“ISLAND CITY”


“COME, SIT-A-SPELL, AND ENJOY…..” Written by Irene K Cain, “Grandma Ladybug”, Ladybug Creationsã, April 2012, And the students of Mrs. Meggin Verduzco’s 3rd grade class, Starr Elementary 2012 - For the complete PDF document, please click here


Early settlers to this area found the area where the Kalamazoo River and the Gun River merged, a great place to build their homes.  In 1833, Calvin Cutler purchased a plot of land for a dollar an acre where he built his first home.  Then in 1838 he built the “Red Brick House” which became the site of a trading post.  Since this was located near the junction of roads leading north and south and those heading east and west, this Red Brick House became the perfect stop along the stage coach lines and a gathering place for the local residents who came to trade. 

Around 1850 a plank road was being laid to help improve the well traveled roads between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo and between Allegan and Richland.  This land, once owned by Walter W. Woodhams became know as the village of “Woodhams”  More and more people then began to settle in and around the village and soon it began to grow into a small town.  The people then applied for an official name change to “Plainfield“.  However, there was already a Plainfield, Michigan so the name of Plainwell was submitted and approved.  Much later (1982) the town was proclaimed “Island City” because it was surrounded by river waters. 

Throughout the years residents of this little town have found many sources of entertainment.  In the early days the people would gather to celebrate many different festivals, weddings, and holidays. 

In 1890, for example, they would gather at the local fairgrounds which were located where 131 and M89 now cross.  The villagers would hold sulky horse races, track meets, and carnivals.  Circus’s would set up on this spot as well. 

In 1907 the town erected the “George Gary Soule” fountain, which was donated in his memory by his wife.  Located in front of Hicks park, it had 4 drinking fountains inside and outside there were places for dogs and horses to drink as well.  This too was a gathering spot for local residents and visitors alike. 

In the early 1900’s the villagers would organize parades and festivals.  One such celebration was a May Day Festival where the children would dress up and dance with streamers around a pole decorated with spring flowers. 

In 1915, the children from the Bridge Street School dressed up for a parade in costumes they each made out of “Sunshine Flower Sacks” which were donated by the local mill owner. 

Once around 1900 when a circus came to town, a high wire act was performed on Main Street.  The performer walked on a tightrope from the tavern on the east side to the Village Hall on the west of the main street of town. 

In 1916, while the Spencer Woodward Building was being constructed, the circus came to town once again.  While the elephants were being forded across the river, two of them escaped.  One of the elephants came into town and fell through the sub floor (unfinished) landing in the basement of the new building.  The elephant was rescued by building a ramp made of railroad ties.  A spectacular sight to watch, especially by all the children of the area. 

Through the years, other forms of entertainment came into being.  On April 26, 1927 the Sun Theater opened its doors where the local villagers could see silent films and vaudeville shows. 

As the town grew so did the entertainment opportunities.  A drive-in theater and roller skating rink were popular attractions to the local area. 

In 1953 Newman’s Ice Cream became a popular attraction in Plainwell.  Then in 1978, Art and Judy Gaylord purchased the business.  It took a lot of hard work to get the building presentable.  Every time they completed one project another would appear.  With the help of Judy’s parents, they painted, cleaned and decorated the building.  The last thing they had to do was create the ice cream. 

On May 23, 1978 “Plainwell Ice Cream” opened for business.  It’s eight original flavors were: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, black raspberry, lemon chiffon, french mint, chocolate chip and butter pecan, which were packed in 3 gallon boxes. 

Over the years, the many young people who came to work at the store helped by suggesting and tasting new flavors like “rum raisin”, which is Art’s favorite, although most people agreed it’s the “worst” flavor they ever created. 

Today there are over forty ice cream flavors in the coolers at the Plainwell Ice Cream store.

Here are a few favorite flavors and memories from some of the third graders at Starr Elementary:

For the complete PDF document, please click here

For the complete PDF document, please click here

As you can see over the years, Plainwell has grown from a small village into the thriving community we have here today. 

You will probably agree that Plainwell Ice Cream has added a lot to the feeling of happiness found here at the junction of 131 and M89.  Today many people from all over the state and even from places far beyond, come here regularly to enjoy our little “Island City” and the sweet cool tastes of Plainwell Ice Cream.   

So come, sit-a-spell and enjoy…………….your favorite flavor. 

Resources:  

Otsego and Plainwell

                                Ryan Weiber and Sandy Stamm
                                Arcadia Pub 2006 

History of Plainwell Michigan

                                Joan B Whitney
                                Taylor Publishing 1978 

They’re Scoopin’ Out a Livin’ With Ice Cream

                                Jane Vander Weyden
                                Encore Magazine
                                January 2003


 


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