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History Center Exhibits

Now open! The Historic Demerest Shanty Waterfront Site

Historic Demerest Shanty
In partnership with Retro Boat Rentals
730 Water Street, Saugatuck
Exterior story panels and exhibits now open for walk up viewing; interior exhibit accessible during business hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from early June through Labor Day, with more limited hours in September and October.

The 1940s fishing shanty structure is a rare survivor of Saugatuck's commercial fishing history. In 2020, the History Center engaged in a partnership with local business Retro Boat Rentals and the Harrington family--owners of the boat rental site--to restore the shanty and placed it on a waterfront site with public access. Today you may view an exhibit of interpretive story panels, photographs, fishing artifacts, and a video montage. The exhibit materials are placed inside and around the exterior of the shanty, now called Saugatuck’s Historic Demerest Shanty. Inside the shanty, the exhibit will share space with a fresh and smoked fish market to be run by Fish Lads Saugatuck.

The story of commercial fishing in Saugatuck-Douglas took place over 100 years. From the 1860s through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, commercial fishing operators employed hundreds of people and produced tons of fish for local and regional markets. This came to an end when invasive species, pollution, overfishing, and state regulations favoring recreational fishing all took their toll here and throughout the Great Lakes. The story is told by the Demerest Shanty exhibit, and in more detail in a book published by the History Center to coincide with the exhibit. The book, “Bounty & Bust: Commercial Fishing in Saugatuck-Douglas, 1860-1970,” is available for purchase at the Retro Boat Rentals boathouse as well as at the History Center’s two locations at 735 Park Street in Saugatuck and 130 Center Street in Douglas.

At the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum, at Mt. Baldhead, Saugatuck

The Saugatuck-Douglas Museum
In the historic Saugatuck Pump House
735 Park Street, Saugatuck
On the west bank of the Kalamazoo River at the foot of Mt. Baldhead Park.
Open Friday-Saturday-Sunday from noon until 4 PM beginning Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day.

Then and Now: Photos from the Archives

Come explore the stories of Saugatuck and Douglas through the history of photography. Check back soon for updates on summer opening hours.


At the Old School House, Douglas

The Old School House
130 Center Street, downtown Douglas
Reopening of History Center with new exhibits coming July 1, 2021.

Art at the History Center School House Galleries

The SDHC features changing exhibits of historical art by artists who lived and worked in the Lakeshore area. Drawn from the growing art collections of the History Center these exhibits help viewers appreciate the connections between historical context of art in the area today.

View fifteen paintings showcasing historic views of Saugatuck by painter Robert ‘Harry’ Fort (1875-1954) now on view at the History Center School House galleries through May 2020.

Rowing Them Safely Home

A permanent exhibit on the U.S. Lifesaving Service and shipwrecks on Lake Michigan, located on the grounds of the Old School House. View the restored 1854 Francis Metallic Surfboat from Saugatuck Harbor, an all-iron lifesaving boat — one of America’s first official life boats, surrounded by Lake Michigan shipwreck and lifesaving stories.

Surrounding the Old School House and Shipwreck Exhibit is the The Back-in-Time Garden Pathway, where visitors discover more about natural and cultural history.

Find More Exhibits Online!

Download our free mobile app to view more virtual exhibits, take a walking tour of the Back-in-Time Garden, and more! Available for free download on Apple and Android devices.

Learn more about past Museum exhibits

2017-2018 Exhibit - Cold War Hot Towns: Sugatuck-Douglas in the 1950-1970s

2015 Exhibit - Water: A River, a Lake, a Place, called Saugatuck-Douglas

2014 Exhibit - Dunelands 2: Footprints on the Sand

2013 Exhibit - Dunelands: Footprints on the Sand

2012 Exhibit - Village Occupations from the Past

2011 Exhibit - Off Season

2010 Exhibit - A Place Called Ox-Bow

2009 Exhibit - Summertime