About the boards and our generous sponsors
Around the top of the carousel are 18 rounding boards. Traditionally they are hand-painted, pastoral scenes. But we commissioned computer graphic artists to create what we believe are the first rounding boards to use a montage of colorized, historic photographs. Each board takes you back in time to tell our area's rich story through the people, places and events that we never want to forget. You can learn about each one in a booklet available through out gift shop.
Silver Beach Amusement Park
In 1892, Logan J. Drake and Louis D. Wallace, partners in a boat construction and livery enterprise, purchased a bathing house business with beach property along Lake Michigan in St. Joseph, Michigan. That same year they placed a toboggan waterslide at the edge of the lake for bathers who flocked to the beach for relief from the summer’s heat. This was the beginning of the amusement park that became known as the Coney Island of the West.
Soda pop, ice cream and sundry concessions proliferated. The Pavilion dance hall, the first structure built on the property, was widely acclaimed by the people who danced to popular tunes such as “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Maple Leaf Rag.” Many carnival-like attractions were introduced – some stayed, some didn’t – including an indoor swimming pool, a roller skating rink, a House of Mystery Maze, pre-WWI-designed airplanes that rotated from a turnstile, a figure-eight roller coaster and 44-horse carousel with a German band organ.
The 1920s and 1930s saw the important addition of the Shadowland Dance Hall with headliner big name bands. The Pavilion was remodeled into the Fun House. An exciting Velvet Coaster thrilled screaming riders until the park closed. It replaced the figure-eight roller coaster. The Whip, Penny Arcade, Laff in the Dark and the Mirror Maze soon followed. In the mid-1940s, a diesel train began traversing the western boundaries of the beach and a Ferris wheel was added.
Changes in social trends during the 1960s caused dwindling attendance and efforts to revive the public interest proved futile. An increasing crime rate was the cause of Silver Beach’s final demise. The amusement park’s last full season was in 1971 and it was demolished in 1975. Shadowland Ballroom continued to host many community events until 1981 when it too was razed and burned. The sandy piece of real estate was eventually sold to Berrien County. Today Silver Beach is one of the highest rated family beaches in the country.
The Silver Beach Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from he Milton J. Drake Family.
Newberryport was surveyed and platted by Calvin Britain in 1831. This settlement’s name soon changed to St. Joseph, (after the Jesuit priests’ patron saint) and was incorporated as a village in 1834. Growth of the village was restricted at the original beach location so the focus for expansion shifted to the property topside on the bluff.
The first downtown buildings in St. Joseph were of frame construction. However, the ever-present threat of fire caused owners to build or rebuild with concrete and brick, many of which still stand today.
One such building is the State Building, which has housed a variety store ever since the G.C. Murphy Five and Ten Cents Store moved into it in 1939. The Century Block building housed Troost Furniture Store and City Plumbing Co., Starke and Sons Insurance Agency and The Style Shoppe women’s store were other businesses that provided goods and services along State St. The Tip Top Café (opened around 1934) and the Brass Rail were some of the forerunners to popular downtown dining places.
A Benton Harbor clothing store, founded by Meyer Hennes in 1892, was moved to St. Joseph in 1973. Richard Hennes, the founder’s grandson, had an Airedale dog named Willy that became an icon for the store.
Shoe repair was once a thriving business. John Gagliardo opened shop at 611 Pleasant St. in 1930 and eventually moved his operation across the street to 606 Pleasant in the St. Joseph S&L Building to keep residents well heeled.
George Wilbur and wife Nellie began selling their famous homemade ice cream at 609 Broad St. around 1934. The business was sold to Carl and Annabelle Conklin in 1956 and they in turn sold it to Steve and Dolores Reagan in 1975.
Gillespie’s Drug Stores in the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area were once as recognizable in the community as Walgreens is today. Frank Gillespie’s four sons Collins, Robert, William, and Richard followed in their father’s footsteps. Son, Thomas Gillespie was St. Joseph’s Chief of Police from 1948 until 1978.
The Downtown Remembered Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Jane and John Doe.
Music in Our Lives
As waves of emigrants arrived on the shore of their new land of promise, they brought their love of music with them to America. Eventually, almost every village or town in the country boasted of a music hall or opera house and ensembles to perform in them.
