The names behind Ludington schools’ buildings

May 30, 2023

The names behind Ludington schools’ buildings

This history article is presented by the Mason County Historical Society in partnership with Mason County Press, in celebration of Ludington’s sesquicentennial. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: Throughout Mason County there are many buildings, parks, organizations, and places that are named in honor/memory of various individuals because of the impact those people had on our communities. In time, the item that was named in memory of the person seems to overshadow the person it was meant to honor. At Ludington Area School District, there are currently four buildings named after men who were instrumental in the advancement of the school district. Those buildings include: Hawley Gymnasium, O.J. DeJonge Middle School, Donald C. Baldwin Community Pool, and L.F. Peterson Auditorium. These are brief biographies of each of those men: 

Howard Henry Hawley

Namesake of Hawley Gymnasium, Ludington High School

H.H. Hawley

Known by most as H.H. Hawley, he was born on Feb. 22, 1879, the son of Ananais Smith and Gertrude Ellen Hawley, who were farmers in Summit Township. Hawley attended Summit Township District No. 3 School (French School, located on the southeast corner of modern Pere Marquette Highway and Hawley Road) through seventh grade then attended Ludington Union Second Ward School (also known as Longfellow School, located in 300 block of East Pere Marquette Street, modern Longfellow Towers) in eighth grade and Ludington Central School (high school, located on Foster Street – most recently Foster Elementary), graduating in 1898. 

Following high school graduation, Hawley taught for one year at Eden Township District No. 3, Fractional School (also known as Wiley School, located on Scottville Road south of Hawley Road) and then at Summit Township District Nickerson School (located on the northeast corner of modern Pere Marquette Highway and Anthony Road). Editor’s Note: a rural school was designated as “fractional” was located on the boundary of two townships.

He then chose to pursue becoming a pastor and became a student at Nashville Bible School (modern Lipscomb University) in Nashville, Tenn. After a year there, he transferred to and graduated from Potter Bible School (now Potter Bible College) in Bowling Green, Ky. 

Following his graduation he taught at Potter for one year and then became a pastor in Columbia, Tenn. While in Bowling Green, he met his wife, Jimmy Mae Lively, and they were married on June 7, 1905. 

The Hawleys returned to Ludington in 1907. In 1916, H.H. became pastor of Ludington Church of Christ (a role he served for over four decades). He had also served as pastor of Summit Church of Christ during his career. In 1918, he was hired as a history teacher for Central High School (Ludington high school) and later that year became principal, replacing Kate Sterling, who retired. 

In 1933, Hawley when he was named superintendent of Union School District No. 1 (Ludington city school district). 

Hawley retired in 1945 and was replaced by Oliver J. DeJonge. 

H.H. and Jimmy had three children, Howard, Katherine (Miller) and Marita (Travelstead). 

In 1953, a new Ludington junior high school opened in the 500 block of North Washington Avenue housing grades seven through nine. The 31,800 square foot building included 17 classrooms, a shop, kitchen, cafeteria and a 12,000 square feet gym, replacing Oriole Hall (built in 1925) as the district’s primary gym. 

In 1956, a community effort was made, successfully, to name the gym in honor of H.H. Hawley. In 1958, the school building was expanded by 63,480 square feet with 24 new classrooms and became Ludington High School. The junior high school students (grades seven and eight) were then sent to the now-former Central High School (which later became Foster Elementary), until a junior high school complex was completed in 1964 (more on that in the next article). 

Hawley died on Jan. 19, 1966 at the age of 87. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Ludington. 

O.J. DeJonge 

Namesake of O.J. DeJonge Middle School

O.J. Dejonge

Oliver John DeJonge was born on Sept. 2, 1898 in Zeeland. He graduated from Zeeland High School in 1920 with a bachelor’s degree and then graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree. 

He served in the U.S. Army during World War I. 

His career began in Hudsonville, where he workd for four years. He was hired by Shelby schools in 1940 and served there as superintendent. He then served as the superintendent of Ludington schools from 1945 to 1963. 

DeJonge oversaw the majority of the consolidation of Ludington Union School (city school) into Ludington Area School District (which was finalized in 1966). The school consolidation meant the merging of the Ludington city school district with school districts from Pere Marquette Township, Summit Township, Hamlin Township and Amber Township. 

In 1964, a new 105,867 square foot junior high school opened, adjacent to the high school in the 500 block of North Washington Ave. The building was named in honor of DeJonge, who had retired the previous year. The school is now designated as a middle school.

Besides taking a lead in school consolidation, DeJonge was an instrumental part of the creation of West Shore Community College. 

He was married to Rose Boone. They had one son, Bud and one daughter, Norma Jean (Weening). 

DeJonge died on Jan. 5, 1994 at the age of 95 in Zeeland and is buried in Zeeland Cemetery. 

Louis F. Peterson

Namesake of L.F. Peterson Auditorium

L.F. Peterson

Louis Ferrin Peterson organized the first Ludington High School boys band in 1927 and a girls band in 1928. He was 43-years-old in 1927 and had been well known in the Ludington music scene at that point. At that time, organized music programs in public schools were rare. By 1929, the two bands were combined. Peterson went on to start music programs in about 30 high schools in west Michigan in the 1930s, including Scottville and Pentwater. 

