The Bottle House

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 312016

Note: This story appeared in an earlier issue of the Gypsy Journal.

In the tiny northern Michigan hamlet of Kaleva, we came across the Bottle House, a uniquely wonderful old home built out of soft-drink bottles. Over 60,000 of them, in fact!

The house was built by John J. Makinen, Sr., a native of Finland and owner of the Northwestern Bottling Works. Makinen had a surplus of bottles that were chipped, cracked or otherwise unable to be used. Throwing anything away did not set well with Makinen, so instead of hauling the bottles to a trash heap, he built a house with them!

bottle house front 2

The bottles were laid on their sides, with the bottoms forming the outside walls. Makinen came up with a special concrete to fill in the spaces between the bottles and hold them in place. The result was a handsome two story house that is well insulated from the air spaces in the walls that the bottles provide.

bottle house side 2

bottle house side close

Unfortunately, Mr. Makinen never got to live in his home, which he completed in 1941. He died before his family moved in.

In 1980 the home was purchased by the Kaleva Historical Society, and today it houses a museum dedicated to the history of the community. Among the 1,500 exhibits inside are old logging tools, household goods, clothing, and photographs from the early days in Kaleva. The museum’s volunteer staff are all friendly and very dedicated to sharing with visitors the story of the Bottle House and their charming little town.

The Bottle House exhibits range from the everyday to the eccentric. After all, how many people build their homes out of pop bottles? You won’t think you’re touring the Smithsonian here, but you will have a good time wandering through rooms full of old Victrolas and radios where you want to curl up and listen to one of FDR’s Fireside Chats, a bench filled with adding machines, walls covered in old saws, and other artifacts of small town life.

The Kaleva Historical Museum and Bottle House is listed on the Michigan Register of Historical Sites and has been nominated to the National Register of Historical Places.

The Bottle House is located at 14551 Wouksi Avenue in Kaleva. It is open on Saturdays and Sundays, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend from noon to 4 p.m., and other times by appointment. The telephone number is (231) 362-2080. Parking is on the rather narrow residential streets in front or beside the museum, and getting an RV in or out would be a challenge. Kaleva has a nice city park with RV hookups, and visitors would be advised to park their larger rigs there and drive their tow vehicles to the Bottle House.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Crazy Days in Big Lake, the third book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.


Thought For The Day – Maybe you’re not good enough for everybody, but you’ll always be the best for the one who deserves you.

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Nick Russell

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  One Response to “The Bottle House”

  1. Interesting house and history. Reminds me of The Beer Can house in Houston.

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