SAUGATUCK, NOV. 2, 2006 -- The Old
School House, a prominent historic landmark along Center Street in Douglas
since 1867, finally belongs to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society,
culminating a successful 12-month fundraising campaign to buy, preserve
and rededicate the building as a unique new Discovery Center in
collaboration with the area's District Library and Public Schools.
Listed on both the Michigan and National Registers of Historic Places, The
Old School House (Douglas-Union School) is one of the oldest
multi-classroom school buildings in Michigan and considered one of the
finest examples of 19th century school architecture in America. The
structure served as a public school until 1957 and has many alumni among
current area residents. It has been owned and carefully maintained as a
four-unit apartment building since 1962 by the family of Ms. Nancy J.
Budd, now a resident of Holland.
"I've been thinking about this possibility for years," Ms. Budd said, "so
I'm absolutely delighted now that the Society was able to buy this
property. Their fundraising campaign was done beautifully, and I think
their plans for a Discovery Center are just wonderful for the entire
community. We can all look forward now to those plans becoming reality."
Historical Society President Dottie Lyon (left) presents purchase
check to Nancy Budd along with a School House Project "Proud
Supporter" sticker. Standing behind are Jeff Wilcox (left), Society
member and consulting real estate broker, and Tom Anthrop, Chair,
School House Project Task Force.
Discovery Center plans envision a
community resource where children and adults alike can explore the area's
history, culture, ecology and architecture through recreational
activities, educational programs, special events and access to a 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.
In addition to the School House building, the surrounding property
includes the equivalent of six city lots within its 186' x 263' perimeter.
Tentative plans for these grounds include a Historic Garden Learning
Center reflecting indigenous trees and plants prominent in our area's
past, and an open-air exhibition space.
Signing closing documents as Historical Society president, Dottie Lyon
said "the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society is delighted to be the
proud new owners of the historically significant Old School House. We are
so grateful to Nancy Budd for working with us, giving us time to raise
funds and for her very generous donation to the Society. We also give
special thanks for the donated services of Society members Ken Gold as our
attorney with Allen Brothers, and Jeff Wilcox as consulting real estate
broker with Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt. Of course, we greatly
appreciate the support of our Society members and our community, and look
forward to implementing Phase 2 of this exciting project."
The project's second phase -- converting the first floor, basement and
grounds into Discovery Center facilities, archival storage and offices for
the Society's growing Technology Center -- will start with finalizing the
architectural details at Fenns Design Mill in Douglas as soon as
fundraising efforts achieve their total goal.
The Society's fundraising campaign began late in 2005 with a total
fundraising goal of $1,110,000 needed to support refurbishing work and
endowment for on-going operation in addition to purchase. Underpinned by a
Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation matching grant for up to $425,000, the
campaign raised another $525,000 in donations from several hundred local
residents and businesses, including a recent grant from Michigan Council
for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) earmarking $35,000 for renovation.
With approximately $150,000 remaining to be raised, the Society urges more
area businesses and residents to contribute toward the completion of this
campaign, and with that, the earliest possible start on development of
this distinctive community asset. Contributions may be sent to The School
House Project, Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society, PO Box 617, Douglas,