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Dear SDHS Members,

Happy New Year. I hope that you enjoyed your holidays. We have a lot going on over the forthcoming months and as mentioned in this issue of the E-News. The Pub Party, the grant money we have received and events that you will want to put on your calendars.

We have received funds from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Preserve America grants so that we can move forward, when the weather improves to begin work on the Back-In-Time project and the HADLab. Both are important aspects of the entire Old School House Discovery Center. We continue to move forward to bring many projects and programs of value to our community.

One of the steps toward completion is the elevator. The elevator was delivered the end of December and we hope to have it fully operational over the coming weeks. We will keep you posted on the progress and completion of these projects.

I would like to take a moment here and thank each and every member of the SDHS Board and staff for their endless dedication during this time of restructure. Much was asked of these individuals and all have gone above and beyond to ensure the continued success of the Society. I would also like to thank the many volunteers and members who support SDHS. Our success and value to the community is owed to all of you.

I wish to share with all of you that I will not be able to consider a new two year term as President. The role and responsibility as President of this Society and my duties as a full-time employee with the Society of Architectural Historians does not allow me the time necessary, in my opinion, to devote to both successfully. It has been a privilege to serve and thank all of you for your guidance, support and friendship.

As Carol Burnett used to sing at the end of her show, I too would like to convey that “I’m so glad we had this time together, to have a laugh and sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it; comes the time we have to say, so long.”

I look forward to seeing all of you soon.

Best regards, Kathy Sturm



Family History, Wednesday, February 11, 7 PM at The Old School House - come and learn how to get started (or continue) researching your family history using information available on the internet.

This session is both for the beginner and the accomplished family historian. You’ll receive an overview of some of the tools available on the internet, such as the Society's "On-Line Research Center". Volunteers will work with you on a computer. Bring any material you have found already, and a laptop ,if you have one.

Celebrate the life of Cora Bliss Taylor, Wednesday, March 11, 7 PM at The Old School House

Cora Bliss Taylor

Heritage Preservation

Heritage Preservation Awards, Wednesday, April , 7 PM at The Old School House


For the past few months the Board has been wrestling

Society Projects

Fwith putting mechanisms in place for overseeing the Society’s many projects and financial resources while preserving and nurturing the passion of its dedicated volunteers.

Ken Carls and Fred Schmidt have established a set of Guidelines and a Project Proposal Form which are available on the Society’s website. These will be used for all new projects proposed within the Society.

However there are close to 50 projects that are underway and need to be better understood by the Board so that appropriate financial oversight and priority setting can be clarified. A first cut at the current Society Project Inventory is currently being evaluated by the Working Team Lead Volunteers. Stay tuned


Preserve America logo
MCACA logo

Over the past month, we have received $5,000 of our $12,500 grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for the Historical Archives Digital Lab (HADLab) at the Old School House. These funds will have to be matched by the Society.
We also received a $13,900 partial payment for our Preserve America grant. The total award is $23,265. These funds will be used for the Back-In-Time: Tales of the Village Pathway Project to create six “story stops” along an outdoor walk on the Old School House “yard” (six city lots), with views of the historic Lake Michigan harbor. The tour continues indoors as a virtual tour with an additional 3 story stops.

Oval Beach
Oval Beach Parking Lot - 1959

Also this month, we will submitting a Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural affairs mini-grant to support this year's museum exhibit tentatively titled Summertime: One Hundred Years of Leisure at the Lake Michigan Shore as well as the publication of a book on The Big Pavilion.

The Pavilion


We have had a really good start to our 2009 membership drive. Nearly 50% of our membership letters have been answered with 2009 membership fees paid. Many members have contributed more than the required amount - THANK YOU! Also, several "life members" made additional contributions - thank you for your continued support and guidance.

Now for those who have not yet joined for 2009; please renew. This is going to be an outstanding year for your Society. Activities at the Old school House will continue to increase and the museum exhibit for this year will be fabulous. Join the fun and socialization at the many events we have planned. Look forward to seeing you this season.

Ed Kelly, Membership Development Team member


Mary Ann Curtis

Thanks to John Shack and Jack Sheridan, on 9/23/08 & 10/29/08, Mary Ann (Johnson) Curtis was interviewed in her home overlooking Lake Michigan in Pier Cove. A video recording was made when a deeper look at her life was documented.

Her home is filled with family photos, albums, scrapbooks, and years of diverse Curtis and Johnson family artifacts. Mary Ann’s warmth, humor and vivaciousness seasoned the fascinating story she so readily shared. Click HERE for more.