St. Joseph and Benton Harbor were no exceptions to this trend. For example, what started out in 1908 as a musical interlude in a women’s social group blossomed into the Monday Musical Club. Ever since, this club has encouraged both young and old to prosper in their knowledge and appreciation of music.
Men ensembles also have a rich musical history here. Benton Harbor/St. Joseph’s charter of the Barbershop Harmony Society has entertained listeners with its ringing chords since 1948.
One of the favorite places for bands and ensembles to perform has been the St. Joseph band shell. It was originally a bowl-shaped structure completed in 1911 and subsequently remodeled in 1940. After many years of municipal band performances, the amphitheater fell in to disrepair but segued into the new John E.N. Howard Band Shell that was completed in 1970.
John E.N. Howard’s name is synonymous with local musical excellence. Beginning in 1948, Howard not only directed the St. Joseph High School Band but also began what turned out to be a 40-year association with the city’s municipal band. His skills at directing the band and communicating with his audiences endeared this dedicated bandleader to all. John and Dede Howard’s love of music, along with their deep concern for the community, is evidenced by their philanthropy.
The original Shadowland Ballroom was another music icon. It once was hopping with dance bands seven days a week.
Today, two new structures continue our musical legacy on Silver Beach. Dancers swirl across the herringbone-patterned wood floor of the new Shadowland Ballroom. And the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra and other musical performers delight listeners at Silver Beach Pavilion.
The Music in our Lives Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from John and Dede Howard.
The Whitcomb Hotel
St. Joseph has long been a popular destination for people seeking rejuvenation and relaxation. Thousands would arrive and depart by steamships that pulled up to the E.A. Graham Dock located west of the railroad trestle on the St. Joseph.
One of their topside destinations was the Whitcomb Hotel. It stood on property that had housed visitors since 1831. The first hotel was built by Augustus Newell and was named the Mansion House. The St. Charles Hotel was then built on the site, followed by a frame structure bearing the Whitcomb Hotel name.
H.E. Bucklen, the owner of the Whitcomb Hotel, purchased the Maids of the Mist Fountain for $500 from the Inter-State Industrial Exposition in Chicago by. Installation across from the hotel was completed in 1892. Throughout the years, maiden Constance has faced west to the lake where she reflects on the city’s past. Sister Hope directs her easterly gaze toward St. Joseph and ponders its bright and promising future.
The brick Whitcomb Hotel was opened in 1928. It featured all the modern amenities of the day. The up-to-date kitchen facilities and meals earned top ratings from food critic Duncan Hines. Sulfur baths were the premier attraction for health conscious patrons. The baths were supplied by a well that was drilled to a 900’ depth.
The Marine Bar, situated in the basement of the Whitcomb, was a copy of the Edgewater Beach Hotel bar in Chicago. A gangplank, ship funnels and a panoramic mural of the St. Joseph harbor added to the lounge’s ambience.
Polly the Parrot was added to the hotel lobby in the mid-1940s. He was a Brazilian parrot that uttered obscenities in Portuguese. Polly’s famous English expression was, “Shut that door!” After the hotel closed in 1966, the St. Joseph Fire Dept. adopted this tropical pet until its death several years later.
After it closed, the building was renovated as a senior citizen retirement center and is presently owned by Whitcomb Holdings LLC.
The Whitcomb Hotel Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from the Whitcomb Retirement Community.
History of the Territory
The earliest European explorers, in what is now the State of Michigan, were French Jesuit priests, traders and explorers. These adventurers explored the land, introduced the Catholic religion to native tribes and opened trade under their flag of the fleur-de-lis.
Father Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary and explorer, teamed up with Louis Joliet to locate the Mississippi River. Plagued by dysentery on his return trip to St. Ignace, Michigan, Marquette rested briefly by the River of Miamis (St. Joseph River) and then continued northward. He died on the shore of Lake Michigan, close to where Ludington is ltoday.
Renế-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de LaSalle also sailed the Lake of the Illinois (Lake Michigan). He originally believed that the Mississippi River flowed into the Gulf of California. LaSalle briefly quartered by the St. Joseph River and established a temporary refuge, Fort Miami, where he waited for his supply ship Le Griffon to arrive. It never came. Undaunted, LaSalle eventually reached the Mississippi River and descended to the Gulf of Mexico.
