Saugatuck-Douglas History Center

Saugatuck-Douglas History Center The Saugatuck-Douglas History Center preserves local history and inspires learning to inform and improve our community.
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The mission of the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center is to preserve local history and inspire learning to inform and improve our community. SDHC operates two public facilities: the S-D History Museum at 735 Park Street in Saugatuck near Mt. Baldhead, and the Old School House and Garden at 130 Center Street in downtown Douglas. Both have hours open for the public in season. Learn more about each here: http://sdhistoricalsociety.org/sites/sitesindex.php The Museum is open to the public throughout the summer and fall seasons with a new major thematic exhibit every other year. The Old School House is home to most of our popular presentations, is the home of our archive and research center, and features rotating and seasonal exhibits and a local art gallery. Due to the largely seasonal nature of our communities, our public exhibits are not generally open during the winter months. The 1866 Old School House (formerly the Douglas Union School), was purchased by the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center in 2006 and has become the nerve center of SDHC's operations. This stately landmark is the oldest multi-classroom school building in Michigan and one of the finest examples of 19th century school architecture in America. It is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. The former schoolyard surrounding the building has been reshaped into the Back-In-Time Garden, where Saugatuck-Douglas citizens and visitors can benefit in a multitude of ways from the area's rich natural history and culture. It is augmented by the Francis Metallic Surfboat, centerpiece of our outdoor shipwreck exhibit in the boat barn building, open in season. The History Center Archives - A safe, climate-controlled home for the SDHC's ever-expanding collection of historically important objects, paper, memorabilia, artwork, and photographs. The archives are available to assist the public with research about Saugatuck, Douglas and vicinity historical and cultural topics. Call 269-857-7901 to reach the archive directly and schedule an appointment.

Come out to #downtowndouglas for Art on Center and stop by the Old School House until 4 PM today. We have socially dista...
07/18/2020

Come out to #downtowndouglas for Art on Center and stop by the Old School House until 4 PM today. We have socially distanced access to the main gallery of Saugatuck-Douglas art history and a NEW live shipwreck history program in the boat house.

Stop by the History Center this morning for the Saugatuck Douglas Art Club Swap and Sale. Socially distanced en plein ai...
07/15/2020

Stop by the History Center this morning for the Saugatuck Douglas Art Club Swap and Sale. Socially distanced en plein air art supplies on the front lawn of the Old School House.

Saugatuck-Douglas History Center's cover photo
07/03/2020

Saugatuck-Douglas History Center's cover photo

As you're making plans to enjoy downtown Saugatuck and Douglas during the July 4th weekend take note of an extra treat w...
07/03/2020

As you're making plans to enjoy downtown Saugatuck and Douglas during the July 4th weekend take note of an extra treat waiting among downtown storefronts specially dressed with "pop-up" exhibits celebrating our community's rich history.

Dubbed the towns' first "History Hop," created and placed by Saugatuck-Douglas History Center in partnership with Saugatuck-Douglas Area Business Association (SDABA), the displays draw documentation and photos from SDHC archives to highlight events and attractions that offer both residents and visitors a stronger sense of how local cultural character and vacation appeal have evolved.

Viewers are invited to discover each display as they stroll, shop and dine in both Saugatuck and Douglas. For added adventure, they may download the SDHC's mobile app by scanning QR (quick response) barcodes from display posters, to discover more about the area's history and follow self-guided walking tours through the twin cities.

As you're making plans to enjoy downtown Saugatuck and Douglas during the July 4th weekend take note of an extra treat waiting among downtown storefronts specially dressed with "pop-up" exhibits celebrating our community's rich history.

Dubbed the towns' first "History Hop," created and placed by Saugatuck-Douglas History Center in partnership with Saugatuck-Douglas Area Business Association (SDABA), the displays draw documentation and photos from SDHC archives to highlight events and attractions that offer both residents and visitors a stronger sense of how local cultural character and vacation appeal have evolved.

Viewers are invited to discover each display as they stroll, shop and dine in both Saugatuck and Douglas. For added adventure, they may download the SDHC's mobile app by scanning QR (quick response) barcodes from display posters, to discover more about the area's history and follow self-guided walking tours through the twin cities.

