NOTES FROM YOUR PRESIDENT
Last week I saw my first robin. That means that Spring is coming to
Saugatuck-Douglas and with it another great season for your
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society. A few highlights for this
Spring: first, our Annual Meeting May 11, followed by our 25th
Anniversary Party on the Old School House grounds Sunday, May15th.
We plan on having a good start on finishing the gardens for our
party, so come out and see what the Garden Committee has done. We
plan on having the gardens completed this year instead of over the
next two years thanks to a financial gift from Thelma and the late
Your Historical Society will be one of the hosts for the 31st
Annual Statewide Preservation Conference "Just Add Water" presented
by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, running from May 19 -
21. A number of the events are free and open to the public. One of
those events is the keynote address by the mayor of Grand Rapids,
George Heartwell, at 1:00 pm at the SCA Friday, May 20, don't miss
it! This conference will draw over 350 people to our area. Click
HERE for more details.
The museum opening party will be on Saturday, May 28th.
This year's exhibit, "Our Village Life", will be another award
winner, I am sure.
As you can see, your Society has been busy over the winter.
Additional volunteers will be needed for the museum, walking tours,
maintaining the gardens at the museum and OSH as well as manning the
OSH, which we would like to have open on a regular basis this
summer. You can see that there are many varied volunteer
opportunities that require only a few hours of your time. Please
consider one of these in your summer schedule. Remember, your
Society is only what you help make it.
Harold Thieda, President
COGHLIN GIFT INSURES THAT THE OLD SCHOOL HOUSE GARDEN WILL GROW
The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society has announced receiving a
major gift from Saugatuck residents Thelma and the late Fitz Coghlin.
Already well-known for generously investing in their community, the
Coghlins have donated $150,000 in support of the Society's project
to create themed gardens and a "Back-In-Time Pathway" at its Old
School House History Center in downtown Douglas. Their gift enhances
$22,000 in recent private donations from area citizens and completes
fulfillment of fund-matching requirements for the Society to access
a $47,000 federal Museums for America grant, providing a total
funding of over $200,000 for the garden project.
According to Historical Society President Harold Thieda, the new
donations and grant will enable work to proceed immediately toward
completion of plans to develop the 1.16-acre grounds surrounding the
Old School House, which were publicly announced last April and begun
the following summer. "The garden project promises an exciting new
addition to our area's already remarkable inventory of cultural and
educational assets," Thieda said. "We are grateful and fortunate to
live in an extraordinary place where so many dedicated citizens step
up to become stakeholders in insuring the community's quality of
life now and into the future."
The garden project consists of creating a series of topical
"learning areas" that explore various facets of our area's history,
featuring a peach orchard, a Mt. Baldhead viewing station,
children's garden and schoolyard games, and a rhododendron garden,
among others. The crown jewel will be a permanent exhibit, "Rowing
Them Home: Shipwrecks and Lifesaving on the Great Lakes," which will
showcase the Society's rare restored Francis Lifesaving Boat while
giving visitors a unique window into Lake Michigan maritime history
and the unsung heroes who rescued sailors from shipwrecks.
The Society acquired the Old School House in 2006 with a major gift
from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation along with matching private
gifts and the generosity of Nancy Budd. After extensive interior
renovation and as a complement to the well-established
Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum in Saugatuck, the building was
re-opened in 2010 as The Old School House History Center. Now the
site of regular Society monthly meetings, the summer "Tuesday Talks"
series, and special events, it houses the Society's archives,
Technology Center, offices, meeting spaces, and local history and
genealogy research facilities, as well as a gallery for the display
of artworks from the Society's collection and a planned community
Visitor Center and gift shop.