Pub Party

Each year the Society’s annual Pub Party marks the first fun event of the new year. The party will be held at Coral Gables on Saturday, March 14 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm - 6:30 cash bar and viewing of auction items and 7:30 dinner and live auction follows dinner.

The menu will feature a traditional corned beef dinner or a vegetarian option. The highlight of the evening will again be the trip raffle. This year the raffle winner will be able to try the luck of the Irish in fabulous Las Vegas! Airfare, three nights of hotel accommodations on The Strip and airport transfers for two are included in the trip. (The trip must be completed by December 15, 2009 and other rules and restrictions will apply.) One raffle ticket is included with each Pub Party ticket. Additional tickets are $10 or 3 for $25.

Also, as before, there will be a vast array of items available in both the silent and live auctions. New this year is a “50/50 raffle” in which the winner and the Society share in the prize. Fifty-fifty tickets will be $1 each or 6 for $5.

Tickets to the Pub Party are $25 per person. The last date to purchase Pub Party tickets is March 6. Raffle tickets can be purchased up to March 14. You can purchase Pub Party and raffle tickets now by calling (269) 857-5751. (Credit Cards accepted for phone orders.) Tickets will be available at Uncommon Grounds in Saugatuck or the Respite Coffee Shop in Douglas at a later date. Hope to see you there.


Jack Sheridan

Did anyone find a shiny new camera in their Christmas stocking this year? Chances are it’s a digital camera that can take amazing pictures that you can save, print, or email to friends.

If anyone has a film camera today it’s probably forgotten somewhere in the attic or buried in a closet. Today it’s a virtual antique - a relic of bygone days.

But there was a day when film was king and played an important role in Saugatuck’s history - capturing and preserving early days and memories for succeeding generations.

Many of those early pictures have been preserved, itemized, and digitally stored in the Society's Tech Center. The person responsible for supervising the film archives is Society volunteer Jack Sheridan, who has worn many hats as a volunteer.

Jack’s early experience in working with film began in Saugatuck in the 1950’s. Jack was a teenage high school student in Calumet, Michigan where his father was the high school principal - putting an extra burden on Jack to behave in school. The Sheridan family spent summers in Saugatuck where Jack found employment at Carlton Simonson’s Photo Studio on Culver street - in the building that later housed "The Loaf & Mug."

Jack recalls the photo business as catering to locals and tourists alike. People would bring their film in to be developed - the Simonson studio only handled B&W film; color film or slides needed to be sent to Kodak for processing. Customers dropping off film would receive their prints and negatives the following day.

The Simonson studio consisted of a customer reception area where film was dropped off and prints picked up, a photo studio where portraits were taken, and a darkroom in the basement where film was developed and prints made.

These days Jack Sheridan and his tech staff store and preserve photos - both black and white and color. Those who bring photo prints to be preserved will receive their originals back along with a CD of their images for safe keeping and viewing on their computer or TV. Stop in the Tech Center and ask Jack about his early days in the photo business at the Simonson Studio.     by Rob Carey

Simonson Studio
Simonson Studio ca 1954


The year 2008 has been a very fruitful and rewarding year at the SDHS archives. In spite of our cramped work space in the lower level of the Dutcher Lodge much has been accomplished.

Chris Yoder finished scanning all the available (to us) Commercial Record Newspapers from 1868 to 1959 (36,000 pages, all on-line). In addition, he has assembled over 15,000 files (about 3.5 gigabytes) of local history information and made them available in the "SDHS On-Line Research Center" at the SDHS web site. Thanks go to Howard Vanderbeck for scanning almost 1,000 old Douglas Hospital records, Charles Hancock and Pam Aalderink for photographing over 2,000 gravestones each, and Mary Lyons for scanning all the pages of The History of Western Allegan County Michigan (remaining copies and all rights now owned by the SDHS).

As the registrar for the collection, this year I recorded 23 separate accessions. Some of them had only one or two items, others contained dozens. In all we added more than 100 items to the archives not counting hundred’s more photographs, all of them with ties to local history. Some examples of items added were: paintings done by local artists, drawings by Burr Tillstrum, a menu from the Corner Bar, a bumper sticker from the Old Crow, a unique 1920s souvenir of Camp Gray, a diploma and graduation photos of the Douglas School class of 1943, and 1950s posters and programs from the Red Barn Theater. Recently a box of items pertaining to the Big Pavilion was donated. All these items have a story to tell and we hope in the years ahead to use these things to bring the story to you, either as part of an exhibit or for your own personal research. The theme for the 2009 exhibit is Summertime: A Century of Leisure along the Lake Michigan Shore, so you can see how these donations will fit right in to that.

