Wednesday, May 12, 7:00 pm at Old School
House, Annual Meeting & 2010 Museum Exhibit Preview.
Wednesday, June 9, 6:00 pm at Oval
Beach, Picnic and Land Conservancy of West Michigan led tour of
our Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area.
ABOUT IT! PRESENTATION
The SCA in Partnership with SDHS Sponsor the May About It!
Presented by Award-winning
Author, Shipwreck Explorer and Preservationist
Valerie van Heest
Thursday, May 13
7 p.m. at the SCA
Have you ever wondered what it would be like on board one of these
big freighters that deliver bulk cargo to Holland and other Lake
Michigan ports? Holland author Valerie van Heest journeyed across
Lake Michigan on board the 620-foot self-unloading freighter
Maumee, the Lakes oldest operating self-unloading freighter, to
gather data for her book "Buckets and Belts: Evolution of the
Great Lakes Self-Unloaders". Her journey began in Chicago
loading 13,000 tons of coal. Along with the captain, chief engineer
and 18 other crewmembers, she traveled 12 hours across the lake to
arrive at Holland and deliver their cargo to power the homes of
Holland residents. Along the way, she piloted the boat, explored
every nook and cranny of the vessel and spent time getting to know
the crew and understanding their fascinating and unique career
Van Heest will share her experience in her exciting program,
"Deckhand for a Day" that will also take you underwater to explore
the shipwreck Hennepin, the world’s first self-unloading
vessel, now listed on the National Register of historic places,
which her team found in deep water off South Haven, Michigan.
Buckets and Belts, along with her young readers book, Icebound!
The Adventures of Young George Sheldon and the SS Michigan will
be available for purchase and signing.
About the Presenter
Award winning author, shipwreck explorer and member of the Women
Divers Hall of fame, Valerie has documented Great Lakes shipwrecks
for over twenty years and her efforts led to an award from the
Historical Society of Michigan for excellence in preserving and
promoting State and local history. She writes for several maritime
and historic magazines, produces documentary films, designs museum
exhibits, and has appeared on an episode of History Channel. Valerie
volunteers as director of the non-profit, Michigan Shipwreck
Research Associates and spearheads the team's search for ships lost
off west Michigan's shores. Her books, Icebound! The Adventures
of Young George Sheldon and the SS Michigan, and Buckets and
Belts both won Michigan State History awards from the Historical
Society of Michigan.
Volunteers busy at work
on the OSH Lower Level.
Judy Mauger and Dottie Lyon
Al Lyon and Chris Yoder
PAVILION FIRE 50 YEARS AGO
Friday morning, May 6, 1960, a persistent breeze waltzed briskly
from the west, then turned to the southeast. The Big Pavilion’s
fifty first season opening loomed three weeks away. Manager Jack
Repp was out to tell the Village maintenance boss Harry Newnham to
turn on the water and to negotiate the summer advertising rates with
The Commercial Record. From his Chicago office, owner Herb Shutter
ordered red paint for the summer paint job. Somewhere among the
thousands of light sockets and miles of 1909 wiring, a cancerous
short had sparked, maybe ---
The Big Pavilion had minutes to live. In the Hotel Saugatuck next
door, Viola Fox tallying last night receipts answered the phone.
From across the river, the caller could see smoke coming from the
Pavilion. Vi punched the in-house direct line alarm button to the
Village fire hall. Minutes later it was already too late as chief
Bill Wilson smashed through the Dock Bar door. Flames churned
skyward and inky smoke boiled from the eaves of the towering
The beloved barn was already a funeral pyre. The only doubt was how
much of Saugatuck would survive. In the end, a lucky wind swept
blast furnace heat and burning embers westward, out over the river
and ten fire departments, hoses streaming river water, were able to
contain the conflagration and save the town.
So in mere hours, a Saugatuck legend, "the brightest spot on the
Great Lakes" was distilled to blackened ruble. The big red dance
hall - symbolically her birth and her death were bigger than life. A
brilliant burst of light and excitement, followed by the wonder of
100 Plus Year Old Maples at Riverside
The April 20, 1906 issue of the Commercial-Record announced that "A
row of maples had just been planted around the new part of the
cemetery." Current sexton Aaron Sheridan helped identify where this
was and, as you can see above, these trees have done very well over
the past 104 years. The photo was taken from the end of "Lilac
Street", with the trees appearing on the north side of the road. In
1906, E. H. House had charge of the cemetery and the 30-year-old Mr.
House suggested "that those owning lots will do well to attend to
them early so that by Decoration Day our cemetery will be in good
order." Good advice for our readers today.
contributed by Chris Yoder
Memories of the Turtle Pond, Anyone?
