Construction of the Manistee Water Works Holly System began in August of 1882 and was completed in July of 1883. The company began to supply water to the city of Manistee later that month. The water was supplied by a system of drive wells that averaged 135 feet deep. Two boilers 5 x 16 feet with 54 three inch tubes, and four compound engines, 14 x 24 were made by the Holly Works at Lockport, N.Y.
The Water Works was used to pump the city's water supply until 1947 when it was decided to change from a steam to an electric water pumping system. In 1953, it was announced that the Manistee County Historical Society would use the building as a museum. In the late spring of 1955, the former Water Works building was officially opened as the Manistee County Historical Museum. However, in 1961 the museum found a permanent, year-round home at 425 River Street.