MARCH  2009

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Steve Mottran and Jon Helmrich

Pub Party

Silent Auction


Dear SDHS Members,

It is truly a sign of the end of Winter. The March meeting held at the High School was well attended. We had approximately 60 people join us for the presentation on Cora Bliss Taylor. On Saturday, the Annual St Patrick's Day Pub Party was held at Coral Gables. We had a very good turn out on such a beautiful day. 147 members and friends joined us for dinner, a silent auction, live auction, 50/50 raffle and of course the trip to Las Vegas raffle. Everyone had a chance to get reacquainted after a long winter.

A special note of thanks and gratitude to the following people who worked together this year to make the Pub Party a success. Nancy Woods, Bill Hess, Ken Carls, Fred Schmidt, Janet Ryskamp, Elizabeth Bordenave, Mike Johnson and Theresa Lee of Coral Gables, Larry Van Liere of Pathfinders Travel, Ron Elmore of Open Door Music in Saugatuck, Jack Sheridan and Bob Berger. All the volunteers who worked during the party with, setup, decorating, selling tickets, handing out name badges, directing traffic. An additional thank you to Judy Mauger and Dottie Lyon for offering guidance and incite on the what was done in the past.

We are pleased to announce that the Old School House will be open by April 10th. We have not been able to use the building without an occupancy permit. Now we are not able to use the building during the installation of the elevator. In order to regain occupancy, we needed to complete the elevator installation and some work in the lower level to bring the building up to code. An inspection will be conducted in about two weeks. Next step is to get the doors open for our members and visitors and to work on ways to get the work paid off. We will continue to work to raise funds to finish the lower level. We are pleased that the building will be open for use and we can continue to move forward.

It has taken almost a full year for the new board to review, reinstate polices, projects and programs of the Society. We have a clearer picture of what is being done and what areas need volunteers to pick up and carry on. The Board chose to continue this work through the winter months so that we can keep the momentum going in the right direction. Many volunteers have continued working on the projects in their areas of interest and we thank them for the continued dedication and success. We also welcome our new members and those who wish to become more involved to work together to bring our mission and goals to the community. This will be an exciting year.

I am going to put out the first request for volunteers. It is for the Pub Party. I am not asking for any one person to manage the program, but rather to enlist all who would be interested to sign up so that we can have another great party next year. This is a key event for the community and the Society.

One last thing, as this is getting a bit lengthy. We need your continued support both as volunteers and financially. It is a time of much economic uncertainty, but we have always come together to make it work. Let's continue to be the example and show what a group of dedicated individuals can accomplish with a common goal.

Thank you all.

Best regards, Kathy Sturm, President


Wed., April 8, 7 PM, 2009 Heritage Preservation Awards,  All Saints' Episcopal Church
Wed., May 13, 7 PM, Society Annual Meeting, location to be announced.


While winter naturally diverts our focus to things like holidays, family gatherings, indoor projects or snowbird vacations, the Old School House Discovery Center has quietly moved ahead toward a spring opening, now targeting April 10.

Dangerously weak and dying trees were culled in the first step toward landscaping the 1.16-acre School House grounds for our planned "Back-In-Time" Pathway, which will wind through the site offering six "learning stations" with educational plaques telling about our area's environment and ecology, its maritime and agrarian history, and its architectural heritage.

Old School House Backyard

Operating elements of the elevator were installed, with completion scheduled for late March.

Old School House Elevator Shaft

Drywalling was completed in the lower level, advancing the build-out of spaces to house our Tech Center -- now renamed Historical Archives Digital (HAD) Lab -- plus archive storage, oral-history studio and "Skills Learning Center" where people can learn about archiving, digital imaging, historical research and museum management.

Old School House Lower Level Dry Wall

Backgrounding sessions initiated development of the Center's first exhibit on "Summertime Fun", a project jointly conceived by Saugatuck Middle School 6th grade language arts teacher Wendy Colsen and Historical Society Museum chair Dr. James Schmiechen, for which the students will plan, design, research and produce displays that tell stories about how, when and why various kinds of summer recreation have become so vital to our area.

Jim & Wendy Colsen's class

The students' 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", focusing on art and artifacts documenting the history of leisure and summer life here.

While opening the Discovery Center this spring is a major achievement for which those who supported it can be proud, it does not signal "Mission Accomplished". Finishing the Old School House revitalization remains our Society's top priority and much remains to be done, so fundraising must continue pursuing the goal of fulfilling this project's budget. We have recently received matching grants that cannot be maximized without an equal amount in new donations. Members who have not yet contributed toward the earliest possible completion of this distinctive community asset are urged to do so now. We need your help, and hope to be able to demonstrate 100% participation. Donations may be sent to The Old School House Project, Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society, PO Box 617, Douglas, MI 49406.