Prior to working at the school, Peterson had a music studio where he taught violin, clarinet, and saxophone to near 1,000 pupils, according to his obituary. 

Peterson was born on Sept. 3, 1884 in Denmark, the son of Lars and Marianne Peterson. His family immigrated to Mason County, to what is now Pere Marquette Township, when he was 4-years-old. 

His early teen years were spent working in a lumber mill, until he was injured, losing half of his left foot. He then concentrated on music. 

“Music was Mr. Peterson’s lodestar,” his obituary stated. “Since he was a little boy when he listened in awe to his father tell of his grandfather who was concert mast for 32 years in on of Denmark’s theaters. Mr. Peterson loved music in all forms and especially the violin.”

“I just seemed always to want to know music,” the obituary quoted Peterson from a news article. “There was something in me that made me restless and only music would overcome it. Even today my music offers me expression which no other means affords.” 

At the age of 15, Peterson formed a four-piece orchestra. That size soon grew to 15 pieces when he was 18. He directed an orchestra, under contract, for the Lyric Theatre on South James Street in Ludington for 15 years. 

Peterson married Daisy Adams on Aug. 18, 1904. They had a daughter, Muriel (Tageson). 

Besides directing music at the schools, Peterson was well known for leading bands at Rainbow Gardens, a nightclub located at the present site of the Ludington Area Jaycess mini golf course at Stearns Park. 

Peterson died in August 1947 at the age of 62 while playing golf in Suttons Bay. He had still been the Ludington band director at that time. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Ludington.

In September 1974, the Ludington Area School District’s board of education voted to name its new auditorium the Louis F. Peterson Center for the Performing Arts. The auditorium was formally dedicated in November of that year with performances from community and high school bands. 

Editor’s note: This article is just a brief glimpse of L.F. Peterson. In 1981, Sylvia Nickelson published a biography about Peterson, “Once in a Lifetime.” The book has far more detail about Peterson’s life and is available for viewing at the Mason County Historical Society’s Mason County Research Center in downtown Ludington.

Donald C. Baldwin

Namesake of Donald C. Baldwin Community Pool

Donald C. Baldwin

Donald C. Baldwin was born on Dec. 27, 1914 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Walter and Esther (Morgensen) Baldwin. He began his educational career as a teacher after graduating from the University of Iowa. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. 

Baldwin taught English in schools in Iowa and Michigan. In 1942, he became superintendent of schools of Gross Ile near Detroit. He remained there until 1950 when he became superintendent at Rochester. After 13 years at Rochester he was named superintendent of Ludington schools in 1963, replacing O.J. DeJonge, who had retired. 

He and his wife, Dorothy, had a daughter Barbara (Fraboni) and a son, Bud.

In May of 1977 he announced that he would be retiring effective Jan. 31, 1978. 

“I look back on the last 14 years with a great sense of satisfaction with what has been accomplished by the administration,” Baldwin said. 

Baldwin was superintendent when Ludington schools finalized consolidation with rural school districts in 1966. One of Baldwin’s legacies is updating several of the school district’s buildings during his tenure. Those updates included: 

    • 1964: Completion of O.J. DeJonge Junior High School.
    • 1965: Construction of Lakeview Elementary, northeast corner of Gaylord Avenue and Haight Street, replacing First Ward School (also known as Lakeview) that was built in 1873.
    • 1966: Third Ward School (Luther H. Foster Elementary) razed; located on south side of 500 block of East Foster Street (across from modern Foster Elementary — the old high school). 
    • 1967: Pere Marquette Elementary built, northeast corner of Fourth and Adams streets, replacing 1886 Fourth Ward School building.
    • 1969, Foster Elementary (modern) expansion includes library and five classrooms; 10,500 square feet.
    • 1969: LHS expansion of 3,730 square feet, southeast complex with three classroom
    • 1970: O.J. DeJonge Junior High School expanded 34,000 square feet, 30 classrooms.
    • 1971: Lakeview Elementary gymnasium, library, kitchen constructed; 6,500 square feet.
    • 1973: Franklin Elementary library added, 4,500 square feet.
    • 1973: South Hamlin Elementary expanded to include library, kitchen, gym and office; 8,690 square feet.
    • 1974: Louis F. Peterson Auditorium built adjacent to senior high school and junior high school; 43,400 square feet.
    • 1974: Donald C. Baldwin Community Pool built east of junior high school.
    • 1974: O.J. DeJonge Junior High School expanded to include a gymnasium and cafeteria.
    • 1974: Central Business Office built, 809 E. Tinkham Ave.; 13,050 square feet.
    • 1974: LHS expansion of 9.250 square feet, four classes, auto shop, drafting shop, graphics shop.
    • 1976: Longfellow (Second Ward School) school razed; built in 1880, located on north side of 300 block of East Pere Marquette Street (modern Longfellow Towers). 


“I saw as my goal a bunch of antiquated 1890s buildings that needed replacing,” Baldwin said. “That’s what the board wanted me to tackle, and that’s been done.” 

Baldwin was replaced by Michael Emlaw as superintendent. 

Baldwin died on March 27, 2006 in Kalamazoo. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Ludington.


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