A Hope College student's interest in a local landmark has inspired an exhibition that she hopes will help lead others to discover and appreciate it, too.
An exhibition of photographs by senior art major Julie Esch of Ann Arbor will be displayed at the Felt Mansion in Laketown Township from Friday, Nov. 21, through early January.
The exhibition, "Once Upon This Place," will feature approximately 15 large-format (20-inch by 24-inch) black-and-white and color photographs taken in the mansion or on the grounds. The images involve early 1900s costuming, and while they are not historical reenactments they have a story-telling quality.
The Felt Mansion was built by Dorr E. Felt as a summer home between 1925 and 1928, and is now owned and being restored by Laketown Township. It is located near the Saugatuck Dunes State Park, at the end of 138th Avenue west of 64th Street (Old Saugatuck Road).
Esch is a 2000 graduate of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, and the daughter of David and Jan Esch of Ann Arbor. She became interested in the mansion while growing up, when she would visit the area with her family to see her maternal grandmother in Saugatuck and go hiking in the state park at the same time. The building had normally been vacant and boarded up, but then one day...
"We would often drive by the house to see how it was doing, and last fall we were surprised to see people there," she said. "We stopped to find out what was going on, and a volunteer took us on a tour and told us about the restoration project."
The effort matched her interests well. "I have always been fascinated by historic places," she said. "I love things like reenactments or Green Field Village."
Esch was correspondingly anxious to support the mansion restoration, and - in keeping with her studio art major - offered to take a series of photographs for an exhibition. She is hoping that the exhibit will help bring more people into contact with the both the restoration project and "Christmas at the Mansion," which begins on Saturday, Nov. 29, and will highlight the house in addition to featuring a display of Christmas trees.
The exhibition will open at the mansion with a reception on Friday, Nov. 21, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It will continue on Saturday, Nov. 22, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and in conjunction with "Christmas at the Mansion" on Saturdays and Sundays from Saturday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 28, and on Friday-Sunday, Jan. 2-4, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission to the exhibition is free on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 21-22. Admission will be $7 during the "Christmas at the Mansion" event beginning Saturday, Nov. 29, with the proceeds supporting the restoration project.