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Learn about Liberty Hyde Bailey Jr. and the building he grew up in!


The Liberty Hyde Bailey homestead  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its influence on the life and philosophical outlook of Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. Bailey grew up in this home and the surrounding farm, observing nature and enjoying a simple life, memories of which he would often invoke in his most influential philosophical writings.

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Bailey's house growing up.

Constructed from 1853-1856 by Liberty Hyde Bailey Sr., the museum is one of the oldest standing homes in South Haven, Michigan and was part of the Bailey farm of some 80 acres, which included one of the first commercial fruit orchards in South Haven.

The farm was deemed to have one of the finest apple orchards in Michigan and was recognized by the Michigan Pomological Society for the years 1873, 1875 and 1877.

In 1918, the farm was purchased by pioneer fruit grower Frank E. Warner, an authority on fruit farming. Warner made the Bailey house his home until his death in 1926. In 1937, through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Clifton B. Charles of Bangor, Michigan, this property was obtained from the Warner’s heirs  and presented to the City of South Haven as a memorial to Dr. Bailey.

The City of South Haven still owns this historic landmark, along with one and a half acres of the original property.  It is operated by The Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum Memorial Fund, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 non-profit.

The Bailey Museum’s gardens and grounds feature a number of lovely gardens with interpretive signage, a series of community garden plots, the Bailey Farm’s old smokehouse, the South Haven Blacksmith Shop and Carriage Barn, and a nature trail. 


Living Collections: The Bailey Museum’s Living Collections showcase many of the varieties of plants to which Bailey dedicated his life’s work, both horticultural and literary. There are several perennial and annual garden beds including the Martha Warner Day Lily Garden, and an Heirloom Kitchen Garden.  

Liberty Hyde Bailey Nature Trail: The museum features a short nature trail winding through a stand of woods on the east side of the property which has reclaimed part of the original Bailey Farm. A short trail with several loops, this is one of the only places in the City of South Haven to get away from streets and buildings and reimagine what South Haven looked like during the frontier days when the Baileys farmed this land and when young Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. walked the same ground and explored the woods, collecting plants and beginning a life of wonder and discovery.  


Outbuildings: The Smokehouse is the last remaining outbuilding of the Bailey Farm. Our property also houses the Blacksmith Shop and Carriage Barn, one of the oldest structures in South Haven along with the Bailey Homestead itself. The building was constructed in 1868 by Herrick Hodges, a blacksmith. It was used as a carriage, wagon and blacksmith shop from 1867 through the 1960's. The business changed hands many times until 1907 when Max Schabbel became a partner in the enterprise. He produced carriages, wagons, sleighs and other items. This barn was generously donated to The Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum by Fred and Raphella Americarelli in 1996. It was moved from downtown to the museum property for preservation. 

Mr. and Mrs. Clifton B. Charles purchasing Bailey's home and presenting it to the City of South Haven as a memorial to Dr. Bailey.
Homestead and Grounds
Liberty Hyde Bailey Jr.

Early in his career, Bailey announced his plan of life. He proposed to divide it into three parts: to spend twenty-five years in preparation, twenty-five years in earning a livelihood, and twenty-five years in using his abilities as he chose. While he came very close to achieving this goal, he outlived his plan by an additional twenty-two years


Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. was born in a small frame house in the woods on March 15, 1858, near the small rural community of South Haven, Michigan. The youngest of three, Liberty Jr. had two older brothers, Dana and Marcus. However, Bailey Jr. inherited his unusual name from his father, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Sr. His grandfather, Dana Bailey, had been an abolitionist in Vermont, who when he received word that another son had been born,  proclaimed, “Name him Liberty, for all shall be free!” 

Bailey Jr. grew up on the first commercial fruit orchard in a community now known for its peaches, blueberries, and apples. He was deeply influenced by these early years. He grew up working on the farm, playing in the woods and along the creek that ran through the property, and trapping passenger pigeons with his Potawatomi neighbors. In his adolescence, Liberty was known in South Haven as the best apple grafter in town. 

No one knew then that he would leave the farm to become a world-renowned scientist, philosopher, and visionary leader.

Bailey with his two older brothers.
Young Bailey

Most academic botanists at this time did not concern themselves with horticultural—or cultivated—plants, considering horticulture an art that belonged to a “lower” class of people.

Bailey had a different opinion.

With the encouragement of his mother and Professor William Beale, Bailey left the farm when he was 19 to attend college. He headed out with his first set of store-bought clothes and a small bundle fashioned from a piece of homemade carpet to attend Michigan Agricultural College (or MAC, now known as Michigan State University). There he met the love of his life, a fellow student named Annette Smith, and began in earnest his studies in horticultural botany—still an experimental area.


After graduating and completing a brief stint working in the herbarium of preeminent botanist Asa Gray (at Harvard University), Bailey returned to his alma mater to chair the nation’s first Department of Horticulture and Landscape Gardening. 


He designed the first academic hall at MAC devoted to horticulture, and delivered a provocative address titled “The Garden Fence." He argued that it was time for botanists to “jump the garden fence” and bring the science of botany into the art of horticulture. This flew in the face of his former Harvard mentor,  but Bailey stuck to his belief that the plants in the garden  were necessary for humankind to understand. These plants are the ones with which human civilization has the most contact. In this way, and through the subsequent publications of countless articles and many, many books, Liberty Hyde Bailey began to cement his reputation as the Father of Modern Horticulture.

College-age Bailey.

For more information about Bailey after MSU, check out 
Labor & Leisure: Liberty Hyde Bailey’s Career and Retirement.

Also, be sure to check out Cornell University's virtual exhibit on Bailey, A Man for all Seasons

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