War and treaties changed control of these vast territories. The Ordinance of 1787 created the Northwest Territory from which the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin were developed. The territory of Michigan was created in 1805. This land was acquired in part by various treaties with the Potawatomi tribes who relocated to the territory after the Miami Indians moved on.
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 offered attractive new lands for settlement and the opening of the Welland Canal in 1829 provided the means of transportation to get there. Pioneers also used overland trails. Michigan, whose name comes from the Ojibwa Indian word mishigami, which means “great lake,” was first reported to be uninhabitable due to the swamp, marshlands, and heavy undergrowth but the settlers’ perseverance and the intrepid traders proved this statement to be wrong.
The Expanding the Territory Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Comfort Suites, Stevensville.
Several significant businesses are remembered on this rounding board. V-M Corporation, the Voice of Music, once was the largest manufacturer of phonographs in the world. Victor Miller started his audio business in Benton Harbor in 1947. A full complement of sound equipment that included record players, consoles, and tape recorders followed. Cheaper foreign imports forced V-M to close its doors in 1977.
Benton Harbor Malleable Industry furnished castings for many industrial and commercial applications. Outdated equipment and extremely high labor costs forced the company into bankruptcy.
Benton Harbor State Bank was organized in 1899. This financial institution eventually merged with the Union State Bank of Buchanan and was renamed Inter-City Bank with headquarters at 823 Riverview Dr. in Benton Harbor. The bank changed its name to Shoreline Bank. A pooling of interests and a merger of equals between Shoreline and Chemical Banks evolved its name to Chemical Bank Shoreline.
In 1878, brothers Willis and Henry Cooper partnered with Abel Wells to form Cooper-Wells Hosiery Company. They manufactured the famous “Iron Clad” stockings. During WWII, the factory made parachutes, mattress covers, sleeping bag cases, and shelter half tents. After the war, the company was sold and moved to the South. Whirlpool Corporation bought the building for production, R&D, and warehousing. Eventually the building was demolished and the property became Whirlpool Field. Today, this real estate accommodates the Whirlpool Compass Rose Fountain.
A tool company moved from Chicago to Buchanan in 1903. It eventually became known as Clark Equipment Company and was internationally famous for its material handling equipment, construction machinery, heavy-duty axles and transmissions. It also bought Ross Carrier of Benton Harbor’s line of MICHIGAN brand industrial straddle carriers and mobile truck cranes. Clark Equipment was sold to Ingersoll-Rand, then to Volvo Construction Equipment.
The Yesterday’s Enterprises Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Chemical Bank.
Sentinels of the Harbor
While Lake Michigan is one of the Great Lake’s most navigable waters, it is the most dangerous. Due to heavy volumes of commerce and the relative scarcity of safe harbors, maritime mishaps involving shipping loss and death are greater on Lake Michigan than all the other Great Lakes combined.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, most people and goods were transported by waterways in our region. To ensure their safe arrival, Newberryport (soon to be named St. Joseph) erected its first government lighthouse high on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in 1831. By 1836, the federal government began to realize the importance of the St. Joseph harbor and many improvements were initiated. A breakwater at the mouth of the river was established allowing safe entrance for all sized vessels.
The successor to the first lighthouse was built next to it in 1859. Its first keeper was Thomas Fitzgerald. In 1924 the lighthouse was taken out of service and was occupied by the Red Cross. It was demolished in 1995 to create a parking lot.
By 1866, there was 1312’ of breakwater (1100’ for the north and 212’ for the south piers). At the turn of the twentieth century, the North Pier lights were added. The inner light steel tower, which featured a Fourth Order Fresnel lens for light magnification, was completed in 1905. This two- story structure sports a red hip roof and is topped by a black iron parapet and walkway.
In 1907, the pier was extended and the outer range light was constructed with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens. Some 300 yards of catwalk allowed keepers to access either beacon in all forms of weather. A diaphone foghorn served sailors until 1970 when it was replaced by an electronic signal device. Despite the advent of electronic Global Positioning Systems, these sentinels of the harbor continue to serve all mariners.
The Sentinels of the Harbor Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Jack Keller.
The House of David
Benjamin Purnell and his wife Mary relocated the Israelite House of David religious commonwealth to Benton Harbor in 1903. The theological basis for this organization was Purnell’s assumption of the role as the seventh messenger of God as outlined in the Book of Revelations. This seventh angel was supposed to gather the twelve tribes of Israel before the second coming of Christ, “The Ingathering.”
