Why I love Michiana: History museum director passionate about community

Steve Arseneau has always had a passion for history.

When he moved to Michigan to begin working at the Dowagiac Area History Museum, which was then located at Southwestern Michigan College, his plan was to stay for four or five years.

Now, 18 years later, his passion for history is still strong. So is his affinity for living in a smaller community.

Arseneau grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse. He met his wife Christina at conference at the Milwaukee Museum.

Christina moved to Michigan after marrying Steve, and is now the director of the Niles History Museum.

What do you think makes Michiana unique by comparison to other places?

Every place has their unique history and stories. For me, I find Dowagiac’s particularly compelling. If falls nicely within the national industrial revolution and it has a lot of unique components.

What is your favorite place to go in Dowagiac, Michiana?

Our favorite restaurant is the Wheatberry down in Buchanan. We have a young family and we like that they are family friendly. They have really good food and decent prices, and a good beer selection. It is a really nice atmosphere. When I am working here in Dowagiac lunch-wise I like Beeson Street Bar and Grill. They have great burgers. We really like the new Round Oak Revisited, too. We love Fernwood. We are members out at Fernwood and we really love the nature trails out there. It is a great place on the river.

How do you think your Dowagiac has shaped who you are today?

As a city guy, I think it really has affected me in terms of growing to appreciate a non-city setting. I appreciate the space it affords you out here in Dowagiac. You have a little bit more space and a little slower pace of life. You are able to stop and smell the roses sometimes when you have to. That has been a good positive influence on me.

What is your favorite time of year?

Fall has always been my favorite. I love summer. I like getting out golfing and stuff, but fall is still my favorite. In Wisconsin, you have the same kind of thing. While I love kicking around in shorts and sandals in the summer, I love when I get to put my jeans and my flannel shirts back on. Having cool evenings, cool mornings and beautiful days.

If you were to meet someone planning a visit to the Michiana area for the first time, what places would you suggest they not miss?

The Dowagiac Area History Museum. We have a great collection of stuff and people can learn about local history. For people who are interested in history the Heddon Museum, especially those interested in local history. Fernwood is a place that I would always direct someone to go to. I would be remise if I did not say they have to go to the Niles History Center where they have the Chapin Mansion and the Fort St. Joseph Museum. In the summer, they need to go to the Fort St. Joseph archeological dig that they have down there. That is just a fascinating thing that people really need to stop in and see.

Scott Novak is the sports editor and a community editor at Leader Publications, and contributes to Michiana Life magazine.