Martin Johnson Heritage Museum opens for 2022 season

EDEN TOWNSHIP — The museum dedicated to the life of pioneer Martin Gustave Johnson, the YMCA Camp Martin Johnson and the Eden Township One-Room School, has reopened for the 2022 summer season.  

Open Saturday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m., visitors will enjoy free tours of the Martin Johnson home and one-room school.  

Johnson built his log cabin on the shores of Big Bass Lake in 1901, which he sided with wood shakes. One very unusual feature of the home is the large skylight in the roof. The original has been replaced, but it’s in the same location and size. Johnson used the second floor under the skylight as his painting studio.  

The museum has numerous examples of his plein air paintings of the area around Big Bass Lake as well as his finished paintings of landscapes, portraits, still life and self-portraits on display. Johnson was a self-made man. He built his cabin, made his dugout canoe, agricultural tools, large format camera and was a taxidermist during a time when there were few people in northern Lake County.   

The second floor of his cabin today provides visitors with the history of the YMCA camp which began serving young men from the Chicago area in the 1930s. Martin Johnson donated the land for the camp which was then named in his honor. Camp Martin Johnson ran for 50 years and eventually was attended by both young girls and boys. A collection of photos through the years and various artifacts from camp tell the story of the campers and staff. When the YMCA camp closed, the home was moved to its current location.

The Eden Township Unit School (also called the Irons School) was built in 1901 in the town of Irons. The school was moved in the 1980s down 10 ½ mile to its current location in Skinner Park joining the Johnson Home to become the Martin Johnson Heritage Museum complex.

The one-room school operated for 50 years serving students of the Irons area. It was always integrated, with children coming from white, black and native American families. The school appears today much as it did during the 1940s. Interesting features include the rare metal wood stove surround, world globe suspended from the ceiling, blackboard and wainscotting. Although the desks are not original to the school, they are similar to those that were used by the children.  

The museum complex is located at Skinner Park, 10 ½ Mile, east of Irons. Tours, from noon to 3:00 p.m. Saturdays during July and August, are free and open to everyone. For more information, please contact Tom at 231-745-8505.  

Submitted by: 

Tom Curtin 
Martin Johnson Heritage Museum