Historic Highland Park residents included artists and industrialists

In her book, The Historic Cottages of Highland Park, Karen Lowe explores the history of this unique enclave along the shores of Lake Michigan. Highland Park sits near the Grand Haven State Park with Lake Avenue to the north and Grand Avenue to the south. Our series will offer excerpts from the book. For more information or to buy a copy of the book, visit lulu.com or any local bookseller.

Today, we explore the cottages Cozy Corner and The Oriole, one owned by a military family, one by an artistic family.

Cozy Corner

Cozy Corner was built in 1888 by George W. McBride (1845-1929) and his wife Martha (Hendry) McBride. A decorated military officer and Grand Haven attorney, George served as President of the Highland Park Association from 1904-1909. Additionally, George and Martha McBride managed the Highland Park Hotel from 1899 to 1908. Born in Ohio County, Indiana in 1845, George McBride enlisted as a private in Company H of the 15th Michigan Infantry in 1862 during the Civil War and fought in the battles of Shiloh and Corinth and Sherman’s March to the Sea. Known as a man of integrity, Lt. McBride was hastily and unfairly given a dishonorable discharge in Aug. 1865 — months after the war was over — for trying to gain the release of men under his command, who had been arrested for disorderly conduct. It literally took an act of Congress to get McBride’s dishonorable discharge expunged and for him to receive the pension he had been denied for 34 years.

After the war, George resumed his education to become a lawyer and by 1873, he was admitted to the bar. George opened a law office in Grand Haven, working with Healy C. Akeley. In 1876, McBride was elected prosecuting attorney and held that position for 10 years, during which time he reportedly cleaned up some of the worst criminal gangs in Michigan. In 1888, McBride was on the first board of trustees of Akeley Institute, which opened that year.

The bath house and giant slides at Highland Park beach (1915).
Recognizing that the lumbering interests in the area were dying, George McBride and other community leaders used their own financial resources to travel around the region with the goal of attracting manufacturing concerns to Grand Haven and to boost the development of local industry. McBride along with Dudley Watson and several others organized Grand Haven’s first Board of Trade, a predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce. The first company they brought here was the Story & Clark Piano Company, which soon employed over 600 men and became a major industry in Grand Haven.

The McBrides sold Cozy Corner to William S. Blakeslee in 1923 and the cottage has remained in the Blakeslee-Smith family for over 95 years.

The Oriole

The cottage at 65 Poplar Ridge was built in the early 1900s by A. George Stander (1854-1914) and wife, Kate, of Grand Rapids. According to census records, Stander was a candy maker with Smith Mercantile Co., in Grand Rapids in 1910. George and Kate had two sons: Stewart (b. 1888) and Chester (b. 1891), who inherited the cottage. For almost 70 years, three generations of the Stander family summered at their cottage in Highland Park, which they called The Schrubs.
Chester I. Stander and wife Bertha taking a stroll on the boardwalk in Highland Park (ca. 1920).
In 1971, a few years after Chester passed away, his widow Bertha sold the cottage to Richard Sweet and his wife Mary (Rose) Sweet who re-christened the cottage, The Oriole.

Mary (née Rose) Sweet spent her childhood summering in Highland Park with her mother’s family. Mary’s grandparents, Louis and Mary Hake owned a cottage in Highland Park for over 30 years and even owned a second cottage next door for ten of those years.

Mary’s husband, Richard Sweet (1941-2007), was a Grand Haven artist, teacher and
entrepreneur who founded Marüshka in 1971 and co-founded The Michigan Rag Company in 1985. The same year the Sweets bought the cottage (1971), Richard quit his teaching position at the Grand Haven Public Schools to found a company which produced affordable silk screen graphic prints (that came stretched, framed and ready to be hung on the wall). He named the company after his wife: Marüshka, (which is the Russian/Polish form of Mary). In 2004, after over 30 years in the business, Sweet retired and sold his share of the business to Randy Smith.

Marüshka was founded in 1971 by Richard Sweet, who left teaching High School art to follow his dreams of designing and hand printing framed fabric wall art. Richard's classic designs depicted the landscape, plants, and wildlife found along waterways and shorelines. The hand silk screened designs quickly drew a national and international following.
Marüshka was founded in 1971 by Richard Sweet, who left teaching High School art to follow his dreams of designing and hand printing framed fabric wall art.

Marüshka also hand printed custom fabric for the contract furniture industry. As the business grew, Marüshka had more than 3,000 distributors and four factory outlet stores in Spring Lake, Muskegon, Rockford, and Lansing. At its height, Marüshka was known throughout the United States and its prints were distributed in several foreign countries, including Australia. The prints were so popular they attracted their share of imitators and by the mid-1980’s, Grand Haven was home to four other firms offering wholesale silk screened prints. In 1985, Richard, along with former student and business partner Randy Smith, began producing apparel and accessories under the name Michigan Rag Company, using the same techniques. The 40+ year old company still continues its commitment to designing and hand printing all clothing and accessories it produces and maintains an archive of over 3000 original designs.
Source: Marushka.com

Prior to her election to Grand Haven City Council, Karen Lowe served as commissioner on the city’s Historic Conservation District Commission. She holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from Washington University and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in nursing from the University of Illinois. Recently retired, she was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a vice president and general manager at IBM.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.