With the Tulip Festival under way to the north, and Blossomtimebecoming an institution to the south, Saugatuck began casting around for itsown flower in 1937 and settled on the iris.
The local garden club promoted extensive plantings on public groundsand on the approaches to the village and encouraged homeowners to plant iris intheir front yards. That first year it was estimated that 12,000 rhizomes (likea root) were added to the village decor. "All with the laudable purpose ofmaking the town still more attractive," according to the March, 1937 issueof the Horticultural News.
The followingyear a small Iris Festival was scheduled for celebration in June, 1938.
The iris was a natural. It was a favorite project of Eric E."Ed" Nies who had been born in Saugatuck in1884, one of 13 children born to John and Johanna (Kruisenga)Nies. Following his discharge from the Union army in1864 the elder Nies had opened a hardware store inSaugatuck. In 1894 he sold his sharein the business to his partner, John Koning, andmoved to
Ed Nies worked in the hardware store as ayoung man but went to Michigan State College where he was an outstandingpitcher for the baseball team and studied botany. He was married in
He became a landscape architect and was known for his use of flowerbeds, especially the bearded iris. One kind of iris, the Spuria,became his absorbing interest and he developed many new varieties. One of hisnew plants was known as the "
Whenthe Iris Festival was founded, and later in the early 1950's when iris growing in Saugatuck met with a revival, a specialeffort was made to grow the Saugatuck Iris which had to be ordered from a fewwestern nurseries where they were propagated. The Saugatuck Iris was a fairlylarge lavender iris with gray overtones. It was first introduced in 1941 by the
Mrs. Marion R. Walker of the American Iris Society, wrote, "TheAmerican Iris Society has established the Eric NiesAward for the best spuria produced each year in theworld. Some of the Nies progeny have won thisaward." -- KL
Willard Prentice of Timonium, Maryland, who grew up in Douglas whilehis father was head of the Saugatuck Fruit Exchange, sends excerpts from acouple of letters his grandfather wrote to his nephew, Warren Prentice
To Warren, Wife and Family.
Well I think I have put it off long enough, so will try to make a fewcrow tracks and call it a letter.. .
Well we are jogging along after the old fashion. Betsey is pretty wellmost of the time. Eva is here most half the time. They get up at 4 o'clock gettheir breakfast and she gets over here a little after sunrise and do
Theycommenced last fall to put thru that electric road from
They got abouttwo miles done and stopped for want of iron. Perhaps they will go with it againin the spring I don't know. If they
get the road throughit will be easy to get here, come to
"Betsey" is Betsey (Burdick) Prentice (1839-1921),
Jan. 19, 1910
... Joe waselected Treasurer for this Township and that requires a great amount of writingand figuring especially where there is so much non resident land. He had to bein Douglas part of the time and in Saugatuck part of the time and there was agreat many came here to pay their taxes and between the tax payers and othervisitors it has kept things on a whirl most of the time. Well there was many thingscame here for Christmas. . . icould not remember them all ... but I remember the knit shauland allso
Betseyand Ida send love.
Joseph Prentice (1877-1961) was
Joseph and Ida Prentice had only one child, Willard Jenison Prentice,who became an engineer and worked 40 years for the
Archive contributions have slowed down a little, but it's nice to havea breather with the exhibit work in progress.
One recent contribution was a full uncut sheet of original SingaporeBank money with the four unsigned bills of $1, $2, $3, and $S denominationsprinted together on a single sheet.
Theyare in mint condition and will need to be encapsulated in some manner forpreservation. The have been in the safekeeping of a member and are a truly raregift. We hope to display this sheet for all to enjoy in the permanent exhibitspace in the South Gallery this summer.