Charles Henry Hackley was born 183 years ago today, on January 3, 1837. The day has meaning to the residents of Muskegon because Hackley was an important figure in the history and heritage of our hometown. The philanthropist was born in Michigan City, Indiana; he would be the eldest of five children. In 1856, Charles arrived in Muskegon aboard the schooner Challenge immediately beginning work at the firm of Durkee, Truesdell. In the spring of 1859, Hackley struck out on his own by purchasing his first mill. In the late 1800’s Charles Hackley joined forces with Thomas Hume, beginning of the Hackley and Hume Company, which was one of the largest firms, not only in Michigan, but in the entire United States. The two men remained partners until Charles passed away in 1905, leaving behind his wife of 41 years, Julia.
The following quote illustrates his benevolence:
“a rich man to a great extent owes his fortune to the public. He makes money largely through the labor of his employees…..Moreover, I believe that it should be expended during the lifetime of the donor, so that he can see that his benefactions do not miscarry and are according to his intent….To a certain extent, I agree with Mr. Carnegie ….that it is a crime to die rich.”
The Lumber Baron’s lasting legacy includes the Muskegon Museum of Art, Hackley Park, (former) Hackley Hospital, Hackley Library, Hackley and Hume Historic Sites, Administration Building and Hackley Stadium, home of Muskegon Big Red football.
One of the most photographed statues of Charles Hackley is located outside the Culinary Institute of Michigan. Mr. Hackley sits on a bench with plenty of room for visitors to come sit beside him and overlook Hackley Park.
To celebrate the anniversary of his birthday, We have some suggestions: Snap a selfie with Charles on his bench and then head over to Hackley Park for a scenic stroll. The park is still splendidly decorated for the holidays on January 3rd.
The 2.3-acre park features four statues at each corner: President Abraham Lincoln, Admiral Farragut (by sculptor Charles Niehaus) General U.S. Grant and General William T. Sherman (both by sculptor J. Massey Rhind).
Along with the menagerie of holiday vignettes; you will find the Soldiers Monument created by sculptor Joseph Carabelli standing guard at the center. Beautiful, bronze “Victory” graces a cylinder of granite that reaches 75 feet to the sky. Around the base four statues represent infantry, artillery, cavalry, & navy.
Head North across the street to Hackley Library. Built in the American Romanesque style in 1890, the library is listed on the Michigan Register of Historic Places. Enter through the ornate wooden doors and step into the recently restored mosaic tile entryway. Gaze up at the Louis Millet stained glass windows and canvas murals painted by Muskegon artist Wilfred Berg. Berg painted the murals for the children’s library in 1934 as part of the Public Works of Art program. Walk over, and peer through, the glass floors of the “The Stacks”. Behold the seven fireplaces and one of only 2 facsimile editions of The Book of Kells on public display in a US library.
To see more of the gifts of Charles to the city, head next door of the library to the renowned Muskegon Museum of Art. One of the jewels of Muskegon County, the Muskegon Museum of Art opened over 100 years ago in the spot where it stands today. Widely known and nationally recognized for its fine permanent collection and changing exhibitions the museum offers guests the opportunity to see world-class art in Muskegon. It was just named favorite Michigan museum in the first annual “Experience Michigan’s Best Of 2019” reader’s choice survey!
See where Charles lived with his wife Julia by touring the magnificent Hackley and Hume Historic Sites. A four block walk south along Webster Ave brings you to the exquisite example of the late 1800’s Queen Anne style. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lovingly and faithfully restored; the mansions boast ornamental wood carvings and trim, majolica tiles, stenciled walls and ceiling and period furnishings and artifacts. A ticket purchased in the City Barn, located between both majestic mansions, allows entry to both houses (Hackley and Hume), the Scolnic House of the Depression Era and Fire Barn Museum and the barn itself. Plan a lot of time to take it all in!
If you are up for more walking, you can take 4th St east and end right at Hackley Stadium. The 120 x 60 foot field was donated by Charles over 100 years ago. It has been home to the Muskegon Big Red football since. A source of pride, that field lays claim to the most winning high school football team in Michigan. Of interest is that the stadium was designed by The Osborn Engineering Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Why do we think that is impressive? Because they also designed and built Michigan Stadium, Wrigley Field, and Notre Dame Stadium, among others! Another source of Big Red pride is that that the Big Reds temporary coach of 1905, Mortimer Jones, is believed to be the first black high school football coach in Michigan history.