Over many decades, the "turtle pond" near the intersection of Lake
Street and Blue Star was a favorite place of adventure for Saugatuck
youngsters. The construction of the East Shore Harbor Condominiums
several decades ago inhibited this a bit, but the pond is still
occupied by turtles of varying sizes. In this photo you can see the
Saugatuck sign at the east end of the bridge peeking over the
railing in the center. Are there enough folks out there with
"memories of the turtle pond" (or even photos) to help us build a
future article? Contact Chris Yoder, 857-4327.
WHAT YOU MISSED
April 14, 2010 SDHS Meeting at the OSH
The following announcements were shared after President H. Thieda
called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Weekly deadheaders/waterers are needed to sign up for the Museum
April 24, 10 - 12 a.m. yard clean-up at OSH
May 19, 7:00 p.m. Family History Group at OSH
May 22, 10 - 12 a.m. composting and fertilizing at Museum
Walking Tours Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 in July
Support restoration of 1870's All Saints' windows by purchasing
Uncommon Grounds Coffee with All Saints' on label
August 14, 2010 1:00 p.m. May Heath Memorial Dedication - donations
May 12, 2010 SDHS Annual Meeting 7 :00 OSH
June 9, 2010 SDHS Picnic Celebration and Walk Through Dunes 6:00
Ruth Johnson, landscape architect and Jim Schmiechen, curator,
designer and historian, presented their power point OSH Garden and
Back-In-Time Pathway Merging Nature and History for the 21st
Century. This "garden tour" is the living 14th SDHS
"pop-up book" bringing stories to life by touching, tasting, looking
and listening while wandering in this one and a quarter acres in the
center of historic Douglas.
Volunteer professionals including Brian Alexander, Chuck Carlson,
Mike Economos, Ruth Johnson, Dottie Lyon, John Migas, Kristi
Mueller, Marcia Perry, Greg Raymond, Jim Schmiechen and Nic Wilkens
shared their expertise to provide six garden area stories labeled
with Julie Kelly's glass panels for each visitor:
1) Ironclad Gallinipper Lifesaving Boat Pavilion
2) Rhododendron and Azalea Garden
3) Mt. Baldhead Observation Deck
4) Schoolyard Garden Games
5) Crane's Peach Orchard and
6) The Architect/Builder Table with OSH questions and answers
Phases are projected through the winter of 2010, but can only be
completed with money. Promote SDHS' 14th "book". Eagerly
engage in available fundraisers. This target IS do-able!
submitted by Jane Osman
OSH GARDEN PLAN
Detailed plans for developing a "Back-In-Time Pathway" through the
1.16-acre grounds surrounding the Old School House History Center in
Douglas went public Wednesday, April 14 with a presentation at the
Introducing its theme "exploring history one step at a time",
Saugatuck landscape designer Ruth Johnson and project coordinator
Jim Schmiechen discussed the history of this project, displayed the
latest plan drawing and described features designed to weave
historical and ecological stories together in a walk-through, living
classroom exemplifying our area's heritage.
"We're packing lots of knowledge into this site," Johnson explained.
"We want it to have a strong educational impact that will attract
groups from schools and garden clubs as well as those interested in
local history, ecology and land conservation. We also want it to
give visitors useful ideas about how they might improve their own
property with plant selection, better use of water, organic
fertilizers and other landscaping techniques that let nature work
more easily and effectively."
The pathway begins at the Old School House driveway and winds around
the back area of the grounds, returning to the Center Street
sidewalk along the west side of the property. The driveway entry
will be flanked with six parking slots before narrowing to form a
gathering area that can serve as an outdoor classroom alongside the
existing garage structure, with the current concrete paving replaced
by a permeable layer of crushed recycled concrete that will allow
rainwater to drain through into the soil. Compacted to a smooth,
stable surface, this material also accommodates universal access.
--- Six Learning Stations Seen ---
The Back-In-Time Pathway concept, Schmiechen noted, is modeled after
the overlook "learning stations" that have shown great popularity
among visitors to the Historical Society's Museum garden at Mt.
Baldhead Park since 1991, and has attracted start-up funding from
the U.S. National Park Service.
At the top of the driveway, an arbor covered with flowering vines
will welcome the visitor to the grounds alongside the first
"learning station", a pavilion exhibiting a Civil-War-era, 26-ft.
metal-hulled Francis Lifeboat, telling of the battle against
shipwreck and storm a century ago. The boat was stationed at
Saugatuck Lighthouse and abandoned there in the 1930s, but its
remains were saved in storage for decades until Historical Society
volunteers restored it several years ago as one of only two
remaining along the Great Lakes.
This and all subsequent learning stations will be identified by
etched-glass signs mounted on sculpted wood pedestals. The glass is
a 1/2-inch-thick laminate matching the break strength of Plexiglas.
The pedestals will be fashioned from maple trees that were removed
from the grounds for safety reasons after a consulting arborist
confirmed that they were near the end of their life and could become
a falling hazard. A preservative favored by park services will be
applied to the wood for durability.
