From History to OUR Story
Throughout time, LGBTQ individuals have searched for places they could find acceptance. Places where they could build friendships. Places to enjoy their lives. Places to tell their stories. Places they could call home.
Throughout its history, Saugatuck and Douglas have been proud to welcome people from all walks of life. Over the years, the shared experiences of both villages have allowed them to become one of the top vacation destinations for LGBT Qindividuals and families in the US.
From the moment Saugatuck and Douglas were founded, surrounded by nature at its most unfiltered and serene, it was clear that these places would be unlike any other. At first a thriving lumber town in the mid-19th century, Saugatuck was one of the busiest ports on Michigan’s west coast, teeming with sailors, mill workers, and laborers; however, both Saugatuck and Douglas were not subjected to the urban growth and expansion that the railroad brought to many other surrounding towns in Michigan.
Soon, many of the trees were gone, and the lumber barons had moved on to other places. Luckily, a new chapter was about to start; around this time, in the late 1890s, folks from Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and St. Louis were transforming Saugatuck and Douglas into major weekend arts and recreation destinations.
Perhaps not coincidentally, around this same time, LGBTQ visitors started to make their presence known; records show that by the beginning of the 20th century, young men had taken to sunbathing nude in a popular section of what is now known as Oval Beach.
Soon the roaring 20s arrived, and so had the LGBT crowd; many gays and lesbians were spending their summers vacationing here. While some—such as Florence Hunn, a leading interior designer—were well-known most were just folks looking for a place to be themselves, have fun, enjoy their lives, and find acceptance.
And where one finds acceptance, one can start building a community!
Sure enough, in the 1960s, gay-friendly bars and clubs started to open—flying in the face of then-current State of Michigan liquor laws. The most popular of these early hangouts was the Blue Tempo House of Music, which operated on Culver Street in Saugatuck. The Blue Tempo (which was, of course, painted blue) was as well-known for its jazz as it was for the bouncer/host who monitored the front door. The Blue Tempo was sadly destroyed by fire in 1969 and not rebuilt, leaving the town without a place local LGBTQ residents and visitors could call their own.
By the 1980s, increasing numbers of LGBTQ people discovered that Saugatuck and Douglas were places they could be more out—and more themselves—than virtually anywhere in the Midwest.
So the community kept building and growing. LGBT individuals and families were not just visiting—they were putting down roots and enhancing the fabric of the community with vibrancy and diversity.
Throughout Saugatuck and Douglas, galleries, restaurants, and stores that were LGBT owned and operated started opening for business. In 1981 the former Amity Motel, located on the Blue Star Highway, was purchased and rechristened the Douglas Dunes, once again providing the area with a bar & hotel that catered to LGBTQ residents and tourists. Around the same time, Campit Campground was established as an LGBT camping resort destination in the nearby village of Glenn.
In 1999, the Douglas Dunes came under new ownership, and with extensive addition of buildings and services, grew into what you now know as the current Dunes Resort— the Midwest’s largest LGBT Resort & Entertainment Complex.
Which brings us to today—and to you.
The history of Saugatuck and Douglas is a rich tale of beauty, diversity, discovery, and acceptance. With every refreshing swim in Lake Michigan, every world-class meal eaten, every dance, another line in our story is written. Every year, with each wine glass raised, with each extraordinary sunset witnessed, another chapter in the book is complete, and we are honored that from the beginning of our story, LGBT persons have been some of our very best writers.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Saugatuck and Douglas. Rich with history. Excited about the future. Glad you are here to be part of our story.
PO Box 1132
Saugatuck, MI 49453
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