Built in 1866, The Old School House is listed on both the Michigan
and National Registers of Historic Places. It is one of the oldest
multi-classroom school buildings in Michigan and considered one of
the finest examples of 19th century school architecture
Funded by donations and grants, the Society has been able to make a
nearly $1.5 million investment in the Old School House, giving it
new life as a community resource where children and adults alike can
explore the area's history, culture, ecology and architecture. The
Center will expand our area's educational infrastructure with
informative programs, recreational activities, special events and
access to the Historical Society's unique archive of local
artifacts, photos, records and newspapers. As such, the Center also
is expected to enhance the area's destination appeal in the growing
heritage tourism industry.
The Society will honor the Coghlins and acknowledge their gifts to
the Old School House Center as part of the Society's community wide
25th Anniversary Celebration to be held at the Center on
Sunday, May 15.
GLAD YOU ASKED
Editors Note: "Glad You Asked" is a new column to answer
questions that have been asked by Society members. Hopefully the
information will be informative to all members.
Q. What's the latest on the old root
beer barrel project??
A. The Barrel Crew, encouraged by the
SDHS and the City of Douglas, has been actively meeting and
preparing for the dismantling of the old structure early in April. A
preliminary project budget and calendar are completed. Funding
sources are being examined. As you know, the barrel as an object is
both an important example of mid-century highway architecture and
the history of early drive-in fast food culture.
Barrel Blog on the SDHS website is growing with many
revealing and fun entries. You are encouraged to enjoy it and add
yours - even if you think your comment might not be important. The
barrel, yet to be officially named, will be home to a local history
and information center. Other uses are under consideration.
A brief project outline includes:
2. Store and await restoration weather
3. Refinish and varnish each of 120 staves and prepare foundation
4. Reassemble and construct
5. Install visual/artifact elements and signage
6. Open to the public
A search for the ideal location of the barrel continues. SDHS and
community member input is encouraged on this exciting barrel of fun
If you would like to Donate to the Root Beer Barrel Project using
PayPal, just click on the "Donate" button below and type Root Beer
Project in the message line
UPDATE FROM THE ARCHIVES
As more and more items are coming into the new archival area from
their previous storage places - interesting things are coming to
light. We would like to share with you some of the stories behind
them. We now have on board a new volunteer named Elizabeth Reid
Austin . Liz is between studies and is currently working at Butch's
Dry Dock in Holland and The Wild Dog in Douglas. She enjoys writing
and has taken up the challenge of researching and writing articles
for the archives. Below is her first story.
"The Dope." A series of letters edited by Mrs. Otis Thomas, a local
resident, tell the tales of the brave young men who battled overseas
during the second World War. A humorous and casual newsletter, named
"The Dope" brought an upbeat report of local Douglas happenings to
the young men serving their country, while also reporting on those
in the service 'over there'. It brought a lighthearted spirit and
the comforts of home to those who were fighting thousands of miles
Here is an excerpt from a letter written April 1, 1944:
"Corporal Arnold Garrelts has been in town again; and we must say
we don't know why anyone would leave Miami Beach in March to come to
wintry Michigan. Perhaps a 13-month-old son & a pretty wife have
something to do with it. In any case, Arnold sure hated to leave
Douglas. Mrs. Garrelts, by the way, now sports 3 stars on her
service pin; one for Arnold, one for her brother and one for her
father. "And if that kid of mine doesn't stop growing", remarked
Arnold, "they'll soon have him too".
"The Dope" was mailed to the Douglas men in the services through the
generosity of local residents. Those listed in the letters include
Mr. & Mrs. George Durham, Bill Wanner and Floyd Thomas. The letters
give reports that extend from all over the world: Iceland, India,
Corsica, Puerto Rico, England and Italy.
The letters also describe the rewards and tribulations our soldiers
"News has just reached Douglas, that in the pre-invasion bombing
of South Italy, Bud Standish's plane was shot up over Sicily, was
forced down on a friendly island in the Mediterranean - and it took
Bud and his shipmates two and a half weeks to get back to their base
in North Africa. And to cap the whole business, Sgt. Standish, top
radio gunner, was decorated for his part in the action. We salute
you, Bud - every one of us."
