On April 4, the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center opened the traveling exhibition, “Selling Nahma,” which is on loan from the Nahma Historical Society. This exhibition, a collaboration between the Nahma Historical Society and Bonifas Fine Arts Center, was created with funds from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was on display at the Beaumier Center through May 30.
This exhibition features dozens of interpretive panels, photographs and articles telling the story of one of the Upper Peninsula’s most unique communities. In the 20th century many resource-based company towns in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula shared Nahma’s uncertain future. Nahma’s plight caught the eye of the nation when it was put up for sale.
The owners mounted a campaign to find a suitable buyer not only for the sawmill business assets, but also for the community itself. A national search for potential buyers culminated in a 1951 cover story in Life magazine that built the mystique that still surrounds Nahma today: a “town for sale.” Since those early days, there remains the strong sense of community that defied the fate of other company towns. Nahma would not become a ghost town.
What was it about Nahma that kept it alive when so many other company towns simply passed out of existence? Selling Nahma will examine how and why this unusual business decision led to Nahma’s survival and what makes it notable amongst Upper Peninsula communities. Gathered through oral histories, film, documentary, photographs and personal reminiscences, Selling Nahma will offer a personal perspective from the remaining townspeople and former residents. Find out what it was like to be living in a company town at the time of the sale.