Love Historic Towns and B & B’s? Put Wickwood Inn On Your Travel List
Posted on: April 4, 2017 | Posted in: Getaways
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
The village of Saugatuck is moving forward with vision and ingenuity.
At the same time … we know, appreciate, and preserve our history.
For more than a century this Lake Michigan port, set amidst some of America’s finest dune land, has been a place of refuge, sunlight, pleasure, activity, and inspiration for people across the world.
Consider Saugatuck the perfect urban escape … offering sophistication and charm, indulgences and adventure. All in a gorgeous natural setting with much less traffic and a lot more serenity.
Perfectly located at the heart of it all? Our timeless boutique, and historic, hotel – the Wickwood Inn located in the center of the historic district of downtown Saugatuck.
What’s the importance of Saugatuck having a historic district? In the 1970’s, the citizens of Saugatuck worried about the destruction of its character along the waterfront. And, they didn’t like the possibility of the onslaught of chain restaurants and commercial entities. So, Saugatuck sought protection through the creation of a historic district designation.
If you love historic travel, you’ll love the historic district designation. That means there are no chain restaurants, hotels, or big block stores within the historic area. Instead, when you step out the front door at Wickwood, you will enjoy unique shops, restored homes, interesting architecture, and overall charm.
All of this is nestled along the Kalamazoo River where it makes its final bend before emptying into the “Big Lake,” Lake Michigan.
It’s this very same river that has brought commerce, transportation, and recreation to the area for hundreds of years … including what was at the time America’s second largest dance hall known as the Big Pavilion. Before fire destroyed the Pavilion in 1960, people from throughout the midwest flocked to Saugatuck to dance the night away. In fact, the Pavilion welcomed shiploads of partygoers from Chicago as WLS radio provided a live broadcast of the party.
Even though the Big Pavilion is gone, there’s still a lot for historic travel buffs to celebrate in Saugatuck today.
Founded in 1983, the Saugatuck Douglas History Center, SDHC, (Formerly the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society) has a statewide reputation for innovation. It’s true … they do amazing preservation work, organize astonishing exhibitions, provide interesting lectures, plan fascinating walking tours, and they know how to throw one heck of an amazing party!
Be sure to visit their Pump House Museum. It’s one of Michigan’s best-known and most-visited small town museums and always teaching us something new about our environment, our culture, and our history.
The Old Schoolhouse is another icon: after a $1.3 million restoration, this Civil War era school once again serves the community as a history center.
To dig even deeper, try the historic walking tour of downtown with a well marked map detailing 50 points of local interest … including Village Hall, the Woman’s Club, the Chain Ferry, and Wickwood Inn! A great way to get to know your way around town.
Make sure and get your ticket (because they sell out quickly) for any and all of the ever-popular Dine Around Town events. From gourmet dinners in exclusive homes to casual home tour/cocktail parties, these culinary events always feature great food and support a great cause. We can’t think of a better place to celebrate “Winter’s Demise” than in the warmth of Lucy’s Little Kitchen!
There’s also WinterFest – A Day With The Dogs (yes, you will get to meet actual sled dogs!), an upcoming lecture about the “Haunted Lighthouses of Michigan,” and a tour of the Back In Time Garden once the azaleas and rhododendrons are in full bloom.
And, the more than 100 year old history with Ox-Bow and the School Of The Art Institute of Chicago.
Be sure and see the latest renovation efforts of the The Barrel, originally built in 1952. The SDHC has been working since 2010 to save the beloved Root Beer Barrel which is a fun example of the roadside architecture of the Automobile Age.
Don’t forget to challenge yourself by climbing the 302 stairs of the area’s tallest dune at Mt. Baldhead Park (1885). In 1956, a radar dome was erected at the top as part of the nation’s Strategic Air Defense early warning system. It was shut down and abandoned in 1968, but the view at the top of stairs is still breathtaking.
Can’t get enough history of Saugatuck? Hear it directly from local leaders and characters themselves in the documentary “The Saugatuck and Douglas Story” … the first in WGVU’s “Michigan Hometown Stories” series that has aired throughout Michigan.
Sink into the history of Saugatuck while you indulge in a relaxing getaway to Wickwood Inn, Saugatuck’s original Bed & Breakfast opened in 1981.
The Colonial revival, originally built in 1937, was the family home of the Mayor of Saugatuck, Frank Wick. Located on Butler Street in downtown, just one block from the Chair Ferry, long a key access to Lake Michigan and the western side of the Kalamazoo River.
Sue and Stub Louis, originally from Kalamazoo, renovated and expanded the Wicks’ home after The Louis’ had fallen in love with Brown’s Hotel in London. The Louis’ felt that a version of the charming small British hotel was just what the village needed, and as there was no place serving a complimentary Continental Breakfast yet, surely it would be a popular.
Their instincts proved correct and Wickwood became the premier place for visitors to stay in Saugatuck.
In 1991 Julee Rosso and Bill Miller, next door neighbors to the Louis’ on Lake Michigan, bought Wickwood. Julee, after a successful career as the owner of The Silver Palate food company and cookbook author had relocated to Saugatuck. The Inn seemed a perfect way to express her cooking creativity and love of entertaining Bill, always a clever builder and a great conversationalist, loved being around all of the people. It seemed a perfect fit.
Soon The Millers updated Wickwood in their own style, and with Julee’s love of food, the menus were greatly expanded to reflect the local ingredients and seasons. Today, the continue to welcome guests and serve a luxurious Farm to Table Breakfast, Afternoon Sweets, and host an Evening Sips and Small Plates Happy Hour.
As the New York Times said: “At Wickwood, life revolves around food and wine. It’s the best place to stay in Saugatuck.”