Discovering Kaleva, Michigan
One of the most unique buildings in Michigan was the result of a happy accident. John Makinen operated a bottling plant in Kaleva, Michigan. The "happy accident" was simply, that he noticed that soda pop in bottles stored in his warehouse didn't freeze during the cold northern Michigan winters. It was by this observation that he discovered the insulating properties of his bottles and, he had an idea. There just might be a use for the thousands of flawed and chipped bottles that were set aside during quality control inspections.
Mr. Makinen was an inventive man. He created a special cementing mixture that could be used to bind the bottles together into walls. With that process, he set about using more than 60,000 of his bottles to build his home which became known as the Bottle House. Being artistic as well as industrious, John Makinen wove different colored bottles into designs and words in the walls of the house including "Happy" on one side of the front door and "Home" on the other side.
The bottle house was popular and neighbors had him build a few other structures around town but they have all been torn down. The Bottle House is still there and houses the Historical Museum. While touring the inside, the bottles are not visible, since the walls are finished like any other home of the period. The insulating properties of the bottles comes in handy on a hot summer day, the 10 inch thick walls keep the indoor temperature a good 10 degrees cooler than outdoors.
Another Makinen, William this time, was also a manufacturing artist. He created the Makinen Tackle Company to produce fishing lures. By 1946 expanded to fifty employees from the Kaleva area. In 1945 Makinen Tackle sold 135,000 lures. A room in the Bottle House Museum is dedicated to company he created.