Roadside attractions often draw send me off the beaten path, but this cute little Pickle Barrel House sat right in my path. On the way to visiting Sable Falls in the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore, the oddly shaped cottage sat right on the corner in downtown Grand Marias. Naturally, I pulled over for a peek.
The location of the cottage adds an extra measure of absurdity. Standing a short two stories tall, the house was indeed the summer getaway for a couple back in the 1930s. It is difficult to image anyone living in the little house, but today’s trend of building highly functional tiny houses lends credibility to the Pickle Barrel House. Sadly, the museum is only open for a few hours in the afternoon and I wasn’t able to get a look inside. I keep finding myself imagining what it would have been like to live in such a place in the remote Upper Peninsula; spending my days fishing on the lake or hiking the beautiful landscapes of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
The Pickle Barrel House was built on the shore of Sable Lake back in 1926 for cartoonist William Donahey. The idea is based on this cartoon, the Teenie Weenies, in which tiny little people lived among every day items. A modern Gulliver’s Travels theme. Donahey’s characters also appeared in advertisements for the Monarch food company who sold pickles in small oak barrels. The Pioneer Cooperage Company was contracted to build the unique house on the shore of Sable Lake.
William Donahey, and his wife Mary, used the cottage as a summer escape from Chicago until 1937 when the strange house began to attract too many curious visitors. The pickle barrel house served as a tourist information center and ice cream shop before falling into disrepair. The local historical society purchased the cottage in 2003 and restored it to original condition. It now stands as a museum surrounded by an iris garden, welcoming visitors to Grand Marais.
Pickle Barrel House Museum Hours and Directions
The Pickle Barrel House has very short hours to tour the inside, but visitors are free to walk around the outside anytime. There is also an historical marker behind the house.
June and September: Weekends only, 1:00pm to 4:00pm.
July and August : Daily 1:00pm to 4:00pm
The Pickle Barrel House is located at the corner of Lake Ave (M77) and Randolph streets in downtown Grand Marais. To get to Grand Marais, take M77 north from M28 in Seney; about 25 miles.