This picturesque resort community and art colony is on the Kalamazoo River near its mouth in the sand dunes along Lake Michigan. The river widens into a small lake that forms a harbor. Saugatuck developed in the 1860s and 1870s as a sawmill and tannery town. Nearby peach orchards, boat building, and commercial fishing have been important industries. Along with Douglas, Saugatuck was an important summer vacation destination for Chicago area residents in the Great Lakes region and became, hence, one of Chicago's most important cultural outposts. A neon sign in the form of an artist's pallet with the word “Saugatuck” dates from 1937 and marks the south entrance to the city. The Chain Ferry (1965 steel-frame scow, R. J. Peterson, builder) is the most recent successor to the hand-operated cable ferry that has carried passengers across the channel of the Kalamazoo River since 1857. The Saugatuck-Douglas area made the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2009 list of A Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The designation recognizes the community stewardship of the arts, architecture, agriculture, ecology, and preservation of its greatest asset, the lakeshore. In 2010 Saugatuck Coastal Dunes Alliance works to protect the twenty-five-hundred-acre dunes area and its surrounding community from a proposed four-hundred-acre residential development. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Saugatuck dunes to its 2010 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
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