Join the Niles History Center for these upcoming programs and events! 

Annual Holiday Events

The holidays are fast approaching! Join us on November 18 and December 16 to celebrate the holiday season and view the beautiful decorations at the Niles History Center. 

December 16, 4:00pm - 7:00pm: Special Evening Open House
See the Fort St. Joseph Museum and Chapin Mansion all dressed up for the holidays decorated by various community groups and businesses, all in our theme for the year: "Through a Child’s Eyes." 

#NilesisBeautiful Photo Contest 
The City of Niles is excited to announce a new #NilesisBeautiful photo contest! Photographers of all ages are invited to take part in the contest and capture the true beauty of Niles through four different subject areas: architecture, nature, people and events!

Photo Contest

The winners’ pieces will be displayed as part of the #NilesisBeautiful photo exhibit at the new City Arts and History Museum. 

One winner will be announced for each category in every age division: youth (Under 18), adult (Ages 18-59 and senior (Ages 60+). Entries will be accepted digitally. A panel of judges selected by the City of Niles will determine the winners. Judging will be based on technique, content and originality. Each winner will receive gift certificates for use at Niles’ downtown establishments.

The public is encouraged to follow the competition on social media! All entries will be uploaded to the @NilesIsBeautiful official Instagram page. A “People’s Choice” winner will be determined based on the photo with the most “likes.”

The contest is open now through January, 2018.

Entries will be accepted digitally and may be emailed to, along with completed entry packets. For more information, please contact the Niles History Center at 269-845-4054.

Download entry packet here 

Portraits and Profiles: African Americans in Niles

history program

In 2016, the Niles History Center received funding though the Michigan Humanities Council’s Heritage Grant program to explore our community’s African American history. As part of the grant, a banner exhibit was produced as well as a walking tour, curriculum guide and online exhibit. 

Niles served as a hub for African Americans starting in the mid-19th century. Free blacks and those who sought freedom through the Underground Railroad found refuge in Niles. They established neighborhoods, started businesses, built houses, and raised families. Many of their descendants still call Niles home.  

In Niles, the Ferry Street Community included the Ferry Street School (originally the “Colored” School), Mount Calvary Baptist Church (formerly Second Baptist) and the John W. Moore Lodge of Freemasons. The “Dickereel” neighborhood on the northeast edge of Niles was filled with immigrants and African Americans. Black-owned businesses operated throughout downtown. The Niles is featured prominently in the 1915  Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress, published 50 years after abolishment of slavery. Armed with historical knowledge, descendants of  these early African American families gained opportunities during the Civil Rights era. It is time to pass along their knowledge to the next generation.

Niles High School students interviewed senior residents to gather information. Stories were recorded and images were collected to create the banners which were inspired by the remarkable lives of these individuals.