The march of time and progress is unyielding. New buildings, roads, projects and technology sweep away the past at an ever-increasing pace. For the city of Linden, the past five years have been witness to the disappearance of some of its oldest buildings. In the midst of frenetic change, one couple is doing what they can to preserve the city’s history.
Barbara Kincaid moved to Linden from California in 2005. “I grew up a Michigan girl,” said Barbara, “and I was terrified of the fires that threatened our west coast home for years on end. I wanted to return to Michigan. My husband David was a good sport, following me in 2006 after finishing his job in California.” The couple chose to settle in Linden because of its close-knit community and rich history. Little did they know that in the year following their move to the small town, one of its most beloved buildings – the Union Block – would be destroyed by fire. In the wake of that disaster, Barbara was asked to become curator of the Linden Museum, a task she joyfully accepted. David was also asked to be president of the Linden Mills Historical Society in 2008; together, they have put many hours of hard work into turning the museum into an inviting city centerpiece.
Located on the second and third floors of the Linden Mill, the museum is stuffed full of curiosities, displays and artifacts waiting to be rediscovered and remembered. Amongst the many relics are working gramophones, antique parlor pianos, and a wooden sleigh that was used to haul ice from the Linden Millpond. The museum’s crown jewel is one of the last remaining buggies made at the Joe Beach Buggy Factory in Linden over 100 years ago. Other displays, such as the military uniform collection and vintage wedding gown collection, which contains many dresses worn by Linden brides of yesteryear, reflect the passions and interests of the curator. “I’m very interested in textile history, and I have a personal collection which includes many period pieces,” said Barbara. When she first became curator, Barbara remembers instituting many changes to the museum’s layout, organization and flow. “It was a delightful project,” she recalled, “and it still is! I’m always tinkering with the layout and displays, seeking to make them better.” One of the biggest improvements was the installation of a power-lift chair, thanks to a grant sought by Barbara, which now gives those with limited mobility access to the third floor, something that the steep and narrow staircase previously prevented.
The Linden Mills building is itself part of the history so proudly presented within its walls. The current structure was built in 1871, but the plot on which it sits has been home to one mill or another since the town’s earliest settlers, Consider Warner and Heman Harris, who dammed the Shiawassee River and erected a grist mill and saw mill in 1836. Fires destroyed the buildings multiple times in the 1840s and 60s, but the present structure has stood for 143 years. “I think it says something that this building, which is a microcosm of Linden’s history, now contains the history museum,” said Barbara proudly. The museum is open from 1-3pm on the second and fourth Sundays of the summer months, but personal and group tours can be arranged by emailing email@example.com.
PHOTOS BY MIKE NADDEO