Students compare towns’ histories

Published 4:47 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - What do a hotel in Texas, a windmill in Holland, Mich. and the local Ready Theatre all have in common? Each one has been picked as a historic location that three groups of students would like to see back in business.
Lynn Rouse, an English teacher at Niles High School, arranged a teleconference on Tuesday to give each group of students a chance to present their plans that would breathe life back into their respective local landmarks.
An elementary school class from Holland and two students in Texas were the other groups involved. The format and idea of the presentations, Rouse said, was based on the show “Three Wishes” with Amy Grant, who Rouse has written a couple times regarding the local theater.
Rouse's English skills class, consisting mostly of freshmen, chose to present a case to re-open the local theater, the Ready. The students' plan called for a union between the old vaudeville theater and the city's famous Four Flags Hotel. Combined, the class felt the two would make an excellent entertainment complex for dance, art, music, plays and maybe even a coffee house.
Rouse's class began the teleconference with a brief history that highlighted past performers and guests of the theater and hotel. The group mentioned Ring Lardner, who once wrote a screenplay for the theater, and the legend of gangster Al Capone's stay at the hotel.
“They were short little slapstick-type things,” he added.
McGowen also remembered his only trip to the Ready only a week before it closed.
The second presentation came from two students representing Mineola, Texas. The pair had started with four buildings they wished to see renovated and re-opened, including two hotels and an old brothel.
The eventual winner was the Henry Hotel, which has rested in downtown Mineola since 1933. The structure was in need of massive renovation, but still held some unique qualities such as original ceramic light fixtures and porcelain sinks.
The students from Holland Christian chose a windmill that was built in 1776 in a swampy part of nearby Lake Macatawa.
The group envisioned a three story building that could, in part, exhibit the art of VanGogh and Rembrandt to cherish the city's deep Dutch heritage. Bike rentals, a bed and breakfast and an amusement park were also part of the plan for “Windmill Island,” and were illustrated through drawings by the students.
The elementary class immediately responded with a simultaneous “thank you!”
Rouse has at least two more teleconferences planned for the near future.
The “transfer of ideas,” as Rouse called it, should include a total of four schools on Valentine's Day and then a group of students from Pakistan on St. Patrick's Day.