The House of David grew until membership in the 1920’s peaked at over 900 followers. Commercial ventures included farming, a zoo and amusement park with miniature steam engines, vacation rentals, crafts, and printing press. The House of David orchestras played before every U.S. President from Woodrow Wilson to Gerald Ford.
The signature traveling baseball and basketball teams wore long braided hair with flowing beards because shaving was prohibited. The baseball teams won most of their games, even against the pros. They traveled across America with the Negro Leagues, helping to break color barriers wherever they stopped.
Among the colony’s significant contributions to American life was the invention of the sugar waffle cone that they took to the St. Louis Fair in 1904 – we’ve enjoyed ice cream cones ever since. They were the first in the United States to have a lighted baseball field for night games. And tired of constantly resetting the pins in their small bowling alleys, they invented the very first Pinsetter.
The Christian community split after the death of Brother Benjamin in 1930 and the new organization became known as Mary’s City of David, named after Benjamin’s widow. Over the years, membership in both sects dwindled because of diminished recruitment and mandated marital celibacy. Few survivors of these colorful communities remain. The Israelite House of David as Reorganized by Mary Purnell has recently been historically recognized with its placement on the National Register. It is noted as the third oldest practicing Christian community in America.
The House of David Rounding Board was made possible by an anonymous donor
Winter in the City
For centuries winter was a reclusive time to stay indoors and enjoy the warmth of the hearth in Southwestern Michigan. Not any more. Cold and snow may slow things down but the dormant land still beckons us to partake in Mother Nature’s crystalline artistry.
The most majestic of Mother Nature’s works are the ice formations along Lake Michigan’s shore. The ice plus the breathtaking winter sunsets are some of the most photographed scenes in the winter.
Ice skating has long been a favorite winter pastime. Industrialist/philanthropist J. Odgen Wells donated Wells Field on State St. to the St. Joseph Public Schools. The athletic fields officially opened on June 5, 1920. In the winter it was transformed into a public ice skating rink. Audiences would watch speed skating contests from the 38x60-foot grandstand. In the 1940s, Whittlesey Park replaced Wells Field as the municipal skating rink. Recently, John and Dede Howard made a generous donation to create an indoor arena at the Whittlesey site so all ages can enjoy pleasure skating and hockey.
Another recently introduced winter activity is the Light Up the Bluff ceremony held the first Friday of December. A spectacular vista sets the stage for the light displays that celebrate the Yule-time.
In the new millennium we have also begun bringing people together for the Magical Ice Carving Festival each February. Dozens of professional and amateur sculptors captivate the imaginations of onlookers as they use chain saws and chisels to turn 200- to 300-pound blocks of ice into glistening masterpieces that line downtown St. Joseph streets. Other festival activities bring people indoors and out to celebrate winter’s magic.
The Winter in the City Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Tom and Judy Gawlik.
Springtime arrives late in Southwest Michigan as winter jealously holds on with a frigid grip. A cool northwest lake wind encourages the earth to oversleep, but a gradual temperate southern breeze gives Mother Nature a wake-up call with an invitation to reveal her full majesty. The fruit orchards suddenly burst forth with magnificent color. It’s Blossomtime once again and the display of the aromatic blooms gives full promise of things to come.
A 1906 sermon by Reverend Mr. W.J. Cady of the First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor focused on the Almighty’s special grace that was bestowed on a thankful people. Cady’s sermon, which urged his congregation to drive through the orchards, is credited with planting the seeds for the observance of the Blossomtime Festival.
In 1923, a local fruit processor, Fred Granger, and the Reverend Mr. Joshua Randall conceived the idea of a floral parade that would extol the virtues of the “Heart of the Fruit Belt.” The realization of this dream occurred in 1924 when the first grand floral parade was conducted in the Twin Cities. Catherine Burrell of Benton Harbor was chosen by newspaper ballots to be the first Blossomtime Queen. Now more than 20 communities hold their own contests to select queens to represent them in a collective pageant to select Miss Blossomtime each year.
The Blossom Festival was discontinued in 1943 due to WW II, and resumed in 1951. It has flourished ever since, drawing thousands to the streets of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor on the first Saturday in May to watch more than a 100 units, including bands, clowns, floats, classic cars and the intricate maneuvers of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Drill Team.