The pathway, also surfaced with permeable crushed concrete, will
continue to the second learning station, a circular rhododendron
garden recalling earlier American landscape architects O.C. Simonds
and Charlie Mann, who lived here and "reinvented" our landscape
after the lumber-boom deforestation.
The garden conceals a 5,000 gallon underground cistern that collects
rain runoff from the Old School House roof and adjacent grounds. An
underground sprinkler system will first consume the water from this
reservoir before drawing any city water to irrigate the schoolyard
lawn and plantings. A visible water feature such as a retention pond
or recirculating fountain is being considered to highlight the water
conservation concept demonstrated here.
From the rhododendron garden, two pathways will wind around a
planting area to arrive at the third learning station, telling the
history and significance of the Mount Baldhead dune, visible from a
raised observation platform at the northwest corner of the grounds.
A boardwalk approaching this platform will include a commemorative
section using planks salvaged from the old Mount Baldhead stairs,
which last year were dismantled and replaced with a new wood
Leaving this area, the pathway will proceed south toward Center
Street and pass the fourth learning station, an exhibit depicting
schoolyard games played there in the mid-late 1800s. Nearby, across
the pathway, will be a seasonal garden of heirloom vegetables
favored by residents of that era.
Directly ahead, the pathway will pass through the fifth learning
station, a small grove of peach trees recalling the orchards that
once covered the town and surrounding terrain, reviving our area's
economy after the lumber boom of the late 1800s had stripped away
virtually all of the native trees.
Emerging at Center Street, the pathway will end with its sixth
learning station, a building architecture exhibit that highlights
the 19th century construction techniques still embodied in the Old
School House as it stands today. Three additional learning stations
will be featured inside the Old School House.
Throughout the pathway, an audio system accessed by cell phone is
envisioned to provide narrative information about the garden,
learning stations and ecological concepts demonstrated.
--- Many Donations Cited ---
Updating recent activity on-site, Johnson noted that the grounds
have been cleared of non-native plants with grading machinery
cutting deeply enough to remove their roots as well, so replanting
with native species can begin. The clearing and replanting work is
being done by Saugatuck building and landscape contractor John Migas.
Guidance for the selection of native-species trees, shrubs and
plants that will best thrive in our area is being donated by Kelly
Goward, Allegan County Conservation District officer, with emphasis
on deer-resistant varieties. Several theme gardens are planned to
attract butterflies, hummingbirds, pollinating bees and predators
that naturally minimize harmful insects.
The garden benches and learning station sign pedestals are being
made by Laketown wood-sculpting artist Marcia Perry, in
collaboration with Saugatuck graphic designer Kristi Mueller and
Brian Alexander, a Douglas industrial designer who also designed the
lifeboat exhibit pavilion. The signage project is funded largely by
the Federal Preserve America grant awarded in 2008, with
etched-glass signs donated by Saugatuck's Julie Kelly through her
Chicago firm, Blasart.
The schoolyard games exhibit is being planned by Saugatuck's Mike
Economos, master gardener in charge of the riverside grounds around
the Historical Society Museum, who served as start-up chairman of
the garden planning group.
Consultation for planning the water conservation system and
permeable pavement is being donated by Douglas landscape architect
Greg Raymond through his Chicago firm, EcoGardens, working in
collaboration with Nicolaas Wilkins of Fenn's Design Mill, the
Douglas architectural firm that has guided the Old School House
project from its beginning.
The first "SDHS 101" session of the year is just days
away, and lots of information about this year's exhibit and schedule
will be available for new members, as well as curious former
members. This is a great time to learn about our award-winning
organization, its history, and volunteering opportunities. The
meeting will take place at the Old School House in Douglas on
Saturday, May 1st, beginning at 10:00 a.m. If you plan to
attend, please contact Nyla Hensley at
or call 269-857-5704.
YOUR FAMILY TREE
Thanks to the dawning digital age, discovering and recording your
family tree is becoming easier as the years go by. Just ten years
ago it was difficult. While it still requires diligent effort, now
the SDHS will help you start the discovery of your family history.
The first step is to put on paper what you already know and bring it
to the SDHS family history meeting 7:00 PM Wednesday May 19 at the
Your family tree is the roadmap, the framework for the history of
your family. The first four generations for instance, can be thought
of as a tree with sixteen frames hanging from it, each containing
the essential information and perhaps a photo of the
parent-grandparent that fits in that frame. The information for each
is: name, birth date, place of birth, date of death, place of death
and name of parents.
Very few of us are able to complete this four generation tree. Your
great great grandparents were probably born around 1820 and died in
the late 1800s. Who were these people? Their history and lives
shaped the lives of the generations that followed. The branches lead
to your generation. You carry their genes.
To find and learn more about these people is a fascinating project.
HERE and start your project by filling in the blanks - as
much as you now know - and bring to the meeting.