History on the move in Douglas! Thank you to Scott, Mike and The Commercial Record team for your care for the community'...
07/03/2020

History on the move in Douglas! Thank you to Scott, Mike and The Commercial Record team for your care for the community's history for over 150 years. It's true too that it takes a village. The History Center is grateful for the tireless support of the Saugatuck-Douglas District Library as a collaborator in this and so many other projects.

‘Saving’ history, clearing space ahead
By Scott Sullivan, Editor

The value of a community newspaper is no more than its community. Which is why The Commercial Record was thrilled Saturday, upon leaving our brick-and-mortar offices in the Douglas Professional Building — to transfer 150 years of archived newspapers to the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center and District Library.

No one in business needs to have it explained — especially given the Covid-19 crisis — we now face tough choices. The good news for us has been that, despite this and the demise in ad revenues print papers have now faced for decades — The Commercial Record’s support and readership have stayed strong.

We would like to think hard work and dedication to people we love are factors in this. But there’s no question we’ve faced changing markets and times as well.

Last October we moved from our longtime office at 3217 Blue Star Highway — which Maria Metcalfe has done a beautiful job renovating into her Massa Body business — to the professional center.

Then came the pandemic. Our 15-year editor — me — isn’t so young anymore and a Type-1 diabetic. Three surgeries in five months last year got me listening to doctors better.

I started writing at home — I can do that anywhere — driving here as often as possible to take pictures and be with people, masked of course and as much as safe social distancing allows it.

Optimal? No. But doable? Yes. We have not been alone facing compromise. Then came the money part. Cut brick-and-mortar costs or make other changes at the expense of quality our readers and advertisers deserve and expect? No brainer.

Hence Saturday’s archive transfer. We are grateful library and history center directors Ingrid Boyer and Eric Gollanek, mustering a volunteer corps that included family, were able to find space in their facilities, room in their vehicles and strength in their arms to help us relocate the heft of our history into local facilities to which all who are curious have access.

An office is an office; The Commercial Record has been in and out of many. A computer, desk, typewriter, printing press, linotype, staff, editor … all those also are interchangeable. What matters is our community and its stories.

We convey them differently now. My hope is, in time, that those physical volumes — many comprised of yellowing, aging paper — can be digitalized (or whatever the latest means of transmitting will be) and indexed to make research easier.

My hope is I too can adjust. At age 65, I am used to physical things — not just books, magazines and newspapers I can see on shelves, touch and carry with me, but contacts with other people. There is a virtue in such directness that the “virtual” world can’t have.

I will still be in town … a lot. Look for the camera-saddled beast of burden smiling despite — maybe even because of — it. Get the picture?

Email editor [email protected] or call our office phone, (269) 857-2570. They know how to reach me.

Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the date that U.S forces sailed into Galveston, Texas and enforced the ...
06/19/2020
The Bone and Sinew of the Land

Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the date that U.S forces sailed into Galveston, Texas and enforced the liberation of enslaved African Americas.
This came more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War. The date is celebrated as a second American Independence Day across the nation.

The history of race and liberty in America often focuses on the southern region of the United States. In recent years, historians like Douglas’s own Anna-Lisa Cox have worked to tell the stories of people of color in the Midwest, including many who arrived even before Michigan became a state. Listen to a presentation given in connection with Juneteenth celebrations last year. https://www.c-span.org/video/?446996-1/the-bone-sinew-land

Anna-Lisa Cox recalled America's black pioneers and the frontier they settled in the Northwest Territory prior to the Civil War.

Interested in genealogy? Did you ever want to explore your ancestry but did not know how to start?  Join us for a free v...
06/18/2020

Interested in genealogy? Did you ever want to explore your ancestry but did not know how to start?

Join us for a free virtual family history group meeting on Zoom this afternoon, Thursday, June 18 at 3:30 PM.

Volunteers from the History Center Family History group stand ready to get you started in this adventure. If you want to test the ancestral waters, all you have to do is print off and fill out as much of the tree chart below as you are able, with names, places, dates (if possible) and our experts will get you started.

Can't make today's meeting? No problem! The group meets on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. They're also happy to respond to email and messages.