These letters depict our small town during an era that was difficult
to endure, while also keeping our young men glad in spirit. "Same
Old G.I. Line":
We stand in line to get a pass, we stand in line to wash;
We stand in line to find a place to stand in line by gosh!
We stand in line to draw our pay, we stand in line to spend it;
But damn it, Pal, we never have to stand in line to lend it."
If there is anyone within the Historical Society who would like
to share their experiences during this trying era, or may have more
information about "The Dope", don't hesitate to contact the
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society. Call John Shack
269.857.8644 or e-mail
Thank you! - Liz
submitted by Mary Voss
DAYS ON THE LAKE SHORE"
by Dorothy Garesche Holland, presents a wonderful history of the
early lakeshore by an early and long-time summer visitor. Her aunt,
Marie Garesche, built one of the first summer cottages on the
lakeshore in 1902, and her father, Ferdinand Garesche, built their
own cottage in 1912. After retiring in 1960, she wrote three books
on genealogy and several articles for the Missouri Historical
Society Bulletin. Mrs. Holland, an educator and writer, died in 1997
at the age of 92. She was the subject of an SDHS oral history
interview in 1995.
Thanks to Fritz Baker, Eric Brungard, and John and Tom Bredemann for
passing along a copy of this hand typed history, originally written
in 1977 and updated in 1983, which has now been OCR'd, proofed, and
added to the SDHS On-Line Research Center archives. Click
HERE for the complete article.
submitted by Chris Yoder
Don't Miss It at the Old School House
Wednesday, April 13th at 7 pm
"'Looks rough tonight, Boys. Be prepared."
declared Joe, keeper of the Saugatuck lifeboat.
-as the Saugatuck High college-prep
writing class presents their 1960s TV version of: You Are
There: the Great Saugatuck Shipwreck and Lifesaving Story of 1852.
Saugatuck High School Advanced Placement Language
and Composition students
This program is part of the
Francis-Gallinipper Lifesaving Boat project - and the
story-presentation is a modern adaptation of a real Saugatuck
shipwreck - using the format of the popular 1960s Walter Cronkite
television show that brought historical events into the family
Find out more about the Francis-Gallinipper
boat and cheer the students on as they work up the text and voices
to be used in the new Lifeboat House to be built this summer at
the Old School House garden. Your hosts - Mike Shaw (teacher) and
Jim Schmiechen (coordinator of Lifeboat project). Lifesaving
Refreshments to follow.
Now There Two Ways to Support SDHS's Upscale Sale This Year
- By Donation or Consignment
The success of the Society's Upscale Sale is possible because
of our members' donations of high-quality items such as
antiques, framed art, collectables, jewelry, small-scale
furniture, toys and games, housewares and small appliances.
This year you will be able to participate in the success of
the sale in two ways - by donating or by consigning your
treasures to SDHS for the sale. The sale will be on held
Saturday, July 16 with a special preview event on Friday
evening, July 15.
The consignment sale option gives you the
opportunity of having the hundreds of shoppers who attend the
sale see and purchase your high quality art, antiques or fine
collectables. The process is simple:
l You price ($250
minimum) and deliver your consignment items (maximum of 3 per
household) to the Old School House prior to the event. (The
number of consignments is limited, so please apply early to
ensure you are included in the sale.) -
l Consignment items will
be displayed inside the Old School House during the sale.
l The sale of the item will be handled by Upscale Sale staff.
(We take credit cards!)
l If your item sells, you will receive
a check for 60% of the selling price. The other 40% will be SDHS's commission -- a win-win for both you and SDHS! (FYI:
Most consignment stores take a 50% commission.)
l If your item
doesn't sell, you pick it up after the sale.
should provide a "story" about the history and details of the
item you are selling. There are plans to feature unique and
interesting consignment items in Upscale Sale advertising.
