The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff tell us about Harold Englehardt, a prominent resident whose legacy has supported the library, arts organizations, local governments and more. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
Harold Englehardt (1900-1997) was humble and kind and was always known to live a low-key life, except for his hats and his big Cadillac. He had a wonderful laugh and was once nicknamed “Jinglehardt.” Harold J. Englehardt, was a self-made millionaire, whose philanthropic planning has left a legacy that has given and will continue to give back to the Lowell community that he loved so much.
Harold was born on December 13, 1900 in Frankenmuth, Michigan. He attended Ferris State College and came to Lowell in 1922. He took a job as a cashier with Lowell State Bank and worked there until the bank went on a “banking holiday” in 1929 due to the stock market crash.
In December 1928, with money he had saved, Englehardt purchased Lowell Granite Company stock and operated it as President. In 1934, he organized a large group of investors to open the “State Savings Bank” at 218 E. Main which was a combination of stockholders from the previous Lowell State Bank and City State Bank which had closed due to the depression.
The bank came at an opportune time to help residents of Lowell recover from the depression. Harold’s concern for the well being of the community extended to helping stimulate business and agriculture, and providing funds for several local capital improvement programs. During the great Depression Harold was known to send homeless individuals to Lou Racine’s restaurant for a hot meal, paying their bill weekly without them ever knowing who did this kind deed.
In 1932, Harold married Mildred Taylor, a local girl. They took a honeymoon trip to Washington D C and points along the Hudson River before returning to their new home at 518 N. Jefferson. They spent their entire married life in this unpretentious home furnished with quality furnishings like the walnut bedstead and cane-work rocking chair which are now owned by the Lowell Area Historical Museum. Harold and Mildred had no children.
Harold continued to operate his business, the Lowell Granite Company, for many years while lending his expertise to the bank as a board member. In 1960, he accepted the position of bank president and turned the management of the Granite Company over to Judd Wilterink who had been a long time employee and eventually purchased the company.
Mr. and Mrs. Englehardt’s special interest in education was demonstrated by their establishment of several scholarships for students going to college. His most visible and generous donation of $380,000 in 1997 went toward the new library, which was named in their honor, now known as Harold and Mildred Englehardt Library.
In 1997, after his death at the age of 96, it was announced that he had left a gift to the Lowell area of $12.7 million dollars. The Lowell Area Community Fund is one that has continued giving to the needs of the Lowell area. The funds have gone on to help many local institutions, including the City of Lowell, Lowell Area Schools, Lowell Township, Vergennes Township, Flat River Outreach Ministries, Lowell Area Arts Council, Lowell Area Historical Museum, Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association (Veen Observatory) and many, many others.
Harold Englehardt showed that one person can make a difference. Lowell has been fortunate to have a gracious and generous person like Harold J. Englehardt among us.