THE BIG PAVILION – MIDDLE YEARS
from Chicago and St. Louis sparked the summer economy and in spite of the
depression Saugatuck and the Big Pavilion remained a bright spot on the west
shore of Lake Michigan. Management hard work and innovation paid off.
Instead of having one orchestra perform all summer name bands were brought
in to perfrom in weekly succession. Special events were broadcast live and
direct from the floor of the big dance hall. Souvenirs were offered as a
come-on. “Bank of Joy” night offered cash prizes. On “Lindberg Night” 2000
toy aeroplanes were dropped from the rafters. In 1930 the movie theater
installed a Western Electric sound system (“Where sound sounds best” – the
ad line ran), cushioned seats and an Arctic Nu-Air circulating air system.
The movie feature changed nitely.
In the spring of 1936 Elmer Deac Weed died at the age of 72. He had been an
original incorporator and a driving force behind the business for thirty
years. George F. Barrett, an investor and prominent Chicago attorney, then
became active, along with sons George, Robert and Tom. In 1938 the Barretts
obtained a liquor license and created “The Dock” - a bar and restaurant with
organ music - it was located beneath the dance floor in the northwest
quadrant of the structure. The décor was elegant – paneled and polished
walls and a marble top bar, in front of a mirrored wall. The river side wall
had windows looking out on a wide boardwalk-dock. A posh place indeed:
“Sparkling drinks, charcoal broiled dinners and entertainment…” the
advertising bragged. Strollers on the dock lusted to the sound of the
Hammond organ music and the odor of sizzling steaks and beer wafting
On summer weekends, a Big Pavilion berth was reputed to be the choicest
mooring spot on the Great Lakes. For weekend fun, what more did a yachtsman
need? They came… and made the Big Pavilion and The Dock a legend.
by Jack Sheridan
My thanks to
Kit Lane and her book “Saugatuck’s Big Pavilion:
The Brightest Spot on the Great Lakes”.