(Please send a Facebook instant message to this page or leave your name in the comments for login details.)

The SDHC has embraced 'rapid-response collecting' with its #3Cshutdown project.  Last night's virtual meeting explored w...
06/11/2020
Museums Collect Protest Signs to Preserve History in Real Time

The SDHC has embraced 'rapid-response collecting' with its #3Cshutdown project. Last night's virtual meeting explored what we've learned and also shared insights from museums across the country.

Today's article in the Nytimes.com highlights efforts by curators to collect artifacts of dissent in the nation's capitol.

You can also view the SDHC program streaming online now. Link in comments.

Curators surveyed the area outside the White House on Wednesday for artifacts that will help record the emotional turmoil.

The History Center has remained closed to the public since March under the statewide Stay Home order. Our stewardship of...
06/03/2020

The History Center has remained closed to the public since March under the statewide Stay Home order. Our stewardship of community history and landmarks has not stopped in spite of these challenging times. This week the SDHC’s Douglas Union School House 🏫 is getting a new roof.

The previous roof predated the SDHC’s restoration of the 153 year old building and shown signs that it had reached the end of its life.

Thanks to the community’s support at the 150th Anniversary Gala Celebration in 2017 and regular support of members, the SDHC has the maintenance funds to care for this beloved building now and for the future.

To become an SDHC member or make a donation to support preservation and local history programming for our community, please visit our main page (link in comments.)

Today marks the beginning of #Pridemonth, the first day of the month long celebration of equality for LGBTQ individuals....
06/02/2020

Today marks the beginning of #Pridemonth, the first day of the month long celebration of equality for LGBTQ individuals. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Christopher Street Liberation Day, the New York City march from Greenwich Village to Central Park one year to the day after the start of the Stonewall Rebellion, June 28, 1969.

Planning for Christopher Street Liberation Day began months before the June anniversary. Its intentions were deliberate and clear:

"To be more relevant, reach a greater number of people, and encompass the ideas and ideals of the larger struggle in which we are engaged—that of our fundamental human rights—be moved both in time and location.

We propose that a demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday in June in New York City to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street and this demonstration be called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY. No dress or age regulations shall be made for this demonstration."

The Stonewall Rebellion changed our world. Part of the larger struggle for civil rights and self-determination in the 1960s, the three nights of protest that followed the violent police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village demonstrated that there was no going back into the closet.

In 1951 William Falkner wrote the famous line that "The past is never dead. It's not even past." History is a living thing and this anniversary reminds us of that more than ever.

Share and check in here for updates over the weeks ahead for historical features and perspective.

Reflecting on the meaning of Memorial Day today, remembering those who gave their lives defending the nation.  The natio...
05/25/2020

Reflecting on the meaning of Memorial Day today, remembering those who gave their lives defending the nation. The national holiday originated in the years after the American Civil War when Michigan made "Decoration Day" a state holiday in 1871. Over 15,000 Michiganders died in the conflict from 1861-1865 including many men from west Michigan.

Sharing this in honor of the graduating class of 2020 at Saugatuck High School.  Come out and show your support today at...
05/21/2020

Sharing this in honor of the graduating class of 2020 at Saugatuck High School. Come out and show your support today at 3 PM in Saugatuck and Douglas. Details below:

This year's seniors missed out on several traditional year-end celebratory activities due to Corvid-19.

To mark the end of their school year Saugatuck Public Schools has organized a car parade.

All seniors are encouraged to decorate their individual cars and parade in their cars through downtown Saugatuck and Douglas, escorted by our local police force and fire department.

We would love to line Butler Street and Center Street with friends, family and staff members, all at a safe distance from one another wearing appropriate protection and Saugatuck blue and orange, of course.

Feel free to bring a sign of encouragement along with you. The parade will take place Tomorrow, 3pm on the 21st of May.

https://2020parade.weebly.com/

One year ago, the SDHC worked with the Kutsche Office of Local History at GVSU and Saugatuck Public Schools to document ...
05/21/2020

One year ago, the SDHC worked with the Kutsche Office of Local History at GVSU and Saugatuck Public Schools to document the stories of the SHS graduating class of 2019. Who would have anticipated how different graduation would look this year!

