the course of exhibit open houses this year, HOBS sold many of her books, generating funds for our society.