About Foundry Hall

UPDATE *** Since October 2007, Foundry Hall has hosted more than one thousand performances, celebrations, classes, films, and community events at 422 Eagle Street in downtown South Haven. The building– which many have come to call “Foundry Hall,” due to our tenure there– has been purchased by and has become an antique mall.   Sorry to all the folks who loved the space!  We know we did!

Who We Are

WE BELIEVE THE CREATION AND EXPERIENCE OF LIVE MUSIC AND PERFORMING ARTS INSPIRES, EDUCATES, AND REFRESHES THE HUMAN SPIRIT

Founded in October 2007 by South Haven resident and touring musician, Andru Bemis, Foundry Hall is a grassroots organization dedicated to continuing South Haven’s authentic cultural heritage by providing a venue for the creation, practice, and presentation of original live music and the performing arts.   For seven years Foundry Hall  rented a 10,000 square foot historic building at 422 Eagle Street in downtown South Haven, where it hosted more than 200 events annually.  The organization moved when the Eagle street location was sold in December of 2015.

WE ARE BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH MUSIC

The organization  now rents space at the Warren Senior Center in downtown South Haven.  This space is amenable to private and group lessons, workshops, community music programs as well as a comfortable venue for the 12 concerts  presented in the space this year.  This year, Foundry Hall has worked with other organizations and community members to bring live music to other spaces as well, including the South Haven Center for the Arts, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum, the Scott Club and the Michigan Maritime Museum.

WE BELIEVE INTERACTION THROUGH THE ARTS AND SHARED EXPERIENCES IS KEY TO A HAPPY, HEALTHY, AND VIBRANT TOWN

Foundry Hall features original works by emerging and established artists, as well as providing education and opportunities for everyone to participate in these arts. We encourage education in music, performing arts, and audio/visual production by providing facilities and tools for mentorship and skill-sharing opportunities.

DONATIONS TO FOUNDRY HALL ARE NOW TAX DEDUCTABLE!

In 2014 Foundry Hall received 501(c)3 tax-exempt status as a federally designated non-profit organization.

Our Goals

  1. To nurture the creation of original works by diverse artists and to build new audiences for their work;
  2. to cultivate a local culture of creativity in performance art, literature, dance, music, and film by providing a venue for emerging and established artists to develop and present their work in a safe, supportive, artist-focused environment;
  3. to encourage education in music, performing arts, and audio/visual production by providing facilities and tools for mentorship and skill-sharing opportunities;
  4. to support local educational and performing arts organizations by providing a venue for practice and performances;
  5. and to contribute to the community by making Foundry Hall available as a meeting and gathering place for local organizations committed to positive social change.

Board of Directors

Lotte Resek – President
Andru Bemis – Vice President
Deborah Wesche – Director
Ben Holt – Director
Greg Scholl – Director
Doug Peterson – Director
Mitchell Graham – Director
Michael Vanden Tak – director

History

Foundry Hall history - Niffenegger's Auto SalesEarly 1900s: the Niffenegger family builds one of the nation’s first Ford dealerships at the corner of Center and Eagle Streets.

South Haven’s resort industry — begun in the mid-1800s at the home of Mrs. H. M. Avery — is already in full swing; thousands of visitors arrive daily by steamship and train to enjoy a memorable vacation. Entertainment choices include nightly live performances at theaters, pavilions, extravagant resorts; an amusement park with a roller coaster; an opera house; and one of the largest indoor dance halls in the country.

Although the resort industry is a tremendous boon to South Haven, its impact is felt for only a few months each summer. To remedy the situation, the Board of Trade (later renamed the Chamber of Commerce) is instrumental in bringing several major industries to the city. These include the Cable-Nelson Piano, S.E. Overton, and Casavant Organ Companies, all dedicated to building some of the era’s finest musical instruments and accessories.

1912: Casavant Co. builds 52 pipe organs at its South Haven factory before the war brings production to a halt in 1918. Remaining employees use their unique knowledge of acoustical enclosures to build RCA Victor phonograph cabinets for a time, before closing the factory entirely.

1925: S.E. Overton Co. builds a new 130,000 square foot factory to accommodate increased production of its highly popular “knock-down” piano bench, as well as more than 800 piano hammer sets per day, and one and a half million phonograph legs yearly.

1926: Everett Piano Co. of Boston, Massachusetts, moves its manufacturing operations to South Haven after purchasing Cable-Nelson.

1954: Hammond Organ Co. acquires both Everett and Cable-Nelson and starts also building Hammond pianos at the South Haven factory.

