American heroes, the founders of the village of Saugatuck, Mr. and Mrs.
Butler, built themselves a log cabin, it was assumed that such would be
temporary. And it was. By the later 1840s Butler and the growing number of
“pioneers” were moving into better quarters. The style for the time was
called Greek Revival—and it swept through the village, as it had for most of
Michigan. Greek Revival was very much an “American” style (despite its
name)—a simple rectangular box derived from the form of a Greek temple, but
referring to Greece as the place where democracy was founded. Thomas
Jefferson was one of the biggest promoters of this style. His vision was
that it was a way to instill the virtues of simple democratic life in a
rural setting that was to be foremost and forever the foundation of America.
White clapboard, usually a gable to the front, corner pilasters (or porch
columns) and a wide cornice board under the gable.
Shown above are two early examples from the “flats” area of Saugatuck—that
is the Butler-Water Street district where the early settlers built their
houses among the docks and warehouses and early factories. Timothy Coates
was one of Saugatuck’s early lighthouse keepers and merchants. He and his
wife Mary had six sons—several of whom became well-known ship captains. The
house (top left) is a classic example of a rather common Greek
Revival house—gable to the front, white clapboard, with a boldly projecting
roof and corner recessed columns. The porch was added later.
The Kleeman house (top right) was built as a combination residence
and tavern in the years just prior to the Civil War, this structure served
the nearby docks and warehouses which were growing up in the neighborhood.
It has been finely preserved and stands as a fine example of early Saugatuck
Greek Revival architecture. It also stands as a reminder that the “flats”
area had plenty of saloons, and, it was said, one of the most plentiful
supplies of bad whiskey in Michigan—and plenty of customers to go with it.
The village had a “roughhouse gang” as one of the early historians called
it, and certain buildings had assumed an illicit character—including
Kleeman’s Tavern. But it was not the worst. This two-block area centering at
Water and Mason Streets had a good half dozen saloons in 1873. The most
infamous being the “Lake House” the “Union House” and “Miller’s“. The
“Globe” as well as the “Douglas House” tavern in Douglas--known as “rough”
places and often the scene of brawls, license violations and even shootings.
And it was not just men. Women, it was said in 1884, were seen playing pool
in Saugatuck saloons! When Susan B. Anthony brought her temperance campaign
to Saugatuck in 1879 she was successful in shutting down only six of the
village’s fourteen saloons. Following her visit a new village hall (the
present hall—with a jail—at Butler and Culver Streets) was built in the
midst of this tavern district, and “dedicated to temperance". Saloons meant
crime and disturbance, and accounts put forward by the local newspaper
suggest that the local constable was a busy man indeed.
by Jim Schmiechen