New Wood Fire decorations celebrate Dowagiac’s past

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DOWAGIAC — Sipping a cup of coffee Monday morning, Wood Fire Trattoria General Manager and Co-owner Kevin Hanner sat under a black and white photo of Dowagiac in the 1800s.

Though many things about the photo give away its era — namely the presence of a horse-drawn buggy riding down what is now Front Street — some aspects of the scene will look familiar to those living within the city now.

“That’s actually our building right there,” Hanner said, pointing to a storefront in the middle of the photograph. Though the building in the photo carries a sign for Ross’ Hardware, it’s easy to identify the structure and its curved windows as the modern Wood Fire. “I just think that is really cool. … This [photo] is my favorite.”

The Wood Fire, 134 S. Front St., Dowagiac, recently added new decorations to its walls. Courtesy of the Dowagiac History Museum, the restaurant has added prints of historical photos to its space, with each of the 20 prints showcasing a different moment in Dowagiac’s long history.

“We wanted to bring the community and its rich history into the restaurant,” Hanner said. “We purchased Wood Fire a little over a year ago, and we are happy to continue its traditions.”

Most of the photos now on display in the restaurant depict late 1800s and 1920s Dowagiac.  Hanner said the Wood Fire was happy to display the photos not only because the business is a big supporter of the Dowagiac Area History Museum, but because the building itself is historic, having been built in 1875. Although working in such an old building presents challenges, having a long history gives the restaurant character and makes it feel like a part of the community, he said.

“The history is so special,” Hanner said. “In some parts of the building, you can see etching from when people were here in the 1800s. … We are a part of the history in these photos.”

In the time since the photographs were placed in the restaurant, Hanner said nearly every customer that has come through the business has commented on them, with some even becoming intrigued enough to visit the Dowagiac Area History Museum.

“This is a way for us to give a small sampling of what the museum has to offer, and there is so much more over there to see,” Hanner said. “It’s great that this can get people interested in history.”

The photos will remain as a permanent fixture inside the Wood Fire. Hanner said he hopes community members will come see the photos and — hopefully — learn some Dowagiac history in the process.

“We think this is a great way to support the community and its history,” Hanner said. “The community supports us, so we have to support them too.”