Historical museum to hold Victorian wake

Photo by Alan Broglin

Photo by Alan Broglin


Sharon Broglin (left), director of the Allen Park Historical Museum, and Cynthia Robertson, Allen Park Historical Commissioner, in white, paint the coffin made by Allen Park Councilman Felice Lalli for the Victorian Wake being hosted by the museum this month. Lalli, a Ford Motor Co. retiree, has construction experience, and he worked for a coffin maker as a child in italy.

ALLEN PARK – The Allen Park Historical Museum will introduce a new Halloween experience this year: a Victorian wake as it might have been held in 1888.

    The fundraiser will be held 6:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 21 at the museum, 15504 Englewood.

    The house will be prepared for mourning according to the customs of the era and will highlight exhibits and decor.

    The idea for the wake came to Sharon Broglin, director, when museum visitors asked if funerals were ever held in the home.

    Because the house that now serves as the city’s historical museum was built in 1888, it likely would have seen many wakes, she said. There were no funeral homes close to the Backhaus residence. The oldest funeral homes in southeast Michigan were in Detroit and Wyandotte, and they were not founded until the mid-1800s.

    Betty Nixdorf, historical commissioner, is the great-granddaughter of the Backhaus family, who settled here after emigrating from Germany. The family built the house on the corner of what is now Park and Englewood.

    The 121-year-old farmhouse will be decorated for mourning inside and out. Interpreters will share historical facts regarding Victorian rules of mourning and why they still are observed worldwide.

    According to sketchy records, the first funeral home in Allen Park existed in an old house in the 1930s. The Halloween season seemed a perfect time to hold the fundraiser, organizers say.

    Admission is $5. For more information call (313) 383-2453.

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