Preserve America Community:
Historic Douglas, Michigan, is a quiet town nestled on the banks of the Kalamazoo River and extending to the shores of Lake Michigan. Once known as Dudleyville, it was first settled nearly 150 years ago as a lumber mill town and incorporated in 1870.
The town became well known for its peach orchards and its basket factory, as well as a port for Lake Michigan boat traffic. When locally cultivated fruit replaced lumber as the area's primary product around 1880, the venture was tremendously successful. By 1884, there were 135,000 peach trees under cultivation in Douglas and the surrounding area, producing nearly a quarter of all the peaches grown in Michigan. Large steamships carried local peaches called "Michigan Gold" to the Chicago market.
With the demise of the orchards and the local boat building industry following the turn of the century, seasonal tourism became a major source of income for the area. Following World War II, the flow of tourists to the area increased, with a great deal of new construction taking place in Douglas during the 1950s and 1960s to accommodate visitors.
In 1991, the Village of Douglas created the Douglas Historic Preservation Committee to discover, procure, and preserve the civil, religious, social, cultural, and natural history of the village. A museum is currently operated by the all-volunteer Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society to educate the community and visitors about the history of the area. The society has prepared a survey of historically and culturally important structures in Douglas, and the Village of Douglas has developed a walking tour of its historic resources.
The Village of Douglas and the City of Saugatuck are adjoining municipalities that share much the same history and cooperate in many historic preservation and heritage tourism ventures. Their joint school district has incorporated a local history program developed by the historical society into the third-grade curriculum.
The Village of Douglas has restored the 1867 Dutcher Lodge, which is listed in the Michigan Register of Historic Sites. The village once again uses the structure in its original capacity as the village hall and community center. Space in this landmark building is set aside as a technology center set up by the historical society, which meets monthly in the facility.
For the past several years in September, the historical society sponsors a Heritage Festival, timed to attract tourists to the area during the so-called "shoulder season." The Douglas Preservation Committee, appointed by the village council, is involved with and financially supports this annual series of events.
The festival includes, among other things, a historic homes tour, orchard tours at historic Crane's Orchards, historic trolley tours, and an old-fashioned band concert in downtown Douglas. In an interesting addition, members of a recently formed vintage baseball league demonstrate how baseball was played in its early years. This special event is preceded by a parade from Dutcher Lodge.
For more information
Saugatuck and Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau:
Village of Douglas:
Saugatuck Area Business Association/Area History:
Updated April 29, 2009