Saugatuck, Michigan

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Saugatuck is a city in Allegan County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,065 at the 2000 census. The city is within Saugatuck Township, but is administratively autonomous.

Originally a lumber town and port, Saugatuck, along with the adjacent city of Douglas became a noted art colony and tourist destination in the arts and crafts movement of the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, Saugatuck was home to the famous Big Pavilion, a large dance hall that attracted bands and visitors from across the Midwest. The building was a popular destination on Lake Michigan from its construction in 1909 until it burned down on May 6, 1960.

Today, tourists are drawn to the art galleries, harbor, marinas, scenery, unusual stores, the view from atop Mount Baldhead, and tourist attractions as well as Oval Beach on Lake Michigan, which enjoys a worldwide reputation.[3] Nearby are Saugatuck Dunes State Park and Allegan State Game Area as is the city of Holland.

Contents

History

The Saugatuck/Douglas area is unusual among Midwest frontier towns in that it did not experience either the destruction of the fires that hit most towns in the mid-to-late 19th century or the railroad that brought modernization and urban growth. Because of this, the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas provide a rare opportunity to observe pre- and post-Civil War Greek Revival and Italianate architecture, together with later structures in the Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival styles.

Both cities retain their essential traditional character and quaint charm, having been spared the suburbanization and chain store and "mall" invasion that makes most other places look almost identical to each other. At the same time, the cities offer much in terms of first class lodging, restaurants, recreation, shopping and cultural opportunities.

Key to the area's history and popularity is its natural environment. Saugatuck and Douglas are nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River and are defined by steep, rolling dunes to the west and lush orchard country and farmland to the east. The climate is blessed by the moderating effects of Lake Michigan which provides cool breezes on warm summer days, and plenty of winter snow.

It was to this setting that urbanites from Chicago and as far away as St. Louis started escaping in the early 20th century, although the settlement of the area began in the 1830s by lumber barons who founded nearby what is now known as the lost village of Singapore. For many years the cities supported a thriving mix of sawmills, barrel factories, and other wood product firms. The area contributed much of the lumber used to rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871. When the trees were gone, so were the lumbermen. But Saugatuck and Douglas thrived, turning to shipping and fruit growing as a source of income in the latter part of the 19th century. Peaches from the area were called "Michigan Gold" and were shipped by large steamships to the Chicago market. Hundreds of ships of various types were built in Saugatuck shipyards and the town was a haven for ship captains.

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