June 28, 2006

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Photo ~ 1898
250 Butler Street, Saugatuck

of 1868
447– 445 Butler Street, Saugatuck

KONING HARDWARE STORE of 1904 439 Butler Street, Saugatuck

(continued from last week)

Butler and 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.

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.

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.

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

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