The Blossomtime Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Manny and Mary Ann Raschke.
Innovations in Transportation
Transportation is central to the development of a society and the expansion of its economy. Our area started seeing transportation improvements in the 18th and 19th centuries when crudely constructed roads began replacing Native American trails. One of the first pikes in Michigan was Territorial Road that traversed from Detroit to its terminus in St. Joseph.
Steam power improved the reliability of transportation, first to ships and then to the railroads. To keep trains and ships moving, the swing bridge across the St. Joseph River was completed in 1904.
Water transportation has a long history here. In 1892, Truscott Boat Company relocated its business from Grand Rapids to St. Joseph. The company made its name by supplying motor launches for Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It also built ships for both world wars and at one time it was Berrien County’s largest employer.
Many people believe that the Wright brothers flew the first motorized aircraft. But five years earlier, on October 24, 1898, Professor Augustus Herring flew his motorized Chanute-Herring glider off of a Silver Beach sand dune. This engineer never received acclaim because officials declared that his glider had no steering mechanism while the Wright’s flying machine had rudimentary controls.
The assembly of Famous Trucks, the “Truck of a Thousand Uses,” began in 1917 at the Palmer Rubber Co. on E. Broad St. where Vail Rubber Works is now located. Government war contracts never became a reality, so like many other startup vehicle manufacturers, this one closed its doors in 1922.
To keep automobiles rolling, gas stations cropped up along roadways. Ehrenberg’s Standard Station on Main St. in St. Joseph was an iconic service station when service meant an attendant not only filled your gas tank at 31.9 cents a gallon but checked the oil and cleaned your windshield. W.H. “Duke” Ehrenberg owned and operated this well known business from 1935 until 1978.
The Innovation in Transportation Rounding Board was made possible by donation from The MacFarlane Family.
Farming the Land
Beginning in Berrien County and running north to the tip of the Lower Peninsula, the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is commonly called “The Fruit Belt.” Its temperate climate helps our state become a national leader in cherry, apple and blueberry production. Michigan leads the country in 15 agricultural commodities and is in the top ten in 20 others. Berrien County leads the state in diversity and is number one in the production of pickle cucumbers, grapes, nectarines and freestone peaches. Truly we are the richest agricultural region in the world.
Our area’s reputation as the “heart of the fruit belt” began in the late 1700s when settlers and traders planted peach trees here. Soon sail and steam ships transported the peaches to Chicago and Milwaukee. In 1887, the peach orchards were plagued with a devastating epidemic called The Yellows, a calamity caused by a bacterial organism that had no known cure. The only option for eradication was the complete destruction of the orchards.
Farmers learned a valuable lesson and began to plant a variety of fruit trees with a strict quarantine on incoming rootstock and seedlings. This prevented the deadly agricultural affliction from revisiting their land. This also gave impetus to develop peach varieties. Stanley Johnson developed six varieties with “Haven” in the name. Flaming Fury, a newer very popular line of peaches, is still being developed in Coloma, Michigan.
The Benton Harbor Fruit Market began operation in 1860. Buyers still come to this open-air market to buy fruits and vegetables and distribute them around the U.S.A. It is the largest “cash-to-grower” wholesale produce market in the world.
Farming attracted many people from Eastern Europe to our region in the 19th and 20th centuries. It also inspired many entrepreneurs such as the Friday Tractor Co. in Hartford.
The Farming the Land Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Barb and Diane Radewald.
Two Carnegie libraries serve as bookends on this rounding board. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s foundation funded the building of the St. Joseph (far left) and Benton Harbor (far right) libraries. The St. Joseph Library was built for $13,500 and opened on November 10, 1904. The Maude Preston Palenske Library replaced it in the spring of 1966. The original library now houses an architectural firm.
The Benton Harbor Library was built for $20,000 and began operation on August 4, 1903. The library was razed to build the current facility, completed in 1968.
Planks Tavern once stood near St. Joseph’s Tiscornia Beach. The young entrepreneur John Oliver Plank designed it and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The Planks Tavern was much larger than the Grand and its dining room could serve up to 5,000 guests per day. It was renamed Hotel St. Joseph in 1893. Sadly, this fabled establishment burned to the ground in July 1898.
The Berrien County Courthouse was completed in 1896. Urban renewal claimed the building after the present courthouse in St. Joseph replaced it.