Please come out to help celebrate the SHS Class of 2020 with a car parade in Saugatuck and Douglas starting at 3 PM TODAY.

Working today with GVSU Kutsche Office of Local History to install the Saugatuck High School Contemporary Stories of Saugatuck exhibit! Come see us next Tuesday, May 14 from 6-8 PM to learn more and celebrate our graduating seniors and community schools.

05/14/2020
SDHC May Virtual Meeting: Saugatuck's Big Pavilion in Art

Thank you to everyone who participated in the first ever virtual monthly meeting of the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center last night. We are planning future programming in this format and look forward to seeing you there.

If you couldn't attend last night (or if you want to revisit some of the art and history of the Pavilion) the presentation is now available on YouTube at this link! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vk9Jh563oDw

This month (May 2020) marks the 60th anniversary of the fire that destroyed Saugatuck's much loved Big Pavilion dance hall. This Saugatuck-Douglas History Ce...

The Saugatuck Pavilion exists today as a memory.  The "Brightest Spot on the Lake" has been analyzed in Prof. Jim Schmie...
05/12/2020

The Saugatuck Pavilion exists today as a memory. The "Brightest Spot on the Lake" has been analyzed in Prof. Jim Schmiechen's architectural history book, Raising the Roof and identified as Saugatuck's most important building. He wrote: "It was a mirror of much of the history of popular culture in America over the half century of its life."

The building stood eight stories tall and its 6,600 square foot dance floor held crowds of more than 1,000 dancers. That dance hall witnessed the history of popular music and dance from Sousa marches and orchestral waltzes, the Charleston craze of the 1920s, Jitterbug big band swing, and Dixieland and cool jazz of the 1950s.

Not just for dancers and music lovers, the pavilion had a soda shop for ice cream treats, a coffee shop, and snack bar along with Saugatuck’s only motion picture show. In 1941 the winter months saw conversion of the dance floor to a roller skating rink with 20,000 feet of hard maple laid over the well-trod floor.

Please join us tomorrow for a virtual program on Zoom exploring the art and memories of the Big Pavilion. Later this week you can learn more about what happened after the fire in Saugatuck. #mimuseumsfromhome #michiganhistory #saugatuck #jazzhistory #saugatuckdouglas #mySDhistory

Swing jazz was on the rise by the late 1950s, making #Saugatuck a destination especially for young people in the post-WW...
05/11/2020

Swing jazz was on the rise by the late 1950s, making #Saugatuck a destination especially for young people in the post-WWII era. Jens Jensen and his Dixieland jazz band recorded live at the Pavilion and released a 45 RPM record. Most famously, the Saugatuck Jazz Festival kicked off in 1959 featuring sensational acts like Dizzy Gillespie. The promoters saw great potential in the event, imaging that it would rise to status of the renowned Newport Festival. The 1960 Saugatuck Jazz Festival was set to go for year two at the Pavilion, until the fire. Read more about music festivals in Saugatuck on our website (link in comments) and share with us if you have great memories of music at the Pavilion and Dock bar. #MySDHistory #saugatuckdouglas #jazzhistory #albumartwork

Saugatuck’s Big Pavilion was a frequent subject for local artists as well as those coming to the area, particularly thos...
05/09/2020

Saugatuck’s Big Pavilion was a frequent subject for local artists as well as those coming to the area, particularly those studying at the Ox-Bow Summer School of Painting from 1910 to 1960. Join us next Wed 5/13 at 7PM on Zoom for a special program on artists inspired by the Pavilion. It’s free but we ask you to register in advance. #mimuseumsfromhome #Saugatuck #saugatuckdouglas #MySDHistory

May 8, 1945, V-E Day.  On this day, 75 years ago WW II in Europe ended as Germany surrendered unconditionally to the All...
05/08/2020

May 8, 1945, V-E Day. On this day, 75 years ago WW II in Europe ended as Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers (Victory in Europe Day.) Widespread celebrations broke out across the country and Western Europe. Still, Americans faced the grim uncertainty of a war in the Pacific that few imagined would end anytime soon. On the "home front" the front page of The Commercial Record gave insight into sentiments of thanksgiving and reflection after V-E Day. It also includes an advertisement for roller skating at the Big Pavilion, a reminder of the hope and escape provided by recreation in wartime. Links in comments to additional resources on World War II in Saugatuck-Douglas and beyond. #veday75 #mySDhistory #saugatuck #douglas

