Mt. Baldhead Steps
The Saugatuck-Douglas area is home to over 200 years of recorded history. What's your story? Did you grow up here or have ancestors in the area? Purchase a historic home and want to know about its past? Or, maybe you are just interested to learn how Oval Beach or the Douglas Dutchers got their names, or what makes our chain ferry so special. No matter your interest, the History Center can help.
The basis for the preservation, interpretation and study of history starts with collections: the artifacts, documents, photographs, artworks, and their digital versions which are the actual pieces of history, preserved for the future. Portions of the History Center's collection has been made available online via the thematic Online Research areas below. The collections themselves are also available for in-person study by making an appointment with our volunteer archival staff. Our volunteers are available to help people with their family research. The History Center collections are overseen by a capable group of volunteers led by the Collections Committee. Use the selections below to access our Online Research portal or to learn more about the History Center's specific collections.
If you have objects or other items you would like to donate to the History Center collection, please click here.
The Online Research Center provides information and support to people engaged in local history and family research. At the same time, we hope to facilitate the continued collection of such information dealing with the Saugatuck-Douglas areas for future use. If you are interested in family history information, gravestones, newspapers, census records, and more, start here.
The Saugatuck-Douglas History Center's Photo Blog is a large and growing searchable collection of historical photographs, postcards and maps.
From 1996-2008, the History Center newsletter regularly contained a Historical Insert on a specific theme or topic of local history. These have been indexed and are available to search online.
In 2010, the History Center undertook a detailed survey of coastal and waterfront historical and cultural resources near Lake Michigan and the lower Kalamazoo River. Explore the Survey.
Cruise around town on a map of the Saugatuck business district circa 1906 and enjoy incredible views from the photo archive.
From 1959 to 1969, Saugatuck was the scene of an array of music festivals starring the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Bob Seger and Alice Cooper. This Saugatuck Music Festivals PDF by Mike Sweeney is a terrific history of those events and the times.
The History Center has an extensive collection of archives, artifacts and photographs relating to the Saugatuck, Douglas and western Allegan County area. Property and real estate records are also located in the Archives. The newly-created Archives & Research Center (ARC) is located in the upper level of the Old School House and is open to the public for research by advance appointment. Contact archivist Mary Voss via the direct archives office phone at 269.857.7901 or by email.
The Chain Ferry by Edna Hotchkiss
watercolor on paper, c. 1945
The History Center currently owns over 200 works by artists who lived and/or worked in the area. Some are major works by well-known artists; others are great examples of lesser-known creators. The History Center, through contributions, has made sure that all works on display have been cleaned and restored, and that works we acquire which are in need of care or restoration are prioritized for appropriate work.
Though there is no acquisition budget, the collection continues to grow as a result of the support of very generous donors who understand the importance of preserving this medium of our history.
A public art gallery is maintained at the Old School House in Douglas where a portion of the collection is on rotating exhibit for viewing. The gallery is "rehung" periodically and the works are rotated so that this collection receives maximum exposure. During the summer season, the gallery is open during public hours at the Old School House.
For more information, please contact Ken Kutzel, Art Collection Manager, by email.
The Oral History Project an open invitation to life-long and modern residents, summer populace, frequent visitors, or any person with stories, events or reminiscences to share their knowledge and involvement with the Saugatuck-Douglas area to better understand historical significance through the impact and dynamics of personal experience.
The History Mystery feature was developed by photo archivist Jack Sheridan for placement as a weekly feature in The Commercial Record. It took one-third of a page for a "mystery" historical photo and a short explanation/clue and a question relating to the photo. The photo often contained a historical clue that might be discerned upon a study of the photo. On a separate page the answer to the question was divulged. The feature started in May 2004 and ran for 324 features.
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The Remembering When feature was developed for the Local Observer by Jack Sheridan. It appeared for over two years on a weekly basis starting in the fall of 2004. In addition to Jack, Jim Schmiechen and Rob Carey were frequent writers/contributors of the feature. The Remembering When format was a full page of text and photos covering a local historical subject.
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