OAKLAND COUNTY — Nestled in the county seat is possibly one of Oakland County’s best-kept secrets. The Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society is looking to share that secret with the community.
Bloomfield Hills resident Mike West stumbled upon the Pine Grove and the OCPHS by accident.
“I was actually out trying to find information on the automotive history of Pontiac. I made a wrong turn while driving and ended up (at Pine Grove),” said West — who began volunteering with the OCPHS soon after.
West is the past president and current vice president and executive board member of the OCPHS. The OCPHS — originally referred to as the Pioneer Society of Oakland County — was formed in September 1874 and is recognized as the oldest historical society in the state.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the society began collecting newspapers, books, photographs and manuscripts relating to Oakland County. These ancient artifacts, along with more recent records, are all currently housed on the grounds of Pine Grove Historical Museum in Pontiac.
“We can tell you any information you want to know. We are like the custodians of Oakland County history,” West said. “But we don’t only educate people in the history of Oakland County. We educate them on the evolution of the United States.”
One of the main attractions at Pine Grove is the Greek revival-style mansion of former Gov. Moses Wisner. In 1845, Wisner settled onto the parcel of land, known then as the Saginaw Trail. The property contained a brick house, a grove of stately pine trees, and plenty of land for a stable and orchards.
The mansion — which still includes many of the original furnishings — is adorned with a plethora of donated Civil War relics and artifacts.
“It’s the beauty of the mansion, and the acres, the 150-foot Austrian pines. It’s a very precious property,” said board member Anne Liimatta.
While the society focuses its attention on the preservation and maintenance, the Pine Grove estate, its energy isn’t limited to just that. The OCPHS also offers various programs throughout the year to enlighten residents on the rich history of Oakland County and beyond. Tours of the Moses Wisner mansion are also available.
As far as the future of the city and the OCPHS, West is feeling optimistic on all fronts.
“Pontiac is being brought back to life. A lot of money is being invested, and all the elements are coming together. We will soon see a comeback,” he said. “I feel a responsibility to keep this going, and that’s how many of us feel.”
The Pine Grove Historical Museum, located at 405 Cesar Chavez Ave. in Pontiac, and the OCPHS are always looking for members and volunteers. For more information, call (248) 338-6732 or visit www.ocphs.org.
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