When St. Joseph High School opened in 1916, the classrooms, gymnasium and auditorium were considered among the best in the state. Twenty years later, a building addition allowed the student body to grow to 900 students. When the new high school was built on Stadium Drive, the old building was renamed Milton Junior High School. The building was razed in 1977.
Perched high on a hill in what would become Benton Harbor, Eleazar Morton built this house in 1849. Morton’s son, Henry, married Josephine Stanley and they lived in this homestead for the rest of their lives. Henry Morton was one of the founders of the City of Benton Harbor and headed the well known Graham and Morton Steamship Co. The Josephine Morton Memorial House now preserves the memories of the many illustrious pioneers of Benton Harbor.
The Historical Landmarks Rounding Board is made possible by a donation from Bruce C. Conybeare in honor of his children and grandchildren.
Proudly We Serve
The park along Lake Boulevard has several monuments. The Dahlgren 11” smoothbore cannon has stood on the rampart since 1897. It commemorates the War Between the States. While this particular heavy gun was cast in 1864, it wasn’t assigned to a ship (the USS Marion) until 1876 and probably was never fired in anger.
The police badge shown is also displayed on the belts of these three St. Joseph police officers. The Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial honors two St. Joseph police officers and nine other area lawmen that died in the line of duty.
The “Lest We Forget” logo is imposed on the reenactment scene of the flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, February 23, 1945. The “Lest We Forget” veterans group educates younger generations about the sacrifices given by the men and women who served in WWII, the Korean War or the Vietnam Conflict.
Late in the evening on September 6, 1896, the Benton Harbor Yore Opera House was engulfed in flames. As the hook and ladder companies were setting up in the alley, the brick wall collapsed and buried the firemen under tons of rubble. Twelve brave men died – seven from Benton Harbor and five from St. Joseph. Exactly two years to the day, the Firemen’s Monument was dedicated with the help of contributions from all over the United States.
“The Spirit of the American Doughboy” is a pressed copper sculpture by Ernest Moore “Dick” Viquesney and is a WWI memorial found throughout the United States. It memorializes the 100 soldiers from Berrien County who lost their lives in “the war to end all wars.”
The Korean War Memorial is dedicated to the men and women of Berrien County who served their country in “the forgotten war.” This “police action,” from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, killed 54,246 and wounded 103,284 Americans.
The Vietnam War Memorial honors those who served in this conflict. Forty-seven young men from Berrien County paid the ultimate price with the loss of their lives.
The Proudly We Serve Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Peg Williamson.
Entrepreneurs instinctively know how to change a way of life. Through extraordinary vision, they are able to make yesterday’s dreams today’s realities. Here are six entrepreneurial businesses that continue to thrive today.
Rarely do family-owned businesses prosper as long as LECO has. Charles E. Schultz founded the Laboratory Equipment Corporation in 1936 with the introduction of the rapid carbon determinator, a scientific instrument for the iron and steel industry.
Schultz’s daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Robert Warren, took the company’s reins in 1976. They continue to direct it into the 21st century. Today LECO’s innovative analytical equipment for metals, energy, environment, foods and geology are unsurpassed in the industry. Recently LECO entered the Life Science field to expand in an increasingly competitive global market.
Among their many civic undertakings, Mr. and Mrs. Warren’s generosity is responsible for Berrien County’s acquisition of the Silver Beach property.
Gast Manufacturing, Inc. got its start in Bridgman, Michigan in 1921 when a blacksmith named L.L. Tirrell began manufacturing insecticide sprayers for orchards. H.E. Howard and William H. Gast teamed up with the founder to form the Tirrell Manufacturing Co. Their entrepreneurship led to the development of the rotary air pump.
Howard and Tirrell eventually sold their interests to Gast and he renamed the business, Gast Mfg. Co. The company squeezed through the Great Depression, but a disastrous fire on December 28, 1938, rendered the manufacturing plant a complete loss. With a great deal of courage and foresight, Gast moved its entire operations to Benton Harbor in 1939.
Under the direction of William C. Gast, the founder’s son, the company’s pneumatic products became known worldwide; its continuing success called for moving to larger facilities on M-139 in 1955.
William C. Gast’s son, Warren, joined the staff in 1953 and was promoted to president in 1973. The father/son combination proved very effective, in part, because they applied the Golden Rule to customers and employees.