The ballots for the annual election for the Society board will be mailed to the membership at the beginning of April. This year, we have two current Members at Large open on the board and a vacancy for President, Kathryn Sturm. A Nominating Committee was appointed in February consisting of both current board members and representatives from the general membership. We presented our recommended slate for this year's election to the Board at the February meeting. We are now sharing with the full membership as we are required to do. At this time, if any member has a suggestion of a person they would like to put into nomination, you may do so by either sending an e-mail to me at:, or by phone: 269.857.3574, or by mail: 3522 64th Street, Saugatuck, MI 49453.

Ballots will be sent out on April 1 for return by April 20 for tabulation. The new board members will be formally sworn in at the May Annual General Membership meeting on Wednesday, May 13. This notice in the newsletter will be received by the full membership and not just to those in attendance at the monthly meeting as has been done in the past. We welcome your input on this important matter.

Following is the Nominating Committee's recommend slate for the open board positions in the April election - all terms are for two-years:

President Harold Thieda
Treasurer Stacy Honson, current Treasurer*
Member at Large Ken Carls, current Member at Large*
Member at Large Tony Vettori, Saugatuck City council member and former mayor
Member at Large James Cook, Saugatuck Township resident and noted photographer
* currently serving a one-year term

 Thank you for your attention to the upcoming elections.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009 Society Meeting

President Kathy Sturm called the meeting to order at 7:09 p.m., congratulated all for locating parking spaces amidst the mass of basketball fans and shared the following announcements:
Over 100 tickets have been sold for the Annual Pub Party, Saturday, March 14 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Fred Schmidt still has raffle and pub tickets available.
All indications are that after elevator installation inspections, the occupancy permit for the Old School House should be reinstated and the building open for use in early April.
RENEW REINSTATE REJUVENATE! Veterans and new volunteers are encouraged to respond, to take over more roles and to expand the Society's goals. Spread the word to all interested in making the 2010 Pub Party a success. Now is the time to enlist for auction gifts, decorating, tickets and advertising. Continue as positive community examples by supporting the Society financially as well as volunteers.

Cora Bliss Taylor
Artist, Cora Bliss Taylor, 1927

Jane Underwood related her memories plus biographical background on Cora Bliss Taylor (1889-1986) and introduced Nancy Beebee, fine arts appraiser, art historian and featured speaker. Nancy explained that Cora Bliss Taylor’s formal training began at age 11, continued under the best artists, how she opened her studio in Saugatuck, loved working with young children, inspired her students (including Jane, Nancy and many in attendance), spoke to audiences often, exhibited everywhere from Saugatuck to Chicago to the world's fair and that her legacy is prolific. Nancy was very articulate in demonstrating through the varied art samples brought in by members the whimsical, pastoral, geometric and emotional diversity of each piece of art and urged everyone to place known information in an envelope on the back of each painting for posterity.     Jane Osman


Navy in Saugatuck
Navy in Saugatuck
Navy in Saugatuck
Commercial Record, August 17, 1956

Watt's Cottage
Click on image for a higher resolution copy

The door panel shown above from the Watt's Cottage in Shorewood is one of most interesting and unusual "historical records" we have seen and will make a striking addition to the 2009 "Summertime" Museum Exhibition. There is a good deal of family and community information here, but one piece that stands out is the little drawing and notation: "Naval Invasion" an event we know very little about and its happening was suggested by the attached Commercial Record article at the beginning of this story. Thanks to the Watt family.  Jim Schmiechen


After a break of several years, the society hosted a "SDHS 101" session last fall at the Old School House Discovery Center. The response was great, and now there are plans for four sessions to be held this year, with the first one planned for Saturday, April 22nd.

New members and former members who are interested in learning about the organization and its history, as well as opportunities for volunteering, are invited to attend. The meeting will include an informational session at 10:00 a.m. at the OSHDC and then a trip to the Museum to take a peak at the new "Super Map."

Anyone interested in attending should contact Nyla Hensley by calling 269-857-5704 or emailing  If you are unable to participate in this session, additional meetings are planned for June 27, August 22, and October 24. Come with your curiosity and talents to see how you can contribute to our great organization!


The other day, Bob Erickson of Cheshire, CT was looking on the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society “Photo Blog”. Imagine his surprise when he recognized a chair that has been in his family for most of the last century!

