Tours showcase St. Joe’s historic buildings, monuments and sculpture collection

Published 9:50 am Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Krasl’s Sidewalk Art Tours provide information about the sculptures located in the Margaret B. Upton Arboretum. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

The Krasl’s Sidewalk Art Tours provide information about the sculptures located in the Margaret B. Upton Arboretum. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

ST. JOSEPH—Besides the beautiful beaches and the many recreational opportunities afforded by the lake and the river, one of the aspects that draws tourists to St. Joseph is the unique character of the town that perches atop the bluff.

With historical monuments, contemporary works of art and Victorian houses, taking a stroll along the bluff and down State Street can be a rich cultural experience, but it is also one that can bring up a lot of questions as well.

That’s why this summer’s Sidewalk Art and Heritage walking tours are such a great opportunity for both residents and visitors to get to know St. Joe a bit better.

“From the perspective of St. Joe Today, we’re excited to have two great tours to offer residents and visitors,” said Jill Stone, executive director of St. Joseph Today. “They really allow people to capture the art and the history of the area. It’s a great opportunity.”

This is actually the second year that the Heritage Museum is offering the tours.

“We had a request from St. Joe Today to offer history tours,” said Molly Kruck, museum assistant at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. “So, I helped to write the tours last year. We try to cover a little bit of everything—interesting houses, the lighthouses. The barrel factory that is now an apartment building has an interesting history.”

Since they began in late May, the tours have been popular with tourists and residents alike.

“We’ve had a few tourists on the tour, but mainly it’s been residents who want to learn more about the history of St. Joe,” Kruck said. “It’s been ranging from 5 to 15 people on each tour.”

The history tours, which cover about a mile and take a little over an hour, include more than 30 stops.

“We go by the Hotel Whitcomb and the Maids of the Mist Fountain. The cannon on the bluff is always really popular,” Kruck said. “We also stop by a few historic homes like 510 Park St. It’s a little Greek Revival home, and it is the oldest standing house in St. Joseph.”

Kruck recommends that folks also make a visit to the Heritage Museum after the tour ends.

“Admission to the museum is free throughout the rest of the summer,” Kruck said. “They can go by there after the tour.”

Building on the success of last year’s history tours, the Krasl Art Center has joined in this year, offering tours that cover the variety of monuments and sculptures that have been placed around St. Joseph as well as on the grounds of the Krasl itself.

“We started on May 30 with our first one,” explained Jodi Lamm, an education specialist who serves as a guide along with trained docents. “Not surprisingly, they started off slowly, but on our most recent tour, we had about 15 people. I think it’s a good mix of both residents and tourists.”

Like the Heritage’s history tours, the Krasl’s art tours begin at the St. Joseph Today Welcome Center, located at 301 State St.

“We start at St. Joe Today, and then we walk to the bluff right by the Whitcomb. From there, we visit the Firemen’s Memorial and the Maids of the Mist Fountain, an iconic St. Joe piece,” Lamm said. “Also, we talk about each one of the sculptures in the Krasl’s Biennial Sculpture Invitational that are visible from the bluff.”

From there, the tour takes visitors along the top of the bluff, ending at the Krasl, where visitors can learn about the various sculptures there. Then, tour guests can continue their experience by entering the art center, where admission is always free.

“There is some overlap between the two tours, but they do a lot more of the historic buildings, while we focus much more on the art,” Lamm said.

Like the history tours, the art tours last about an hour and cover a little less than a mile, so Lamm recommends that people wear comfortable walking shoes.

“We’re always on the sidewalk, so we’re stroller-friendly,” Lamm added. “The Krasl’s mission is to bring people and art together, so what better way to do that in the summer than to offer family-friendly walking tours?”

While the two types of tours are typically scheduled on alternating Fridays at 1 p.m. throughout the remainder of the summer, the final tour date, Aug. 29, will provide people with the opportunity to take both tours, back to back.

“That day, the Heritage will do their tour at 1 p.m., and then ours will start at 2 p.m.,” Lamm said.

Remaining dates for the Krasl tours are July 11 and 25; and Aug. 8, 22 and 29, while the Heritage tours will take place on July 18 and Aug. 1, 15 and 29.

“If people want more information on tour dates and such, they can call (269) 983-1191 or visit our website at,” Kruck said.

While the tours are free, a $5 donation is suggested. Information is also available from the Krasl at (269) 983-0271 or, as well as from St. Joseph Today at (269) 985-1111 or