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History Lives Here Text


Historic Site Inventory

Saugatuck Historic Coastal Survey

This project has three sections:
1. The 2008 Survey Summary by James Schmiechen (see below)
2. The 2010 Survey by the Historical Society and the Coastal Alliance (Click
                     (This is a large file, so be patient ... it will take a while to download)
3. A 2010 Statement: Significance of the Old Singapore (Click

For more on the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, click HERE

(Note: photographs of all the Dunes "inventory" sites are included in the 2010


Historical Context. Saugatuck's Lake Michigan/Kalamazoo River coastal district is an area of roughly 2,000 acres of relatively undisturbed dune and woodlands that hold a large concentration of interconnected sites of particular historic significance. These sites tell a number of important stories in Michigan and American history, all of which center on the many interactions, over centuries of time, between humankind and the natural environment. Some of the sites hold structures, some have been abandoned.

Objective: This historic site inventory suggests the need to consider each site as part of a larger historic space - and recommends that attention be directed toward preservation protection for each site individually and for the collection of sites as a single narrative.    


(Click on the image for a high resolution copy)

The Sites.

1. Singapore. The buried lumber mill-port village (1837) - "Michigan's Pompeii"(1837). The story of environmental suicide as 19th c. lumber barons clear-cut the nearby White Pine forests then protecting this lumber mill village from the blowing sands of Lake Michigan. Large schooner ships, Wild-Cat Bank, and early entry point for immigrants. No existing structures. Site undisturbed. State of Michigan Register. (Click HERE for A 2010 Statement: The Historic Significance of the Old Singapore Site Today by James Schmiechen)

2. *+Fishtown & Shrivers Bend. Two 19th c. fishing settlement sites, one is an undisturbed site along the old Saugatuck harbor, and the other partly preserved alongside Ox-Bow lagoon site. No registry status.

3. +The Old Lighthouse & Old Harbor Site (1830s). 1859 lighthouse (destroyed in 1956) at old harbor mouth. Portions of old harbor and Lighthouse exist. Undisturbed. No registry status.

4. *+Indian Trails: The Fort Dearborn (Chicago) to Fort Michimilimac Trail. And various trails and burial ground at far end of Oval Beach area. Unmarked. Dune land.

5. +The Ox-Bow School of Painting & Tallmadge Woods (1910). The Art Institute of Chicago summer school at the harbor lagoon & abandoned fishing village site. One of most influential artist communities in America. Many structures include an historic Inn. Cottages by well-known American architects. State Register for several structures only.

6. The Saugatuck Chain Ferry (1857, rebuilt 1965). America's only remaining hand-cranked chain ferry (crossing the Kalamazoo River). In use. No registry status.

7. +Mt. Baldhead Dune & Park. Native American ceremonial site ("the White Dog" sacrifice). One of Michigan's most visited dunes - with trails. City park. No registry status.

8. +Saugatuck's Oval Beach & Road (1936). Arguably Michigan's most popular beach, set inside large Mt. Baldhead dune park. Highly scenic entrance road. No registry status.

9. The Felt Estate (1925). 100-acre estate and mansion of Chicago inventor. Open to public. State Register.

10. The Saugatuck Dunes State Park. 1000 acres, lakeshore. State Park.

11. Shorewood. A 1904 summer cottage association designed by John Alvord to design concepts of F. L. Olmstead. Chapel by student of F. L. Wright. About 26 structures. Chapel on National Register.

12. The Forward Movement Association Park (1898). 125 acres. 87 structures. Founded as Chicago's "Chautauqua for the Poor", now Presbyterian Camps. Beach, open and wooded dune land. No registry status.

13. +New Saugatuck Harbor Channel (1905-6). Large engineering project to redirect Kalamazoo River mouth to area approximately 1 mile north - to avoid ox-bow bends.

14. Oak Openings Camp.(1920s). At Old Dug Road between Singapore and Saugatuck; inspired by James Fennimore Cooper's Oak Openings romance of Indian life. No protection. 10 acres. Now Pine Trail Camp. Portion recently sold.

15. Artist Viewshed.  Since the last decades of the 19th century, the Saugatuck area has been viewed by artists as one of America's most important landscapes. See attached statement by poet George Coutoumanos.

16. The Saugatuck Dunes Rides. 200 acres. Since the 1950s. Historic trails. Environmental/landscape history by dune vehicles. No registry status.

17. The Pump House (Museum&Garden). 1904. Saugatuck water pumping station at harbor. Significant Craftsman-style design by John Alvord, Daniel Burnham partner. The Pump House is listed on the National Register.


*  Indicates recent property purchase, but no development permission as of yet.

+ Indicates viewshed pollution if adjacent properties are disturbed by intrusive development.


 [Prepared by James Schmiechen 06.08]

Click HERE for an article on the subject from the July 20, 2008 Holland Sentinel entitled "MY TAKE - Dunelands Tell Many Stories" by James Schmiechen