On the road again: Douglas, just below Saugatuck

By Steve Ellis

Last fall, my girlfriend Jackie and I decided to head to Saugatuck for the day.
Thinking that parking might be at a premium in downtown Saugatuck, we parked in nearby Douglas, planning to spend a few minutes and then head to our destination.

Well, a few minutes turned into three very enjoyable hours of biking and shopping in this great little town. We found that Douglas had most of the things we were looking for in Saugatuck, but at a much slower pace and a lot less traffic.

We parked on the main street across from a great little park and ball field with a spotless public restroom. The folks in Douglas have been playing ball on Beery Field for more than a hundred years. The field holds monthly “Olde Tyme” baseball matches with the local Dutchers team playing the likes of the House Of David Echoes.

We rode our bikes down to the Kalamazoo River, where kayaks were available for rent. Further along, under the Blue Star overpass, a half dozen folks were fishing in the shade.

Most of the houses in town are over one hundred years old and have been well taken care of. Each house has its own personality, with blooming flower gardens at every turn. The downtown streets are hilly and winding, giving the town an added appeal.

As we rounded one corner, we spotted a little girl selling lemonade and homemade charm bracelets. As we made our lemonade purchase, we were informed that this was her first sale of the day.

We rode by the Wade house, the oldest known house in Douglas. Frank Wade, first child born to white settlers in Douglas, was born here in 1853.

The Octagon House, built in 1867, when Douglas was called Dudleyville, is another distinctive looking home. It was built from a New York octagon house pattern book from the 1850’s touting this “popular new house design”

The main street of town features about two dozen very good restaurants, specialty stores, art galleries and antique shops. In reading the “Walk Douglas – The Village to be Remembered” walking-tour brochure, we found historical information on many of the original tenants of the village buildings, including the McDonald General Store, Ben Weigert’s Model Grocery and Walz Meat Market.

Art galleries in the village include the Kubiak Gallery, Thistle Gallery and Water Street Gallery. The Everyday People Cafe and the Wild Dog Grille were both very busy as we walked by. A bright-blue Harbor Duck vehicle (857-Duck) looked like a fun way to get around town, including a ride on the Kalamazoo River.

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