This house dates back to the height of the fur trade industry in the upper Great Lakes region. It was built in 1817 by the American Fur Trade Company to house its resident agent as well as other agents and clerks. The company grew to dominate the trade and its owner and founder, Jacob Astor, became one of the wealthiest men in the country. The building's namesake was the company's resident agent between 1820-1835. It is now a museum featuring exhibits about the fur trade and 17th century European explorations. There is a recreated period bedroom as well as several models of local houses and lighthouses on display.
The company built a complex of four buildings here, one of which (the clerk's quarters) was demolished. One is now the community building and the other two are the fire hall and the courthouse/police department. The demand for furs (mainly in Europe) declined in the 1830s and the company eventually ceased operations in 1847. After that the agent's house was used as a boarding house. In 1871, it became the John Jacob Astor House Hotel and operated as such until the Grand Hotel was built in 1929. The hotel connected the buildings with palisades, but these were eventually torn down after the hotel closed. The museum opened in 1941. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.