Looking back at the history of the Big Pavilion this #TBT to see what Saugatuck's waterfront looked like before its comp...
05/07/2020

Looking back at the history of the Big Pavilion this #TBT to see what Saugatuck's waterfront looked like before its completion in 1909. In that era, the Kalamazoo River shore was a working waterfront, lined with shipyards, wharves, sawmills, and warehouses into the early 1900s. Construction on the Big Pavilion began in April of 1909 when two barges brought in 340,000 board feet of lumber. Wooden round arch trusses were assembled on site and raised into position by the 75 member construction crew. The Pavilion opened in time for the 4th of July Independence Day holiday. Quite the accomplishment in two months time! #mySDhistory #saugatuck #michiganhistory

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Douglas, MI
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So I was reminiscing recently about the park and playground behind the elementary school, but I can't find any pictures of it before the remodel when it was all truck tires and amazing wood structures. I spent so much time in the little pirate ship and squirreled away in the castle. Does anyone have pictures of the playground from back then?
Father Sun wakes Mother Nature this lone morning, The fog stretched over the openness lifts adorning. Does Nature feel this isolation; our folks separation, The distant wolf howl announcing migrating fowl In notable cleaner air to float the hawk’s keener stare. This wake-up call will decide who and what we are, And should we continue our same behaviors thus far. Its price is too high to pay to never forget the day we Declared cleaner air is here and not lost in our memoir. As Father and Mother Nature wake this lone morning, The fog stretched over the openness lifting adorning. Do we vow to restore or continue behaviors as before? Or read as just life’s curve, or heed a higher warning.
Standing at Oval Beach looking east at the dune, The Baldhead tower is lit by sun under the moon. The social distance call will be interpreted by all, But the novel screech will book many a new tune.
Town is down, even in twilight the loneliness cannot be hid. Town is down; A quiet with a deafening sound.
Here in our empty town; Frightening, as is yours, Pandemic; so uninviting, So cold, still and down, So bold, shrill and biting.
Spring boating on hold.
Easter this year was a bit different thanks to the COVID-19 virus. Toilet paper instead of chocolate bunnies at the Douglas Post Office. #3CShutdown #MySDHistory
I was sorting through some boxes of old things and came across this Saugatuck sign. I don't recall when I acquired it but must have been decades ago. Does anyone have an idea when or where it might have been used?
The ‘teddy bear hunt’ is being played in countries around the world, from Australia to Japan to the United States. It’s like a scavenger hunt suited for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic: People put teddy bears and other stuffed animals in windows, on porches, in trees and on parked cars. Then children go for walks or drives with their families and try to spot as many as they can. The game was partly inspired by the 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. In recent weeks, stuffed animals have been spotted in at least 13 countries — including Japan, Australia, Germany and Scotland — and in all 50 states. And this guy in Saugatuck Township. #3CShutdown #MySDHistory
The ‘teddy bear hunt’ is being played in countries around the world, from Australia to Japan to the United States. It’s like a scavenger hunt suited for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic: People put teddy bears and other stuffed animals in windows, on porches, in trees and on parked cars. Then children go for walks or drives with their families and try to spot as many as they can. The game was partly inspired by the 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. In recent weeks, stuffed animals have been spotted in at least 13 countries — including Japan, Australia, Germany and Scotland — and in all 50 states. Like this guy in Allegan Township.
As families are forced to stay home from work and school due to COVID-19 concerns, the community is finding small ways to reach out and connect, and show their neighbors that we’re all in this together. All across social media, #aworldofhearts is trending, with pictures of hearts in all sizes and colors posted in the windows of houses, hospitals, apartments and nursing homes. It’s a simple gesture with a massive meaning. It shows that while communities may be isolated from each other due to social distancing, they can still show support, and even “play” together. #3CShutdown #MySDHistory #ShelterinSaugatuck
Sign on the door of the Douglas Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) #3CShutdown #MySDHistory #Covid19Stories #ShelterinDouglas