LAKE ODESSA – While every town, village, or city has its share of history, Lake Odessa has a back story that many probably don’t know about or have never heard. We engaged the help of local historian John Waite (from Lake Odessa) to walk us through the treasure left behind in time.
The present location of Lake Odessa wasn’t always in the same spot. It was originally settled in the 1800s about one mile north from its current location. Unfortunately, when the Pere Marquette Railroad was built one mile further south in 1888, the village literally picked up and relocated to its present spot. The other question that seems to come up frequently is where did the name Lake Odessa come from when there was only a Tupper Lake and a Jordan Lake? According to John Waite “when the village was platted, some tried to change the name of the lake from Jordan to Odessa. Despite the fact that it was huge resort area at the time, the change never caught on and the settlers continued to call it Jordan Lake and the village Lake Odessa.”
The original train depot from 1888 was built on Main Street, but has since been moved to the north side of town and converted to a museum. There are several donated artifacts in the station like tools, photographs, and cans from the old Lake Odessa canning company from 1915. An old restored caboose also sits on the property as part of the train depot and museum. Passenger train service through Lake Odessa officially ended in 1971.
One of the lesser know facts about Lake Odessa is they were the center of a german prisoner-of-war camp (POW) during World War Two. It was in the summers of 1944 and 1945 that prisoners were held here. In fact, one german POW actually returned to live out the remainder of his life in Holland until his death in 1997.
Lake Odessa is also home to a special lighthouse on Jordan Lake. Historian John Waite says ” at one time it was claimed to be the only lighthouse on an interior lake in the state of Michigan. It was built in the 1940s and is now part of a private residence.”
There are many other things to visit at the old train station, depot, and museum. For instance, an original 1964 Chrysler New Yorker sits quiet and in near pristine condition. Lake Odessa is located about 45 minutes south and east of Grand Rapids in Ionia County. If you’d like to visit the museum, they’re open on the last weekend of each month and there is no charge for admission, but donations are certainly accepted. Click here for more information and photos. More historical information can be found here. You can get dialed in to the Lake Odessa Historical Society and blog here.