Sep 21, 2005

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Ossian Cole (OC) Simonds
(1855 - 1931)



From a howling wilderness in 1835 to a near boom town in the 1860s, the early pioneers –- Plummer, Thompson, Richards, and Perrotet--brought to Pier Cove a quarter century of modest glory. But by the late 1870s the lumber-tannery era was ending. For the next 20 years the area lived by the shipping business which ran from the two open water piers.

As the 19th century came to a close, new pioneers appeared on the scene. These were entrepreneurs who had made their name and fortune mostly in Chicago and to the south of here --they were attracted by the beauty and cool of the Lake Michigan shore. One of these second generation pioneers was Ossian Cole Simonds (1855-1931).

O. C. as he was called, was a first and foremost mid-western landscape architect. An innovator and a visionary, he led the Midwest movement of landscape design. Simonds called for natural preservation for both aesthetic and utilitarian reasons. He was a master creator of parks, a campus and arboretum planner (at both the University of Michigan and Michigan State), and was the designer of the acclaimed Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. In addition he wrote, taught and founded university programs and was the only Midwesterner among the eleven charter members of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

When O C and his close friend James Butler Johnson (1850-1902) arrived in Pier Cove in the late 1880s, the area had been logged off leaving a scrubby ravine of dune land. But the possibilities they saw for the land, the creek, the mill pond, the old mill and the lake shore excited them and they vowed to establish summer homes there. Soon after, Simonds purchased the old mill and began to buy much of the surrounding property. Here he was to apply his ideas and professional landscaping genius. In the following forty years, Simonds, Johnson and other families they attracted to the “The Cove”, transformed it into a most marvelous place.

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