New exhibit coming to Pump House Museum

By Kelsey Smith

Polar bears
Photo: Bert A. Getz Collection, courtesy of the Historic Ottawa Beach Society

“Holland’s Earliest Amusements” will showcase two attractions that drew a million visitors to Holland each year during the early 20th century: the Jenison Electric Amusement Park and Lakewood Farm and Zoo. 

Scheduled to open at the Pump House Museum in Holland on June 1, the exhibit will celebrate Holland’s zoo and amusement park history and encourage visitors to think outside of the box.

“We are going to train our docents and volunteers to encourage visitors to talk about what they see, read about and learn from the exhibit,” said Daniel Aument, president of the Historic Ottawa Beach Society. “For instance — we have a mounted African lion on display in a fake animal cage — what do visitors think about animals in zoos? Do zoos serve a purpose beyond displaying unusual animals? What do visitors think about hunting, and especially about hunting animals on a safari in Africa?”

Lakewood Farm and Zoo once sat along the shores of Lake Michigan, spanning over 250 acres, in the outskirts of Holland. Owner George Getz, who purchased the farm from Ida Fay in 1910, welcomed guests from all over to visit the grounds and interact with the animals in the 1920s and early ‘30s. 

Jenison Electric Park
Jenison Electric Park
Photo: Lois Kayes collection, courtesy of the Historic Ottawa Beach Society

Unfortunately, Getz had to close the gates to his farm and zoo in 1933 during the Depression. And today, nearly a century later, those gates still remain, along with the water tower, on the east side of Lakeshore Avenue.

Jenison Electric Park was a popular amusement park that operated in Holland in the 1920s, housing merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, roller coasters and more. The amusement park was owned by the Jenison family, and attracted thousands of tourists from the Midwest.

“We believe people in Holland remain curious about Lakewood Farm and Zoo as well as Jenison Electric Park,” Aument said. “We also believe that our carefully curated, researched and written exhibit about both of these attractions will present a more complete story of these two attractions which, together, were the beginning of the tourism industry in Holland. It is through an understanding and appreciation of the history of our area that residents feel a pride in their community.”

“Holland’s Earliest Amusements” will have a variety of digital, interactive experiences for guests to explore, and the exhibit will be on display through summer 2022.

The museum will be open Saturdays and Sundays in June, and then open seven days a week from July 1 through Labor Day.

Pump House Museum
2282 Ottawa Beach Road, Holland