The Felt Family Farm

(mansion picture)
(Picture of the mansion at "the farm", courtesy of Michigan Historical Center).

- Special Note -
The non-profit Dorr E. Felt Estate Restoration Project has been created to preserve forever the mansion and grounds of this historic landmark. Take the tour of this magnificant 1920s era family retreat, by clicking here.

Mary Elizabeth Schmidt, granddaughter of the inventor has provided this fascinating history of their summer home in Saugatuck, Michigan...
The story of the "cottage" at the farm (Shore Acres Farm) is - The farm was bought in 1919 and everyone squeezed into the "little house" which was the original farm house for one of the farms. The "cottage" (ed: big house), as the man called it - sort of like the cottages in Newport, R.I.- was finally ready for occupancy in the summer of 1928. It was "Agnes'" (ed: DeMommy) house according to Dedaddy, and it did pass to the daughters upon her death six weeks later.

We kept the property in the family until late '40's or early '50's (I don't recall when it was sold as I was married and not at home). We sold it to the Augustinian Fathers as a Jr. Seminary. They covered the lovely parquet floors (had square pegs instead of round - Dedaddy had to design a special tool for installing them) with linoleum. The lovely dark carved wood work was covered with plywood - some of the fathers wanted to take it out but one held his ground that it would be covered and preserved - THANK GOODNESS.

The young boys lived and studied in the "big house", as we called it, and in the apartments above the 5 car garage. Eventually, they build a gymnasium and school buildings on land that had been the arboretum and a vineyard. After that they had no need for the big house, so they rented it to a cloistered group of Spanish Nuns. They divided up the bed rooms and made many other changes in the interior besides having a little hole in the front door for communication with the outside world.

Eventually, the Fathers sold the whole 600 acres to the State of Michigan as the school was closed for lack of students. Michigan turned the buildings which the fathers had built into a prison and the big house was the warden's home! Connie Tippens Jordan sent me a photo of the house with a big sign "WARDEN" on it. SAD,SAD,SAD.

Then, the state closed the prison and turned all but about 40 acres around the big house into a State Park - Saugatuck State Park. They had planned to sell the house and 40 acres to a developer. The people of Lake Township were up in arms about that idea. They worked out a plan where Michigan would sell it to them for $1.00 and they would tax themselves for 20 years to raise the money (1 million dollars) needed to tear down the buildings built for the seminary. Then their plan was to raise another million dollars to refurbish the house. Most of the grandchildren and some of the great grand children contributed to that fund, but we have heard nothing more. I'm sure they hoped we would contribute the furniture we have from that house, but NO WAY. We haven't heard what has happened for more than 2 or 3, maybe more years.

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