Small-town Life at its Best

rsz 2017 05 08 005737 2The friendly small-town life today's families are looking for, when combined with the amenities typically found in larger cities, makes this quaint southwestern Michigan community a haven for young professionals, growing families and retirees.  From custom housing to quality health care, superb schools and a state-of-the-art community college, Dowagiac has it all. 

Life in our community takes a quiet turn at the end of the day, as people return to the comfort of their homes.  A century of varied architectural styles are found among the boulevards of blossoming trees.  Whether you choose in-town living, a serene country setting or a beautiful lakefront home at Sister Lakes, quality housing is affordable for the new homebuyer or growing family.

Located within the city limits off Riverside Drive, Rudolphi Woods Subdivision offers low-cost, quality homesites in an elegant setting.   For those who prefer maintenance-free living, Villamere Condominiums, located on Dowagiac's east side, offer detached single-family villas that adjoin picturesuqe Mill Pond. 

 A Community Rich in History

Reminders of our heritage are found throughout our community, where day-visitors can view stone mansions, reminiscent of the Victorian era, and potbellied Round Oak Stoves that once warmed our homes.  Members of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians, one of the earliest settlers to this area, continue to call Dowagiac home, as do such longstanding businesses as Judd Lumber Co., the oldest lumber company in Michigan and Mennel Milling Company, which is the oldest mill in the state that is still in operation on its original site.

 Influence of the Indians

The name Dowagiac came from the Potawatomi Indian word, Ndowagayuk, which means forging ground, reflective of this area's abundant supply of wild game, fruit, vegetables, grain and medicinial herbs.  In 1821 through the Treaty of Chicago, the Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa ceded to the United States land today known as Cass County.  When the first permanent white settlers arrived in 1824, the Potawtomi Indians were dominate in the area.

Early Development

The Dowagiac Creek gave the city its start when William Renesten established his carding mill in 1831.  Two years later, he dammed the creek to create Mill Pond and built his grist mill.  Like Renesten, settlers wishing to live close to the mills began to settle the area. 

Waterpower suplied by Dowagiac Creek was important to early manufacturers.  The creek furnished power for saw mills, a plug tobacco manufacturer, foundry, chair company, feed mill and a cider and vinegar producer. 

A stagecoach route, following the Grand River Indian Trail, linking Kalamazoo to the Carey Mission in Niles, brought land seekers to the area by 1836.  When Michigan Central railroad came through in 1848, the area soon became a wheat shipping station.  On wheat day, farmers waited in line for blocks to unload their grain.  They also made use of the rail for shipping stock. While town planners intended Main Street to be the principal street, merchants wanting to be near the railroad, built their businesses along South Front Street.

rsz 2017 05 21 214130Round Oak Synonymous with Dowagiac

Historians credit Philo D. Beckwith, who came to our community in 1854, as the person most responsible for changing the business complextion of early Dowagiac.  The name Round Oak soon become a household word as people across the country purchased his potbellied stoves, furnaces and kitchen ranges, made between the 1860s and 1940s.

The remaining complex of Round Oak buildings on Spaulding Street now houses Ameriwood Furniture.  Today, a small collection of stoves are displayed at our office, located within the historic train depot.  To learn more about this community's history, tour the Dowagiac Area History Museum at Division and West Railroad streets, or visit www.DowagiacMuseum.info

 

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Latest News from your Chamber

  • October 30th, 2019

    Donations Accepted to Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Fund

    The Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant, which is entering its 81st year, is now taking donations to its Scholarship Fund.
     
    Pageant director Tracy Urbanski of the Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center, and members of the Pageant Executive Committee welcomed 14 young women, who attended the recent orientation social held at Dowagiac Area History Museum. Contestants of the upcoming Feb. 6 pageant are shown above.
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  • October 30th, 2019

    Rental Rehab Program Attracts Much Attention

    When $60,000 is on the table and available to downtown property owners, who renovate their upper levels into residential apartments, it definitely attracts attention.
     
    Eighteen building owners and contractors attended the Rental Rehab orientation, held at City Hall earlier this month. Marilyn Smith, of Smith Housing, provided the briefing on the program that uses Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support the development and rehabilitation of quality and affordable rental housing within the central business district.
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  • October 30th, 2019

    A Celebration of Our Members

    People, businesses and organizations that care for our community resonated throughout the evening at the Chamber's Annual Dinner & Celebration of its Members.
    More than 125 people gathered for the annual event Wednesday at the Elks Lodge, where Chamber officials paid tribute to Lifestyle Nutrition; Kyle Belew, owner of The Wounded Minnow; Dowagiac Union Schools; Joe Odenwald, Southwestern Michigan College incoming president; and Domestic And Sexual Assault Services (DASAS). Presdient Kim MacGregor is shown above with the award recipients.
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