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Historical Train Depot Houses Antique Artifacts

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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.

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  • Walter Hawley

    I remember going to the train station and riding the train to Grand Rapids as a child on school trips, to bad we do not have it available today.

  • Lanny Reed

    I moved to Lake Odessa in 1957 and my best friends dad was the station agent there, so I spent hours and hours at the depot. It was fun watching him use the telegraph key to send messages to others on the train line. So glad they were able to save the building. So many of them on the line were torn down.

  • kevin

    So many small towns in Michigan would not exist if it wasn't for the trains & waterways, these places need to be preserved so our future generations can learn and appreciate their past..

  • Bob Warner

    Lake Odessa, MI. The best place on earth to live. I've lived in Lake Odessa since 1952 and have lived in this same house 47 years. We dance at Depot Day every year for the folks here. Always the last Saturday of July. We host the Bob's Barn Jamborees here for our community on Sunday afternoons. Lots of gospel and stuff people can play and sing to. Lake Odessa is small but has a lot to offer. Lake Odessa is so small that if I go out walking and get lost I usually can make it home in a week.

  • Bob Warner

    Now that I am on here I can't seem to stop…so…one more post. The video mentions about the WWII prisoner of war camp. The prisoner of war camp with the German prisoners was just over the fence at our back yard. There was some prisoners who would talk through the fence to my wife, Lynda's, two older sisters. After the war was over and the prisoners went back to Germany, and the camp dismantled, her sisters and the ex POW's wrote each other letters for a while.

  • Gordon Rohrbacher

    The part about the name Lake Odessa that wasn't mentioned in the article above is that the name came from the township name of Odessa and there being the two lakes nearby. Thus Lake Odessa. I grew up in Lake Odessa as well.

  • Claudia

    The evolution of Odessa may have come from a Crusader's castle of Edessa. It fell to the Turks in 1144 prompting the declaration of the Second Crusade.

    Fro Wikipedia "According to the legend, King Abgar of Edessa wrote to Jesus, asking him to come cure him of an illness. Abgar received an answering letter from Jesus, declining the invitation, but promising a future visit by one of his disciples. …The apostle "Thaddaeus" is said to have come to Edessa, bearing the words of Jesus, by the virtues of which the king was miraculously healed….The image of Edessa was a holy relic consisting of a square or rectangle of cloth upon which a miraculous image of the face of Jesus was imprinted..

    Odesa is the fourth largest city in Ukraine. One Odessa exists in Brazil, two in Canada and in the following states: California, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington

    How did the "e" change to "o"? Look at illuminated manuscript in the Book of Kells.

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