Early Readers

The Back in Time Locker Project at the Old School House Discovery Center is planned and will be built soon. A big thank you to those who have offered items for the lockers. We have received a number of old Saugatuck school text books dating from 1860 to 1960s, as well as vintage high school science equipment. What fun to compare these with what is being used today. Teaching has certainly seen changes over the years.

Balance Scale   Microscope

Looking ahead to 2009, we hope sometime this year to move most of the collection as well as our archival processing area to the lower level of the Old School House Discovery Center. There researchers will be able to have better access to the collection and it will help those of us working with it to do our job more effectively and efficiently. Your donation dollars will make this a reality and are much appreciated!

The SDHS Archival Group: Chris Yoder, Mary Lyons, Jack Sheridan, John Shack, Harold Thieda and Mary Voss, thanks you for your donations and support. More volunteers in the archives are always welcome. Contact us at Also, if you haven't sent in your volunteer hours for 2008, please do so now by replying to this email

by John Peters

SAUGATUCK, JAN. 23, 2009 -- Preparations for the first exhibit at the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society's Old School House Discovery Center began this month, as groups of sixth-graders from Douglas Elementary School took turns visiting the Center to learn about exhibit creation and share thoughts about what has made their community a summertime vacation destination with nationwide attraction. The Discovery Center and its first exhibit are targeted to open in mid-May, exact date yet to be determined.

Given the theme "Summertime Fun", in a project conceived by Douglas Elementary 6th grade language arts teacher Wendy Colsen and Historical Society Museum chair Dr. James Schmiechen, retired Central Michigan University historian, the students will plan, design, research and produce displays that tell stories about how, when and why various kinds of summer recreation have come to characterize our area.

Student Group
Douglas Elementary School 6th graders (L to R) Cody Shriel, Jordan Overway and Reese Bohn listen as Historical Society's
Dr. James Schmiechen explains resources available for exhibit development.


Student Group
Douglas Elementary School 6th graders (L to R) Nick McDuff, Connor Rasmussen, Fya Redinger, Shanna Strowenjans, Jennifer Kelly and Michaela Sweigart discuss potential topics for exhibit displays with Historical Society's Dr. James Schmiechen.

The Discovery Center exhibit will expand upon and add a different perspective to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Museum's major exhibit for 2009, "100 Years of Summertime and Fun", which will focus on art and artifacts documenting the history of leisure and summer life here.

"Working on a collaborative project with the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society is always such an exciting process for the kids," Colsen says. "They learn so many invaluable skills that apply to a real world setting, and the public presentation steps up the expectations for them. My favorite part is watching them get excited to do research each day and also the look of pride on their faces when they are showing their work to the public on opening night."

The assignment has gained extra relevance with the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently naming Saugatuck-Douglas one of it's "Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2009".

As the students discussed their exhibit's possibilities during the kick-off meeting, they also learned about new resources available to aid their research, including recent additions to the Historical Society web site,, such as the "Image Blog", showing historical photos, and the "On-Line Research Center", a growing compilation of digitized Society archives.

The Historical Society has been refurbishing the Old School House since early in 2007, aimed at preserving and converting the building into a community resource where children and adults alike can explore the area's genealogy, history, culture, ecology and architecture through recreational activities, educational programs, special events and access to the Society's growing archive of local artifacts, photos, records and newspapers.


To become a member or renew your membership select from the following categories:

Individual $25
Household $45
Senior (65+) $18
Senior Household $30
Student $5
Corporate $150
Life, Individual $300
Life, Household $500

Send check payable to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society to: PO Box 617, Douglas, Michigan 49406. You can also click HERE for a Society Membership Application.

Send items for the newsletter to: Fred Schmidt, PO Box 617, Douglas MI 49406 or email


The Saugatuck-Historical Museum is located in the historic Pump House at the foot of Mt. Baldhead on the west bank of the Kalamazoo River. The Museum is currently closed and will open Memorial Day weekend 2009 with a new exhibit tentatively titled:

"Summertime: One Hundred Years of Leisure at the Lake Michigan Shore"

The Society's Technology Center is open Monday from 1 to 4 p.m., Tuesdays 10 a.m. to noon and Wednesday 9 a.m. to noon.

Society Phone: 269 857-5751
Museum Phone: 269 857-7900
Tech Center Phone 269 857-7901

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