Prompted by Warren Gast’s plans to retire, IDEX Corp. of Northbrook, Illinois purchased the company in January 1998 and continues to lead with pneumatic products for industrial, environmental and medical applications.
Reflecting on the benevolence of their parents William C. and Martha Gast, Warren Gast and his wife Lou and Marcie-Gast Schalon and her husband Edward Schalon, formed the Gast Foundation and the Schalon Foundation. These charitable trusts have supported many worthwhile institutions and projects. The Bluffside Development, that includes the Silver Beach(SM) Carousel, would not have been realized without the generous support from these families’ foundations.
A hallmark of any thriving community is its medical care. The city-owned St. Joseph Sanitarium located at 1821 Niles Avenue, was opened February 1, 1935. This 35-bed facility was almost always at capacity, so plans were made for a larger facility. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the 104-bed Memorial Hospital took place on the 17-acre property overlooking the St. Joseph River on August 26, 1949. Mergers, acquisitions and building additions have since created the Lakeland HealthCare System, a preeminent provider of medical care for Southwest Michigan.
Whirlpool Corporation is a Fortune 500 global leader in the manufacture and marketing of home appliances. Brothers Frederick and Louis Upton founded Upton Machine Co. in 1911. The fledgling company produced electric motor-driven wringer washing machines. After a bumpy start, a 1916 alliance with Sears and Roebuck put Upton’s “Allen” brand in the Sears retail locations and catalog. As electricity became available in rural America, the company’s sales grew.
Upton Machine merged with the Nineteen Hundred Washer Company of New York in 1929 to form the Nineteen Hundred Corporation. In 1949, it changed its name to Whirlpool Corporation. During the 1950s Whirlpool expanded its product line when it merged with Seeger Refrigeration Company and acquired RCA’s air conditioner and range lines. Whirlpool then continued to make astute acquisitions and critical realignments to expand its domestic and global markets.
Whirlpool Corporation’s legendary philanthropy is directed through its Whirlpool Foundation. Its support for the Bluffside Development came with its donation of Whirlpool Field, the site of the Whirlpool Compass Fountain (opened in 2009) that entertains children and adults all summer long.
Vail Rubber Works is a century-old, family-owned business.. William A. Vail began the company in Chicago in 1904, the first to make molded, rubberized horseshoes to cushion horse hooves on the newly paved streets. Vail relocated to St. Joseph in 1920 to be closer to the emerging paper market. The company then developed a process to rubber-coat rollers not only for paper mills, but steel and aluminum mills. Vail attributes its long-staying power to the quality of its products, its unwavering commitment to customers and a harmonious relationship with its employees.
Auto Specialties Mfg. Co. (Ausco) moved from Chicago to St. Joseph in 1917 to manufacture automobile parts. Under the guidance of James W. Tiscornia and his brother, Waldo V. Tiscornia,, the nascent company grew hand-in-hand with the bourgeoning auto industry.
Ausco built its reputation making castings and specialized disc brake systems for farm tractors, construction equipment, and aircraft. When car manufacturers began offering automobile jacks, Ausco’s jack line prevailed. Today, two separate Benton Township companies continue to market their versions of Ausco brakes and jacks.
For many years, the Auto Specialties sign was a city landmark. Built in 1954, it gave a clear view of the time and temperature. This 60” x 100”, one-hundred-ton “erector set” was torn down in July 1992.
In gratitude to the community, the Tiscornia Foundation was organized in 1942 and continues to support many worthy causes. In addition, the north beach property was deeded by the James W. Tiscornia family to the City of St. Joseph for all to enjoy. It is aptly named Tiscornia Beach.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from Bob and Becky Rice.
On the Water
The Great Lakes region contains five of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. Lake Michigan is the second largest of the five with 22,400 square miles of surface area. It is the only Great Lake that is bounded entirely within the United States. Its moonlit waters gave Silver Beach its name. Beyond Lake Michigan’s sandy shores there are hundreds of inland lakes, ponds, streams and rivers, too.
Our waterways are an integral part of our history. The first European travelers in Michigan Territory were French explorers and trappers who were accompanied by Jesuit priests. These intrepid discoverers used water to reach their destinations. Many times they portaged overland to connect to the next lake or river.