Consignment Sale Agreement form is available now.
for a printable version of the form. Complete the form and
mail it to the address indicated on the form.
So whether you
are going to donate items for the sale or place goods on
consignment, start setting them aside now. Donation
collections will begin in May. For additional information or
questions, call (269) 857-5751 for information.
The Society's web site has been undergoing a major redesign
which is nearing completion. Once the design is done, there's
the huge task of converting the existing pages to the new
We could use some help!
It's not necessary for you to be a web guru to be able to
help. If you have at least a minimal knowledge of HTML and are
willing to pitch in, please contact James Cook at
or call Jim at 720-252-7042.
"SDHS 101" SESSIONS PLANNED
you are a new member or a former member who is interested in
learning the history of our organization and the opportunities that
it has to offer, then you should plan on attending one of the "101"
sessions planned for this year. There are so many new and exciting
things happening in the organization that are worth knowing about,
and its history is memorable. The meetings will be held on May 14
and July 30 and will be held at the Old School House in Douglas,
beginning at 10 a.m. If you have any questions or plan to attend,
please contact Nyla Hensley at 269-857-5704 or
Click on the picture for a higher resolution copy.
I love this photo. The primary reason is the early date and the
scene. An unknown photographer captured the enthusiasm of the day.
Flags flying in a brisk east wind, VIPs posing on deck, ready for a
short ride. A man of Chinese appearance with pony tail sits on the
rail. Ship building raw materials are scattered about, cribbing
supports the hull. Ship building took place right there on the banks
of the Kalamazoo. A crowd waits - mostly workers probably, and
spectators. No women on the scene - they were leery of this rough
section of the town. The tugs A. McMillan and William B. Minter
stand ready to pull her off the bank.
The date, May 1872, the location Water Street between Main and Mary
Streets in Saugatuck, the partially built vessel about to be
launched, the G. P. Heath. The Heath was designed and built by
Aurelius McMillan who died before she was completed. The G. P. Heath
was a good sized 74 gross tons, 97 feet long, with a beam of 17 feet
and a depth of 7 feet. The first owner was George Peter Heath who
had a grist mill located on the river bank very close to this
shipbuilding site. G. P. Heath [the father of Doc Anderson Heath,
entrepreneur and husband of May Francis Heath] soon sold a majority
interest in the Heath to others, including the first captain, Ralph
C. Brittain. The vessel would carry lumber and general cargo up and
down the Lake Michigan shoreline and to Chicago and on the Chicago
River. In 1887 the Heath came to a sad end when she caught fire near
Sheboygan, Wisconsin and burned to the waterline.
Read Kit Lane's wonderful book: Built on the Banks of the
Kalamazoo for many more interesting details.
Our feature photo preview [below] will be explained in April. It
predates the Blue Tempo! Stay tuned,
email me comments and enjoy the photos.
submitted by Jack Sheridan
WELCOME NEW MEMBERS
We would like to welcome these new members who have joined the
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society since the last newsletter.
James Motif, Fennville
Bruce and Donna Henke, Saugatuck
The four members of the historical society committee who wrote
a constitution and by-laws toast their work after finishing
the task in April, 1986. They are, seated Spring Ten Kley, and
standing, left to right, Terry Tatsch, Charles Lorenz and Mike
Sweeney. The first meeting of the newly organized
Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society was held April 16, 1986.
Terry Tatsch and Charles Lorenz have since died.
submitted by Kit Lane
Has it been that long?
25 years ago the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society was
formed. Since 1986, the Society has been enriching community
life by connecting to and preserving our history while using
our understanding of the past to shape our future.
Help us mark this milestone: Saugatuck Douglas Historical
Society 25th Anniversary Open House Sunday, May 15, 2011;
2:00-5:00 pm; Old School House Discovery Center; Douglas,
Michigan. More information to come. Save the date and we will
save you a piece of cake!
submitted by Kristi Mueller