Old School House renovations almost finished

Dennis R.J. Geppert/The Holland Sentinel

Saugatuck/Douglas Historical Society Old School House Renovation Task Force from left, Tom Anthrop, Dottie Lyon, and John Peters excited about the progress to the renovation of the Old School House on Center Street in Douglas. 


The Holland Sentinel

Posted Jun 05, 2008 @ 07:45 AM

Last update Jun 05, 2008 @ 07:47 AM

Douglas, MI -

Timeline of the Old School House:

w1886 - Douglas Union School is built by local ships’ carpenters directed by Jonas Crouse. The school opens in September, with two to three teachers serving 100 to 125 students.
w1957 - The building is closed for school use.
w1962 - The school is converted into apartments.
w2005 -The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society begins raising money to purchase the property.
w2006 -The society acquires the school house.
wJuly/August, 2008 - The society hopes to have the ground floor and much of the front-yard landscaping completed, possibly opening part of the building to the public.
wSept. 20, 2008 - Planned grand opening of the school house and grounds

- Sources: Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society and the Michigan Historical Center

After years of planning and work, renovations of the Old School House in Douglas into a discovery center are nearly compete.

Douglas Union School, 130 Center St., was purchased by the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society two years ago with plans to convert the four-room building
- built in 1886 - into a community and visitor center featuring an exhibition gallery, research and technical center, upper-story office rentals and a back-in-time garden pathway on the school's 1.16-acre grounds.

With about $350,000 of the project's original $1.5 million budget yet to be raised, the historical society hopes to have the building's front entrance, main level and most of the front landscaping completed by late July or early August, said Dottie Lyon, chairwoman of the society's Old School House Task Force.

Construction timetables are determined in part by the availability of contractors, many of whom are donating time and/or materials for the project, said Tom Anthrop, the committee's construction coordinator.

"We don't have enough funds to finish off the other two levels at this point," he said.

"We're trying to use local contractors. Bill Haveman has provided a lot of free services for the museum. I can't tell you the number of hours they're giving us," Anthrop said of the Holland-based Haveman Electrical Services, adding that many of the subcontractors are supplying materials at cost.

"Our architect has been working free for a year. He's been working so hard for us," said Lyon of Nicolaas Wilkens of Douglas-based Fenn's Design Mill.

The structure will be a U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified building, Anthrop said.

Torn-out materials are being recycled or reused, and the refurbished building will feature lighting with motion and light-level sensors. Wood from dead trees in the back will be fashioned by artist Marsha Perry into furniture for the center.

The main floor will include a welcome center; a library/research room with historical hardcover books and public resource computers for historical and genealogical research; an exhibit hall  and an office for the society's administrator.

The upper level will consist of two 840-square-foot office suites for rent. The basement will house society archives, a technical room for use by society researchers and a sound studio for recording oral histories.

An elevator and a brick wheelchair ramp will make the entire facility accessible.

The garden path will feature story stations including a historic peach-tree orchard, a restored 1860s-vintage ironclad lifesaving boat, a display of the school house's history, and an exhibit on Mount Baldhead, from a vantage point where visitors can see the dune.

Fundraiser and friends

WHAT: The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society Old School House Task Force “friendraiser
WHEN: 7 to 10 p.m. today, June 5
WHERE: Lakeview Lanes, 229 Center St. in Douglas.
DETAILS: Bowling teams have already been formed, but the public is invited to watch the games and participate in a silent auction and 50-50 raffle.
COST: Admission is free.

"The fun thing for me is that we've had so much community support, from $20 bills to $420,000" Lyon said. "So many moms and pops come out and say, 'We want you to preserve this building.'"

For more information, visit www.sdhistoricalsociety.org