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History Lives Here Text

Some Went This Way

In 1945 Chicago artist and printmaker Ralph Fletcher Seymourpublished a book entitled: Some Went This Way: A Forty Year Pilgrimage AmongArtists, Bookmen and Printers. In it he describes the art world of Chicagobeginning about 1900, covering many of the artists who were important to theSaugatuck area. First, he describes the general life in one of America'sfastest growing cities.

City life was undergoing radical changes. Thousands ofstrangers swarmed into them, who did not care for American institutions orstandards. Cities became less attractive centers, life less pleasant and morecomplicated. Boulevards were jammed with automobiles, congested districtsoverflowed into one-time exclusive sections, continual din, ever present dirt andconglomerate associates for children influenced many to pick up and moveelsewhere... Some of my friends went back to live with nature because theycould not remain happy in the city.

He describes artist enclaves founded at the time includingvisits to Indiana with Frank Wilstach, a school by founded by Jens Jensen inthe upper part of the Green Bay peninsula in Wisconsin, Frank Lloyd Wright atTalesien. Then he moves on to Michigan:

There is yet another retreat and school, materialized bythose who have been my friends. It lies on the big lake's eastern shore, justoutside the village of Saugatauk [sic]. When I think of it I think ofJohn Norton and Thomas Tallmadge, who did much to make it what it now is.Naturally attractive features surround the place. A few old pine trees an ahillside facing a wide and placid river, behind them many acres of forest,glade and ridge, great dunes of white sand, one or two of which are notablebecause they are so-called traveling dunes, and in their laps Goshorn Lake, andLake Michigan beyond and miles of soft, clean sand beach on which long waves ofsurf glow and spend; a great marsh and a fabulous buried city, once thelumbering town of Singapore; all these are part of the lay-out into whichNorton and Tallmadge moved many years ago, to build retreats for themselves andtheir friends. The Kalamazoo river makes a great bend around the spot wherethey located, cutting it away from the nearby town. this river is crossed by anancient ferry with windlass and iron cable. On the top of a sand ridge standsan abandoned house in the wind swept rooms of which may still be founds apiano, kitchen dishes and even bedroom furnishing, it being to hard to lug themback into circulation. The Saugatauk Summer Art School hold forth at the placewhere Norton and Tallmadge built their cottages. Norton used to teach classesthere, Tallmadge kept the school alive by diligent, zealous interest in itswelfare. Francis Chapin is now its head instructor. About fifty boys and girlsspend a few summer months in cottages or hot old hotel reams, finding out howto paint in the chapin way, making lithographs, modelling in wax or clay,swimming, going to night beach parties on the lake shore. Otta Schneider and Iwent there for our first visit in 1915, the summer after our return fromFrance, as guests of Tom Tallmadge. Each succeeding summer until death removedfirst John Norton and then Tom Tallmadge this place was the summer home forthese two and a week-end paradise for nee. John liked nothing better than tostart a small fire, out under the

pines, at dusk and sit before it until long into the night,talking on art, women and other mysteries. Friends came to this camp and schooleach summer. Among those counted on as "steadies" were Albert Shaver,Arthur Bissell, Eames McVeagh, Jarvis Hunt, Charles West, Harry Bigelow andJoseph Ryerson. I did not fail to get there two or three times each year untilTallmadge died in a railroad accident in the year 1940.

Back of their cottages in the forest glade called "TheTemple" stand three large hemlock trees. 0n one is affixed a bronze plaquebearing this inscription

NATURE FIRST HE LOVED AND AFTER NATURE ART

This is in memory of John Norton, whose ashes are scatteredthere among the fee roots. On a second tree is a similar plaque in memory ofThomas Tallmadge and the third bears another in memory of Frederick Fursman,who was the head of the school for many years until his recent death. I have aninterest in these plaques for John's was designed and modelled by me, Tom's wasmodelled by Marion Reed after my design; the third she both designed andmodelled.

He ends his discussion of the artists and the back-to-naturemovement:

Thus artists come and go; the dance ends, the pen rusts, theworn brush is laid aside, the ideologies they helped form change; suddenly anew world, busier than any before, stands revealed. It seems to care not at allfor past thoughts and deeds, on which, however, it is built. The dull arts,whose work has just recently been taken down from the permanent exhibition atthe Art Museum, lives effectively in the understanding by which his modernsuccessor produces just what the Doctor ordered for today's needs.

Some of the tall hemlock trees which formed the natural"temple" in the woods between Ox-Bow and the Kalamazoo River have, inthe last ten years, succumbed to old age and weather and the plaques have beenremoved. What is left of The Temple is still a very special place.