The Caliva Bottle House in Manistee County is made of 60,000 glass bottles

There’s a historic besieged house in Caliva, Michigan, a village about four hours northwest of metro Detroit. The unique house is built from bottles.

Built in 1941, the two-story building, known as the Caliva Bottle House, Caliva Bottle House Museum and Caliva Historical Museum, is a Manistee County landmark.

John G. Makinen Sr., a Finnish immigrant and owner of Northwestern Bottling Works, used his expertise to craft the walls of his unique home, according to Cynthia Asiala, president of the Caliva Historical Society.

The exterior of the house consists of more than 60,000 glass bottles placed on their sides with the lower ends facing outward. They are held in place by a special cement bonding material.

Makinen used “secret mortar. It withstood the cold and the heat,” Asiala said.

Rumor has it that Makinen used chipped or defective bottles from his own bottling plant, most of which bore marks of their origin. These bottles, with distinctive shapes and colours, come together to create something truly special.

The words “Happy Home”, written in brown bottles, appear at the front of the house, surrounded by a green border. The sides of the house feature intricate designs made up of green bottles that form geometric shapes.

Mäkinen died in 1942 before he could move into the house. However, his family resided in the Glass House until 1983, when the Caliva Historical Society acquired the property and moved in.

Today, the unique building at 14551 Wuxi serves as the Caliva Historical Museum. It features a collection of exhibits depicting the Finnish-American history of the community and features artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The museum, now celebrating its 40th anniversary, has become a cherished institution.

“I think the house is beautiful; “It’s a piece of art, especially when the sun shines in the east on the bottles,” Asiala said. “They shine.”

This unique attraction has gained national recognition, earning a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It also caught the attention of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, according to Visit Manistee County.

“It’s a piece of art on the outside, and on the inside it’s a piece of history,” says Asiala.

A visit to the Bottle House is not only a journey into a magnificent work of art, but also a step back in time to explore Caliva’s rich heritage.

A greenhouse closer to home

In metro Detroit, an interesting transformation is taking place. A 1,225-square-foot home built in 1937 in Hazel Park is decorated with glass bottles on the outside. It is undergoing a complete renovation, according to Karl Schiller of, which acquired the property in 2021.

“The house will be new and modern on the inside, but we’re keeping everything funky and cool on the outside,” Schiller says.

The home at 39 W. Elza is expected to hit the market in the spring.

Brendel Hightower is an assistant editor at the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at Support local journalism: Subscribe to the Detroit Free Press.

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