There it was, this wicker "photographer bench" in a circa 1899 photo of Saugatuck lighthouse keeper Charles Baker and his wife. The photographer was identified as "Baker - Saugatuck, Mich." A little historical sleuthing in the Commercial Record revealed that photographer William Baker opened for business on April 20, 1899, in Miller Robinson’s building, on the southwest Corner of the Saugatuck town square. He returned in 1905 to take photos over the summer season, again in Robinson's building. As the chair also appears in a 1901 baby photo of Bob's Uncle Douglass Bryan, I assume that it may have been a part of the Robinson studio furnishings at that time.

Mr. & Mrs. George Baker
Mr. & Mrs. George Baker ca1899

1899 Commercial Record Ad
1899 Commercial Record Ad

Bob writes: "That Photographer's Bench (now in our condo) I believe was (later) in the Simonson Photo Studio. I remember the studio being along the north side of Culver Street running east from the Town Hall to the building that housed the Town Garage. My dad's welding shop (A.G.E Weld & Repair) was just around that corner. (Note: Bob's parents were George and Lillian (Bryan) Erickson of Saugatuck. In the summer of 1906, Herman Simonson finished his training at the Illinois College of Photography and opened his studio in July. The building Bob describes has more recently been home of "The Loaf and Mug".)

"I believe that Simonson was an nth cousin to my grandmother Ellen Serena (Olsen) Bryan. When that photography style went out of favor, the bench ended up in the Bryan's Rosemont Resort. As a boy, I vaguely remember it sitting in the parlor. After my grandmother's death, my aunt Nellie (Bryan) Howlett claimed it. It came to my parents when Nellie moved in with them, and to us when I sold Lillian's Saugatuck residence at 331 Grand St. The Bench is in remarkably good shape. We brought it here in 1986 with a few other pieces of furniture."

The Photographer Bench
The "Photographer Bench" Today

Saugatuck folks may move away, but they carry their memories along with them, and sometimes a grand old chair.

Browse through the Society's "Photo Blog" yourself. Go to the Society's web site and click on Image Blog.

by Jack Sheridan

1905 Panorama

This original six foot photo was recently discovered by R.J. Peterson in his attic. He had it framed by the frame shop, Framing for Friends, in the Weathervane Mall, Douglas. Mr. Peterson has generously donated a digital copy of this image for the Society's database. A framed duplicate one piece archival quality image was auctioned at the Society's Annual Pub Party on Saturday, March 14, 2009.

Dick Haight, SDHS historical camera expert, is certain that this panoramic photograph was taken by an early Cirkut camera. The photo was made from the top of Mt. Baldhead in 1905, by a professional who had a substantial investment in the camera and film. The photographer may have made his living by creating this type of unique image

Cirkut Camera

Rotating panoramic cameras were first made about 1857. Kodak Cirkut Cameras, were popular and first introduced in 1907. The cameras were originally made by The Century Camera Co. of Rochester, NY. The Century Company was soon bought by Eastman Kodak Co. and the cameras were manufactured by a division of that company. The Cirkut Camera was made in a number of different sizes. They used roll film from 5” X 24” up to 16” by 20 feet. The cameras were powered by a spring wound clockwork. Two different methods were used to regulate the speed of the motor. The first used small air resistance fans attached to the bottom of the camera. The larger the fan, the slower the motor would go. Later, a ball governor device mounted inside the body of the camera was used.

A true panoramic picture could be taken using a Cirkut camera. The Cirkut Camera internal motor pulls film past a vertical slot counter-clockwise at a pre-selected speed.

At the same time, the motor rotates the camera itself in the opposite direction (clockwise) on the geared tripod at the same relative speed that the roll film is moving past the exposure slot. Thus, that portion of film being exposed is, in effect, stationary. The standard camera was capable of taking pictures at different angles of view, including a 360 degree single exposure.

Mt. Baldhead Observation Tower

Quality photos of Saugatuck taken from the top of Mt. Baldhead have long been made. The oldest known was taken in 1874. These photos are favorites of historians because through them we see snapshots of our history. Recently my research assistant, Marvin Mundane, came to me with a photo of a large camera set up on the tower atop Baldhead. Was this camera used to make some of these wonderful images? Or has Marvin's technological imagination simply run amuck again in order to create a History Mystery.

by Jack Sheridan
(Click on an image for the answer)

History Mystery
HISTORY: ca 1918 A barge full of baskets from the Weed basket factory in Douglas.
MYSTERY: Where was the photo taken?

History Mystery
HISTORY: ca 1910 Once the busy route of fruit framers now a quiet lane past the cemetery.
MYSTERY: Name the cemetery.

History Mystery
HISTORY: Baseball was taken seriously in 1905.
MYSTERY: Name the photo location. Recognize anybody?

History Mystery
HISTORY: Part of a depression era stimulus plan.
MYSTERY: What is going on here?


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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