In August 2009, the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance with the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society commissioned a survey of the coastal and dunes area north and south of the Kalamazoo River where it enters Lake Michigan. The purpose of the survey was to make a preliminary assessment of archaeological and historic site in the area and to make recommendations for further action to protect the properties from future development. The sites identified for the survey were part of the June 2008 Saugatuck Historic Coastal Survey prepared by Kristine Kidorf, Scott Grammer, and Jane Busch.
The entire study area should be considered an important cultural landscape. The dunes, woods, waterways, and cultural sites together represent the broad history of the area from prehistoric occupation, early settlers, logging, and fishing through the summer resort era that introduced camps and art instruction.
Important to this theme is the strong cultural connection to Chicago, and the creation of a cultural outpost, particularly represented at Ox-Bow, Forward Movement Association Park, and Shorewood. All of the sites and the landscape between them contribute to residents’ and visitors’ experience and understanding of what makes Saugatuck special.
Of the sixteen sites surveyed, three are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. These are: the Felt Estate, Saugatuck Harbor Navigation Structures, and Lake Shore Chapel. Seven of the sites appear to be eligible for listing in the National Register: Ox-Bow and Tallmadge Woods, Mt. Baldhead Dune and Park, Lighthouse Cottage and Old Harbor, Saugatuck Pump House, Saugatuck Chain Ferry, Forward Movement Association Park (Presbyterian Camps), and Shorewood. Four sites are likely to be eligible for listing in the National Register but require further investigation: Singapore, Fishtown, Oak Openings Camp (Pine Trail Camp), and Dunes Schooner Rides (Saugatuck Dunes Rides). Saugatuck Dunes State Park, or portions of it, may be eligible for the National Register if it retains integrity from when it was part of the Felt Estate. Oval Beach and its access road do not appear to be National Register eligible because they have lost integrity, however, the access road may contribute to a larger cultural landscape. In addition to these sixteen sites, the team assessed (but did not visit) the shipwreck Condor. Further investigation is needed to determine whether the Condor is National Register eligible.
Seven of the properties are in public ownership, which makes them relatively safe from future development. The remaining properties are privately owned and could be sold. Among the tools available to protect these properties, the most effective is local historic district designation. Although the city of Saugatuck has a historic district ordinance, none of the surveyed properties are designated. Neither Saugatuck Township nor Laketown Township has an ordinance and would need to create one to designate the properties in those jurisdictions. There are other buildings, structures, and landscapes in the study area that were not surveyed. Future survey work should include these properties, and a cultural landscape report on the entire study area is recommended.
Access the entire Saugatuck Historic Coastal Survey Report.