In a city that has witnessed a high level of demolition of its historic architectural heritage over the decades, the six block area of South Jefferson Avenue on Saginaw's East Side has both survived and served as an important and vital center of the community - a distinctly urban core where one can discover businesses, churches, civic buildings and homes with buildings that chronicle the city's development from a lumber boomtown in the early 1850s to one of Michigan's major industrial centers, with structures that form an almost encyclopedic collection of 19th and early 20th century architectural styles, many designed by nationally prominent architects.
Amidst this splendid landscape the annual Jazz on Jefferson festival was developed 10 years ago by the Jefferson Avenue Events Committee to forge an alliance between musical and visual artists while showcasing the unique resources of South Jefferson Avenue; and to also involve and integrate the many organizations and individuals that call South Jefferson Avenue home.
And for the 10th Annual Jazz on Jefferson extravaganza, which is slated to blossom on Wednesday, June 5th with performances by top local & regional jazz musicians, architectural walking tours of the historic district, food vendors, and an antique & classic car show, a slew of special surprises are in store, capped off by an encore performance of The New Reformation Jazz Band, featuring the Oppermann Brothers, who first performed at the inaugural launch of Jazz on Jefferson ten years ago.
Running from 4:45 - 8:00 PM, according to Thomas Trombley, event chairman who also works on South Jefferson as Deputy Director of the Castle Museum who has been involved with the event since its beginning, “One of the most important aspects has been the continued growth of this event. It has successfully helped to make people aware of the resources of South Jefferson Avenue, provided great entertainment over the years, and has made people aware of how special the institutions and architecture of South Jefferson Avenue truly are to the area.”
Trombley notes that the goals of Jazz on Jefferson have remained steadfast throughout the decade. “Looking at an agenda from our early meetings, our goals included creating a distinct identity for the street, promoting the use of underutilized properties, and creating public awareness for the South Jefferson avenue resources.”
The South Jefferson corridor, with its mix of churches, the Hoyt Library, the Castle Museum of Saginaw County, and private one-of-a-kind residences, is truly the sparkling showcase of this special musical extravaganza. “Jefferson has some amazing structures,” continues Trombley, “and the celebration of the buildings of South Jefferson has always been an important part of this event. We have always featured an architectural walking tour; and this year's event will include one focusing on the cornerstones of South Jefferson and a self-guided one that enables people - through QR codes - to access building histories on the Public Libraries of Saginaw website.”
By the early 1860s, South Jefferson had become a major thoroughfare. At the end of the Civil War, three major brick church buildings - First Baptist Church, Jefferson Avenue United Methodist Church and First Congregational - were constructed on South Jefferson. With towers and steeples visible throughout the community, they became instant landmarks. They announced the permanence and prosperity of East Saginaw and defined the scale of stature of South Jefferson. One-hundred forty years later, two of these three churches are still landmarks in the community.
By the late 1870s, East Saginaw, Michigan's third largest city was known as the lumber capital of the world. It was a wealthy, boisterous city. This prosperity was evident in the elegant homes that lined the street and the prosperous businesses near the intersection of South Jefferson and East Genesee.
“The event is a celebration of place and could not be held in any other location,” Trombley reflects. “With so much emphasis now on going regional, it's fun to focus instead on this small but vibrant street. When everything falls together with Jazz on Jefferson you realize how it fits in the larger region. You could not put the performers and the car show and everything else in a big field or pavilion and come up with the same sort of event. It's a combination of setting and activity and the thrill of turning a corner and finding something new.”
To commemorate this 10th celebration, at 4:00 PM the restored Jefffers Park & Monument will be re-dedicated, along with the unveiling of a Michigan Historic Marker. The rest of the schedule consists of the following:
4:45 PM * Drum Line starts at Jefferson & Federal. Horse drawn carriage rides in the lot at Jefferson & S. Hayden and the lot at Cathedral.
Castle Museum of Saginaw County * 500 Federal * 5-8 PM. Lucy Burrows Morley Exhibit * Antique & Classic Car Show * Face Painting * Music by Lack Luna & Scott Tuttle. Food vendors.
Hoyt Library * 505 Janes * 5-8 PM. Hoyt Hospitality Tent serving Beer & Refreshment. Music by The Saginaw Jazz Quartet inside the tent and Sasse Saxophone Quartet on S. Jefferson porch.
Kingdom Life Ministries * 310 S. Jefferson * 5-8 PM. Serving Brats, soft drinks, ice, cream, dancers & performers, tours of complex.
326 S. Jefferson * 5-8 PM. CAN Council, Children's Zoo, Mid-Michigan Children's Museum, Saginaw Art Museum, Community Prescription Support program with children's games.
First Congregational Church * 403 S. Jefferson * 5-8 PM. Annual Spring into Art Show, Dow House Tours, Mimes, Salsa dancing, Bradley House video series. 8:00 PM. Concert by New Reformation Jazz Band.
Team One Credit Union * 520 Hayden * 5-8 PM. Art & Craft Show, Free popcorn, Do-it-Yourself Chalk Art in parking lot, Harmonica tradition.
500 Block of S. Jefferson * 5-8 PM. Michigan Jazz Trail, PRIDE in Saginaw Booth, Music by Robert Lee Revue.
Hill House, Wolverine State Baptist and New Amadore Apartments will also be conducting open houses from 5-8 PM.
Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption * 615 Hoyt. 5-8 PM. Rectory Open House, snacks and food vendors, music by Saginaw Brass Quintet. 6:00-6:30 PM - Music by Saginaw Choral Society in the Sanctuary. 6:30-7:00 PM - Music by The Pancats.
According to Trombley, “This event is about cooperation and working as a team to showcase our neighborhood. Perhaps our biggest challenge has been the weather. Although more years the weather has been fantastic - we have had to work through a few heat wave and cold snaps a few rain showers, but that's minimal.”
“Honestly,” he concludes, “This is really what cities are all about.”