Dowagiac Home and Garden Tour makes triumphant return

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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DOWAGIAC — People from Dowagiac and beyond turned out in droves last Saturday for an event 32 years in the making.

More than 400 people participated in the 2023 Dowagiac Home and Garden Tour Saturday in Dowagiac.

The self-guided tour featured six historic homes and one downtown “Upper” apartment:

  • The William Vrooman Building, currently known as The Altus; 143 S. Front St.
  • The Horace C. and Almira Jones House, currently known as The 1870 House, 306 W. Division St.
  • The Joseph C. and Jessie E. (Colby) Searle House, 106 Green St.
  • The Joseph B. and Jane Clarke House, 206 Green St.
  • The Archibald B. and Amanda Gardner House, known as The Maples, 511 Green St.
  • The William F. and Dora B. Hoyt House, 204 West Telegraph St.
  • The Arthur K. and Bessie (Rich) Beckwith House, 209 Oak St.

“Last Saturday was a great day for Dowagiac,” said Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons. “With more than 400 people from locations near and far exploring Dowagiac’s architectural diversity, enjoying our downtown businesses, and learning more about the wonderful things our town has to offer, that helps spread the word about our appeal as a destination. My thanks go out to everyone involved, and I very much look forward to the 2024 Dowagiac Home and Garden Tour.”

The previous Home and Garden Tour ran from 1982 to 1991. Andy Anderson, the founding director of the previous Dowagiac Historical Home Tour, said that he felt this tour was a tremendous success, and that the volunteers were first-class. 

The planning committee was chaired by Eileen Crouse and included Alicea Rodriguez, Allexia Money, Dana Sandoval, Jessica Shank and Zena Burns. Local historian Corey Crocker researched and delivered background on the participating homes for the enjoyment of tour-goers, and several other volunteers were crucial to the event’s success.

The planning committee set a goal of 200 tickets sold. Demand more than doubled projections, with more than 400 people, many from outside the immediate area, participating in the tour. 

For Crouse, the relaunching of the tour has been a dream of hers ever since she moved to Dowagiac in 2015.

“I was blown away by Dowagiac’s gorgeous homes and the diversity of the architecture,” Crouse said. “Many towns have homes that are homogeneous, and that’s not the case here. In 2016, I started the Homes of Dowagiac Facebook and Instagram accounts to give recognition to these homes and the people who lovingly maintain them, and re-launching the tour was a natural progression.”

Event-goers touring the homes were able to shop to their heart’s content at many downtown businesses that were open.

“The tour was fantastic for business, from brunch all the way through dinner service,” said Tim Tinker, owner of downtown Dowagiac restaurant OAK+ASH. “We had a steady stream of people coming in all day, many of whom had never visited us before, and there was a great, positive vibe and excitement.”

Proceeds from the event will fund a donation to the Dowagiac Area History Museum in honor of Linda Lorenz. Lorenz, who owned the historic Gardner Mansion with her husband, Bill, fell ill and passed away in early May. According to organizers, it was important to her that the home remain on the tour.

The tour was sponsored by Matt and Ale Money with D. Mottl Realty Group, Chicago Title, and Chase. Other national sponsors made in-kind donations. Character, a Chicago-based home improvement brand, donated a tool set and gift certificate won by JW Magner from St. Joseph. Holland, Michigan-based Boxed Water, which packages water in cartons rather than plastic bottles, donated water to keep everyone hydrated on the hot day.

The success of the event has organizers and attendees alike looking forward to next year’s event, which is set to take place June 22, 2024. Several homes and volunteers have already committed. 

Everett Harrington, who along with partner Darcie Smith owns the Joseph C. and Jessie E. (Colby) Searle House featured on the tour, enjoyed the experience and takes pride in preserving a piece of Dowagiac history for future generations.

“We enjoyed this,” he said. “It’s a beautiful home and people should be able to enjoy it… What we’re doing is we’re trying to preserve it for the next people. You’re just the caretaker; this home will be here way after we’re here, so we’re just taking care of it as best we can.”

Two of the seven homes on the tour – 1870 House and The Altus Apartment – are part of the Stay Dowagiac collective and available as vacation rentals.