In operation 80 years

Shrine of Pines attracts many visitors in 2021 season

BALDWIN — The Shrine of the Pines, a famous museum tucked in the woods south of Baldwin along the Pere Marquette River and cherished by locals and visitors from all over, had an excellent 80th season.

The museum features early 20th Century handcrafted furniture intricately fashioned from white pine stumps by artist and avid outdoorsman Raymond Overholzer. The pieces are housed in a log cabin Overholzer built for gallery space.

Although the Shrine of the Pines closed to the public early this season due to tree damage on the property from the Sept. 7th storm, the season was a great success this year, said Shrine of the Pines Manager Layla Nelson-Dumas.

"We had a total of 1,489 visitors, for an average of 22 people a day this year, from all four corners of the U.S. and Alaska, as well as international visitors from China, Great Britain and Cape Town, South Africa," Nelson-Dumas said with excitement, adding this couldn't have been done without all the volunteer help and community support.

Nelson-Dumas, the new manager for the past season, has been "in love" with the Shrine of the Pines since her parents managed it for a couple of years when she was younger. Her mom, Brenda Nelson, remains a trustee on the Shrine of the Pines board.

"We've had an exceptional year with the way everything ran," Dumas-Nelson said. "We weren't open in 2020 because of Covid, and with losing all that revenue, we decided we would operate by volunteers, a decision we made 10 days before the season opened. The volunteers made it happen. Our community really stepped up, otherwise we would not have the success we did."

The volunteer roles were that of greeter, gift shop clerk to handle tickets and consignments, and tour guides.

"My mom trained tour guides, and they studied for hours and learned the script well, studying the journal of Mrs. Overholtzer and took notes. It was a lot of fun. I trained volunteers for the gift shop," she said. "We were open four days a week. With COVID, we weren't sure if people were going to get up and travel, but everything turned out just wonderful. We had masks and hand sanitizer everywhere. Jane Allison at Baldwin Lumber would whip up anything we needed."

In addition to tours, the 4-H Club chose to have their first-contact event there for the year and did wood burning and had a petting zoo. Car clubs from out of state would come, as well as biker clubs.

"We were well represented," Nelson-Dumas said. "We had back-to-back tours. Without volunteers, we could not have done this."

Some of the volunteers mentioned were two assistant managers, Jim Maxwell and Harry Carr, who would come on Saturdays and were very diligent, Nelson-Dumas noted, as well as a retired nurse, bank tellers, a lady who volunteered as a teen 15 years ago through MichiganWorks! and came back this year to work in the gift shop, and others.

Nelson-Dumas was especially impressed with all the children volunteers.

"Children always showed up and had a great attitude. They would clean, vacuum, dust, and help with planting and watering flowers," she said. "Jerome, a 9-year-old greeter, helped out, and his little sister helped with tours. Brooke, age 14, had experience giving tours at a wildlife exhibit in Muskegon, and did a great job with tours here. We had a star four-year-old who would sweep sidewalks and dust. The parents dropped the kids off faithfully. This is the first time we've seen children volunteer like this."

Nelson said the museum wouldn't be what it was without the diligent work of Hortense Overholzer, wife of Raymond, who kept record of all his work.

"In 2007 my husband and I found her journal," she said. "It took months to transcribe. This documents everything he did. We printed and published the journal. It was so popular, it sold out this year. We are still a non-profit and need every penny."

The Shrine opens every year on May 15. Anyone who would like to volunteer can leave a message by contacting 231-745-7892. The museum is located at 8962 S. M-37.