MUSEUMS AND HISTORIC SITES
Supplied by The Former Four Flags Area Council on Tourism
Four Flags Hotel
At the corner of 4th and Main Streets in Niles, this hotel was built in 1925 at a cost of $350,000 and was considered the most modern in Southwestern Michigan. It's reputed to have hosted Al Capone, Eleanor Roosevelt, Knute Rockne, and Truman Capote. It was the first business to adopt the name "Four Flags" and served as the cultural center of Niles for most of the 20th Century. The hotel is open daily and tours may be arranged with advance requests.
Located at 5th and Main Streets, the old Chapin Mansion is the current Niles City Hall and is a very fine example of Victorian Queen Anne Architecture. It is known for the stained glass window panels and hand carved woodwork. Built in 1884, the mansion features an ornate chandelier that is both electric and gas. The building may be visited during normal business hours, and tours can be arranged in advanced.
Fort St. Joseph Museum
Directly behind the Chapin Mansion is the Carriage House which is home to the Ft. St. Joseph Museum. Exhibits and artifacts include those from the Native American, French and English period of Four Flags history, including many items from the old Fort St. Joseph, pictographs by Chief Sitting Bull. The Museum is open Wednesday thru Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Click here for additional information.
Niles Rail Depot
Just off North 5th Street, the Niles Rail Depot is open during normal business hours as a working depot. The sandstone building was completed in 1881. Its Neo-Romanesque style made it a real showplace, intended to impress visitors from the East with this last passenger stop before the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Formal gardens were established in 1893 with a floating garden, a fish pond, a gazebo and a greenhouse that supplied flowers for dining cars as well as for thousands of passengers who traveled through Niles, thus the affectionate title of "The Garden City." The depot has appeared in movies such as the "The Continental Divide" with John Belushi, "Midnight Run" with Robert DeNiro and "Only the Lonely" with Maureen O'Hara and John Candy.
Fort St. Joseph Site
At the corner of Bond and Fort Street in Niles is the huge boulder that marks the site of the old Fort St. Joseph. The seven ton boulder was moved in 1912 from a nearby farm largely financed by nickels from school children. A historical marker recounts the history of the fort from 1691 to 1781. Fort St. Joseph was important in the early fur trade, and settlement of the surrounding area.
Father Allouez Grave Site
Across Bond and just north of the Fort, is the grave site of Father Claude Allouez who was the first "black robe" to arrive in Niles to teach and convert the natives. He baptized over 10,000 before his death in 1689. The grave site was part of the St. Joseph Mission which was the first mission in lower Michigan, Indiana, and lower Wisconsin.
Ferry Street School
Located at the corner of 7th and Ferry Streets in Niles, this school was integrated in 1873. Built of red "schoolhouse" brick in 1868, the building is managed under the direction of the City of Niles' Community Development Director. This facility currently houses the Ferry Street School Resource Center. The historic classroom features authentic early American maps and teaching tools and serves as an extraordinary historical learning experience for children and adults.
Named for the brook that runs through it, Silverbrook Cemetery is older than the State of Michigan, having been founded in 1836 with lots sold to the public in 1838. Famous families buried in the Cemetery include the parents and sister of Montgomery Ward of catalogue fame; the family of Niles native journalist and sports writer, Ring Lardner; and the parents of John and Horace Dodge. Civil War figures interred include Colonel Francis Quinn of the Michigan 12th, and General Henry A. Morrow of the 24th Michigan Infantry.