Foundry Hall history - A&P GroceryMid-1950s: Thomas Samson purchases the building at the corner of Center and Eagle Streets from the Niffenegger family, and starts Samson Auto Sales.

1957: Samson Auto Sales’ showroom and sales area are demolished for a parking lot, and the rear half of the dealership is remodeled for an A&P grocery store, which opens in 1959.

1968: the A&P relocates to Huron Street. Bohn Aluminum & Brass Corporation, which operates a local foundry manufacturing aluminum pistons for the automotive industry, converts the former A&P and adjacent facilities into a machine plant and offices.

1973: Yamaha acquires both Everett and Cable-Nelson, and continues to manufacture Everett pianos in the South Haven factory alongside its own U.S.-made Yamaha pianos.

1986: Yamaha enters a manufacturing agreement with the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co., moves its operations to Thomaston, Georgia, and permanently shuts down the South Haven piano factory.

Early-1990s: Bohn Aluminum & Brass downsizes and closes its Eagle Street factories and offices. S.E. Overton Co. also closes.

Foundry Hall front1995: the owners of Wolverine Hardware purchase the now-vacant Bohn Aluminum building for use as extra warehouse and storage space.

2001: a group of local music aficionados associated with the Blue Star Music Camps rent the former Bohn building and extensively renovate it, transforming it into a music venue and educational camp. The facility operates under several names before closing in 2007.libraryeverett2

Mid-2000s: Everett Piano factory is demolished for residential development.  You can find the last Everett Piano built here is South Haven at the South Haven Memorial Library, donated to the City of South Haven  by the Everett Piano Company (then owned by Yamaha) September 25th, 1986. Inside the removable cabinet pieces you will find the names of the employees that worked in the factory, many of whom are our neighbors and friends in the community.

2007: Foundry Hall begins operations at 422 Eagle Street, the former home of: Eagle Street Theatre, Ascensions, Blue Star Theatre, Blue Star Music Camp, Wolverine Hardware, Bohn Aluminum & Brass Co., A&P, Samson’s Auto Sales, and Niffenegger’s Auto Sales.

Present: Notable South Haven-built Casavant organs still in use include the 1916 Opus 37 at First Church of Christ Scientist in Rochester, New York, and 28 stops of the fully restored Bryan Concert Organ (1914 Opus 553) at Jacoby Symphony Hall in Jacksonville, Florida. The former organ factory has been converted to luxury condos. The S.E. Overton factory built in 1925 still stands, and is largely neglected. Many former employees of Bohn Aluminum, S.E. Overton, and the Everett/Yamaha Piano Companies are still in town and more than happy to share their stories.

For more South Haven history, visit the Historical Association of South Haven, and http://www.south-haven.com/pages/history.html (from which this page borrows liberally).

7 thoughts on “About Foundry Hall”

  1. My name is Karen Niffenegger, I’m trying to find out what I can about the Niffenegger family. My grandpa Bernie Niffenegger and grandma Leta Conkel Niffenegger lived on Phoenix St.
    My grandpa owned Niffenegger’s Market down town. My dad Bernie A Niffenegger moved to St. Charles, Mi. for his job. He passed away in 1965. He is burried in North Shore Memorial Garden. I love the town of South Haven and haven’tbeen back for about 10 years. I am going down on 6/26/15 to visit my dad and grandparents.
    If you have any information about the family I would love to find out about them.
    Thank you, Karen Niffenegger.

    1. I know of a few relatives in the area, but not really well. I believe they built the Eagle Street building that we used to rent, but I’m not sure about that. Have you asked the Historical Association of SOuth Haven? Ed Appleyard is a great resource for this stuff. http://historyofsouthhaven.org/

  2. I have a large genuine walnut Overton Original Bentwood tray made by the S.E. Overton Co.
    I never had heard of this company since it was in So. Haven,Michigan I was trying to see if they were still
    in business. It has been passed down from my grand mother to my mother to me and I am 82.
    It was nice to know about the company
    Thank you for having this information listed in your records. Jo-Ann Garvin New Jersey.

    1. You’re welcome! We really sharing and learning about the piano factory history! Thanks for sharing your story, too.

  3. This past summer during your music festival on the river there was a young man who was a one man band. He was using a loop pedal to lay down tracks and kept building with his acoustic guitar and vocals. Some one told me he was from Florida and hangs out is SW Michigan in the summer then returns towards warmer climate? Can you tell me his name and if he has a face book page or website?

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Building Community Through Music & Performing Arts in South Haven, since 2007