BUTLER STREET AS A HOSTORICAL ARTIFACT
(continued from last week)
Center Street merchants have always put on a good show. Last week we
featured the Landmark (now Kilwin’s) and the Stimson (extinct) buildings
that were quite stylish “Commercial Italianate” buildings for their day and
must have caused quite a stir. But the more common Henry Schnobel shop front
further along the same street is perhaps more representative of what most
merchants could afford. Indeed, Schnobel’s friendly appearing double-door
front with double plate glass windows appears to be the standard
architectural formula for Butler Street. By 1900 these storefronts were
being replaced by even grander fronts—as we see with the new Koning (now
Wilkins) hardware building.
HENRY SCHNOBEL’S STORE
Bird cages, tin pots, and pistols. This shop front tells us
something about how people learned to aspire to and chose material objects.
H. Schnobel’s “Hardware, Stoves, Tinware, Cutlery, &c.” store (as it was
advertised in the local newspaper) was a Butler Street institution from its
establishment in about 1872 until the close of the century. The local press
frequently noted the store’s handsome and well painted front as well as Mr.
Schnobel’s wide offering of household appliances—such as stoves and washing
machines, several of which appear to be displayed here. Henry Schnobel was
active in civic affairs and was on the Democratic side of the political
fence. The boy is most likely Henry’s son Adolph Schnobel. This wood
structure was replaced by smaller brick building—next to the present East of
the Sun building on the corner of Butler and Hoffman Streets.
NIES - KONING’S HARDWARE STORE
The original store. From its beginning this Butler Street 1868
store had the latest and widest range of services and products, including
everything from burial caskets and spokes for wagon wheels to building
materials and hardware. It was described in 1880 as “large enough to hold
the hardware stock for all of Allegan County.” At the time when many German
immigrants were showing up in the area, it acted as agent for the
Hamburg-New York Steamship Lines and offered “all foreign money orders”.
Destroyed by a fire that originated in the implements building (to the left
in the photograph above) in the winter of 1903 —partly because the fire
department hoses froze.
KONING HARDWARE STORE
Shortly after the fire we see John Koning’s new store of 1904, of the now
familiar red brick, with white bands of galvanized iron. Koning’s Hardware
Store (founded as Nies Hardware in 1868) is Saugatuck’s oldest existing
retail business. The new “John Koning Hardware” was the ultimate in modern
for its day—complete with one of Michigan’s earliest “counter-weight”
elevators. The unusually tall brick building was crowned with a bold cornice
and with the village’s largest plate-glass windows—giving it a definite
“commercial Italianate” appeal. Today it is Wilkins Hardware store and looks
much as it did in 1904, with an agreeably designed addition to the rear—and
it still offers about anything one would need, including good advice.
The upper floor was used by various renters, including the local Christian
Science Society before they built their own structure nearby on the village
square. Architect: J. H. Daverman and Son by Jim Schmiechen