October 25, 2007

Saugatuck-Douglas Old School House renovation aims to LEED

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Since it was built in 1866 as one of the Federal Union schools that were established around the country at that time, the Old School House has seen a number of uses, most recently as a four-unit apartment building.

Now the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society is knee-deep in transforming the two-story structure into a place where residents can explore the area's history, investigate their family roots, and learn about the region's culture, ecology, and architecture through artifacts and photos.

"The school sits on six city blocks on one of the main gateways into town," says John Peters, member of the Society's task force committee. "It's one of the finest examples of school architecture in the country."

The Society purchased the school last October, and began renovations in May with LEED certification in mind. They gutted the interior and recycled most of the materials, reinforced the foundation, replaced exterior walkways, and repaired a two-story porch off the rear of the building. The next steps are to rebuild the second story into commercial space for lease next spring.

Plans for the main level include a Discovery Center and Creation Station where visitors can create their own exhibits using family photos and memorabilia, a visitors' center, bookstore, welcome center, and a genealogy room. The lower level will be the technical center and archive storage for the Historical Society.

"The grounds behind the school will have a looping walkway leading to different stations—a small orchard, a restored civil war Francis Lifeboat, an architectural display about the architecture in Saugatuck-Douglas, and gardens with historic plants," Peters adds.

Source: John Peters, Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society (courtesy photo)

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Neighborhoods: Saugatuck - Douglas