June 15, 2005

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Baldhead - aspot to see it all! Lucky we are to be able to climb the 282 steps to the top to gaze down on the Michigan Lake shoreline, Oval Beach and almost see Milwaukee on a clear day. To the east a panorama that includes the majestic river Kalamazoo, Saugatuck and its photogenic waterfront treat your view. Look to south to see Douglas and the Keewatin.

A couple thousand years ago when the level of Lake Michigan dropped a few hundred feet, a Sahara-like strip of lake bottom lay exposed. Northwest winds, still blowing, pushed the sand - grain by grain - toward the ever-flowing waters of the Kalamazoo River. When finally the shifting dunes reached the river, nature called a truce!

The big dune has always been a landmark but at first it was not appreciated for tourism value. With the big pines logged off, the village began to lose its mills. It was then that the residents began to value the natural wonders that would be the basis of its economic future in the 20th century. Evidence appeared in the August 15, 1884 issue of the Lakeshore Commercial. A front page article announced completion of the first stairs up Mount Baldhead.

"The stairway up Baldhead will be finished ere the close of the week. This is made in sections of about fifty feet interspersed with cool and shady resting places, when the climber can start aloft with renewed vigor. It is four feet wide, with eight inch risers, each step being of 2 in. plank, 12 inches in width, the whole structure strong and well put together. The more we look into the matter, the more firmly we become convinced that this is Saugatuck's golden opportunity, and we are glad to note that the park project meets the popular favor that it does."

A month later the paper noted that a tower had been built which enhanced the view so much as to cause "ecstasies of delight".

"The observatory on the crest of Baldhead is forty feet higher than the top of the hill, giving an unobstructed view of the country in every direction. A flag staff forty feet in height will be placed upon this, and a Chicagoan who went into ecstasies of delight when he reached the top has agreed to send over a flag worthy of the park enterprise."

Today, we are especially lucky from a historical record standpoint (note the 1874 panorama at the top of this page, for instance) as the view attracted many to record the scene on glass plate, film and now digitally!  by Jack Sheridan


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The Wheeler family ca 1885

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