Back to Previous Page

History Lives Here Text

Creating a New Picture of the GriffithHouse


It takes facts and pictures, from many places to piecetogether a realistic picture of the area in times past. In the May newsletterwe ran a letter written in 1976 by Jeanette (Walker) Barr, daughter ofDr. R. J. Walker who served Saugatuck 1895 to 1943. Jim Schmiechen, whohas done some work with the building survey, put some of her informationtogether with pieces drawn from other places to bring a more-rounded picture ofthe house on the corner Griffith Street across from the Methodist Church.


First the paragraph from Mrs. Barr:


John F. Henry was my mother's uncle.... His home isnow occupied by a Mr. Coe, I believe, a brother of Mrs. Fred Koning. Itformerly belonged to one of the big shots in the O. R. Johnson mill and the two houses, adjacent and aroundcorner from it were once part of it. It was always painted dark red in the olddays. The Big Pavilion orchestra men roomed in the 2nd floor rooms every summerfor many years.

Second, the letter from Jim Schmiechen:


Dear Newsletter Editor,


John and Isabel Henry (he, a partner in Griffin andHenry Lumber Company) lived at 227 Griffith Street (now Twin Oaks Inn). Heserved as village president and a member of the Michigan House ofRepresentatives.


The house at one time probably served as a boardinghouse as well -- for lumber workers, I suspect, but Mrs. Barr confirms that itboarded the musicians from the Big Pavilion. If you look at a 1901 birds eyemap you will see that the house appears to have its front facing toward Masonstreet -- with a big front lawn -- and indeed, as Mrs. Barr claims, it appearsto be larger than it is today, hence the claim that some parts of it were movedaround the corner.


The house raises some interesting questions (again) abouthow people housed themselves. Here it appears that the original owner (a millowner?) followed the local practice of providing boarding facilities in his ownhouse for his workers. The butchers appear to have done this in Douglas (seethe newly discovered photo of the butcher 'mansion' in the new book Snapshots:A Saugatuck Album) and this was the case with Mr. Judson at 607 Butler (a houselater owned by the Heath family and now Mr. and Mrs. Valleau's house).


Some of the early townspeople did not like thisarrangement of workers living-in. As we see in Raising the Roof, S. A. Morrisonactually gave the land for the village's first hotel because he did not likethe idea of workers living with local families. Thanks for reprinting Mrs.Barr's interesting letters.


Jim Schmiechen