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John Jacob Makinen Sr., Kaleva Bottle House (Happy Home)

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Visiting Information

Open weekend afternoons 12-4 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day

About the Artist/Site

Makinen immigrated from his native Finland to Michigan in 1903; his early years in his new country were spent farming and working in a general store. In 1922 he became partners with Alex Ketonen to form the Northwestern Bottling Works. This company specialized in bottling carbonated soft drinks and, in fact, it is claimed that the term “pop,” referring to these sodas, originated here, as sometimes the corks could not withstand the pressure of the carbonated contents, and would explode with a large “pop” sound.

Around 1909 Makinen decided to ornament an ice house on his farm; it is thought to have been the first bottle-clad house in the state of Michigan. He found that the bottles provided an excellent insulation barrier, as they trapped air within. Some years later, around 1932, he was faced with a large surplus of bottles when the bottling technology changed at the plant, and, recalling the ice house, built a storehouse from the extra bottles, spelling out his company’s name in contrasting colors.

Following his retirement in 1939, Makinen decided to leave the farm and, in Kaleva, build a one and one-half-story bungalow with a foundation of rock-faced concrete blocks and an intersecting gable roof, using the remaining surplus bottles from the Bottling Works plant. Approximately 60,000 bottles were used in the Kaleva house, laid horizontally with their bottom end facing the exterior so that the framework studs could fit between the bottle necks (and, not coincidentally, so that the bottle bottoms marked with the mold from the company could be seen). Makinen carefully laid levels of the bottles with a specifically developed mortar between the brick corners. There are many different varieties, shapes, and colors of bottles that were used in the construction, including those for soda drinks, wine, beer, and liqueurs. Different patterns were created with the bottles; the most prominent are the words “HAPPY HOME,” which are spelled out on the front façade, and dark bottles accent the window openings.

Unfortunately, Makinen passed away just shortly before the house was completed, but his widow, Maria, lived there for many years. Following her death, in 1980 the Kaleva Historical Society purchased the home, which renovated it to house the Kaleva Historical Museum, which moved in that following year. The building currently operates as a museum, with a collection of local 19th-  and 20th-century artifacts that tell of the Finnish settlers’ lives in farming and business, and it is also the focus of the local ethnic Finnish celebrations. The building is listed on the Michigan Register of Historical Sites (1982) and the National Register of Historical Sites (1987). It is open weekend afternoons 12-4 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

~Jo Farb Hernández





SPACES Archive Holdings

1 folder: clippings, correspondence, images, pamphlets, nat’l historic places nomination forms

Related Documents

Postcard of Bottle House

Kaleva Historical Museum Pamphlet

Environment Field Survey Form, c. 1983

Letter to SPACES from Velma R. Bigelow, Kaleva Historial Society, INC, 6/2/1988

Letter to Velma R. Bigelow from SPACES/Cynthia Pansing, 5/25/1988

Letter to Velma R. Bigelow from SPACES/Cynthia Pansing, 4/8/1988

Letter to Velma R. Bigelow from SPACES/Cynthia Pansing, 12/17/1987

Letter to Velma R. Bigelow from SPACES/Cynthia Pansing, 12/17/1987

Letter to Robert O. Christensen from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 10/29/1987

Memorandum to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Robert O. Christensen, 10/14/1987

Letter to Robert Christianson (sic) from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 7/7/1987

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Martha M. Bigelow, MI Bureau of History, 1/13/1987

Handwritten letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Martha M. Bigelow, MI Bureau of History, 1/13/1987

Letter to Kathryn B. Eckert from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 6/3/1986

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Kathryn B. Eckert, MI Bureau of History, 5/6/1986

Letter to Velma R. Bigelow from SPACES/Elaine Wintman, 4/10/1986

Letter to SPACES/Elaine Wintman from Velma R. Bigelow, Kaleva Historical Society, nd

Dedication of Kaleva Historical Museum, 9/4/1982

Kaleva Historical Museum Pamphlet, nd

Letter to Velma R. Bigelow from SPACES/Elaine Wintman, 3/25/1986

Letter to Kaleva Historical Society from SPACES/Elaine Wintman, 3/10/1986

Letter to Martha M. Bigelow from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 2/9/1987

Letter to SPACES/Elaine Wintman from Velma R. Bigelow, Kaleva Historical Society, 1/22/1987

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Martha M. Bigelow, MI Bureau of History, 1/13/1987

Letter to Velma R. Bigelow from Richard H. Harms, MI Bureau of History, 12/5/1986

National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 10/17/1986

Letter to Robert O. Christensen from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 7/28/1987

Dedication of Kaleva Historical Marker, 9/30/1978

Letter to Manistee Chamber of Commerce from SPACES/Elaine Wintman, 2/28/1986

Timeline for Kaleva Bottle House

Letter to Velma Bigelow from SPACES/Cynthia Pansing, 12/17/1987

 

 

 

Map and site information

14551 Wuoksi Avenue
Kaleva, Michigan, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 44.373379 / -86.009367

Visiting Information

Open weekend afternoons 12-4 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day

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