As civilization progressed, sailing ships crossed Lake Michigan, hauling much needed supplies between ports of call. Steam power allowed more goods to be transported with improved reliability. With the advent of the middle class, excursion boats began bringing passengers to and from our port. Boat builders also started businesses along our waterways. The notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone owned one of the popular “Seagull” runabouts assembled by Robinson Marine in the 1920s.
Our maritime history tells of Lake Michigan’s treacherous waters. But the Lake became safer when the government installed lighthouses and life saving services. The original St. Joseph lighthouse was one of the first two lighthouses built in Michigan (1832). The current lighthouse (shown here) has stood vigilant on the North Pier since 1907.
The Lighthouse Maintenance Depot on the St. Joseph River (completed in 1893) provided supplies to the 9th District of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment and offered storage and maintenance for buoys used by 114 lighthouses. Today the St. Joseph Yacht Club uses the structure.
In 1874, the U.S. Life Saving Service began rescuing distressed ships, passengers and crew. Now the U.S. Coast Guard provides maritime protection for our waters.
The On the Water Rounding Board was made possible by a donation from William and Jane Marohn.
Faith in Our Lives
Our places of worship bind our community together.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, dedicated in April 1872, is the oldest religious edifice in St. Joseph. Today the Catholic congregation supports Lake Michigan Catholic Elementary and High Schools.
The Congregational Church of St. Joseph began in 1854 and met in the city’s Old White School House. A frame structure was built in 1860 and a 1922 renovation covered the exterior with brick veneer. A new house of worship, located at 2001 Niles Ave, was dedicated in 1955.
On June 13, 1866, seventeen people formed the First Congregational Church of Benton Harbor. Their first church, known as the Little Brown Church, was finished in 1868. A second church was built in 1890 on Pipestone; another building was added in 1913; fire destroyed both in 1926. The Cathedral is on the same property. Declining membership forced the church to close May 13, 2007.
Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Joseph, came into being in 1867 when its German founders built a church at the present location. In 1886, a new edifice was built. A parochial school was completed in 1912 and the present church was built in 1925. The present elementary school was dedicated in 1952.
The Second Baptist Church, Benton Harbor started in 1875. The first house of worship was built in 1880 but it burned to the ground. The first unit of the 8th St. church was completed in 1893. Then in 1944, the expanding membership moved to 477 Cherry St. Finally, the congregation relocated to 600 Lynch St. The street was renamed Donald Adkins Dr. in honor of their spiritual leader (1974 to 1999).
The Children of Israel was organized in 1895. Its first synagogue was built in 1900. The congregation moved to 114 Lake St., Benton Harbor in 1925. They merged with Ohava Sholom Synagogue in 1959 and were renamed B’nai Sholom. In 1963, they moved to 2050 Broadway . Temple Beth-El and B’nai Sholom joined in 1971 and renamed their conservative denomination to Temple B’nai Shalom.
The Faith in our Lives Rounding Board was made possible by an anonymous donor.
Summer in the City
The long awaited summer season arrives with much anticipation. We fill the warmer days with carefree, outdoor activities. The City of St. Joseph honors the glory of nature with many festivities and events all season long.
As summer vacations begin, people flock to our shores. We offer some of the best family beaches in the nation. And when you’re not on the beach, you can hunt for antiques along the bluff, bring home fresh-picked fruits and vegetables from the farmers’ market, listen to live music performances, enjoy a refreshing ice cream cone or watch a brilliant sunset night after night.
Festival season goes full blast on July 4th when the night sky bursts with colorful fireworks over Lake Michigan. The following weekend, more than 200 artists set up booths along the bluff as part of the highly acclaimed Krasl Art Show. More than 70,000 people enjoy the two-day show. The next weekend, the city brims with upwards to 200,000, people who come to celebrate our Venetian Festival. A decorated boat parade, outdoor music concerts, tastes of Southwestern Michigan foods, spectacular fireworks, contests and special events entertain all ages.
August brings Chalk the Block and a classic car show. Then, all too fast, Labor Day Weekend arrives with the Tri-State Regatta, a sailboat race form Chicago, Ill. to St. Joseph, Mich. to Michigan City, Ind. to Chicago. Watching the colorful sails leave port on Sunday morning is a sight to behold. The weekend may mark the end of summer, but never the end of fun in the city.
The Summer in the City Rounding Board is still available for sponsorship.