Looking west down West Superior Street from Main Street in the 1950s, this is a photo from Wayland’s Historic Photograph Project collection to preserve its 150-year history.

Plans underway for Wayland city’s 150th

Dahlias to be included
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Planning has started for Wayland’s 2018 Main Street Celebration and this year will be a very special one. The City of Wayland will be marking its 150th anniversary.

The celebration is hosted by Wayland Main Street, a revitalization approach for historic preservation and community development that focuses on organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring. Pulling together the community to build legacy is key to its success.

Like the Main Street program, the sesquicentennial will incorporate Wayland’s historic charm with the relevancy of its downtown today. The celebration is July 20-21.

 “We are currently working to put up a mural downtown that depicts ‘Dahlias’ as a nod to the city’s historic nickname of ‘Dahlia City,’” said Ingrid Miller, the Main Street manager and DDA director.

Wayland’s Dahlia business was started in 1927 as a hobby with only 57 plants. It quickly grew to one million plants and the business became the nation’s leading producers of dahlia tubers (the root part beneath the soil that can be dug up in Fall and replanted in the Spring). Visitors to the Dahlia Farm were invited to pick bouquets as long as the tubers were not injured.

From August until frost, the fields were a rainbow of color and attracted visitors from many states.

The business was started by Earl Ryno and his wife Hazel. Mr. Ryno was a son of Dr. E.H. Ryno who was one of the pioneer doctors of Wayland.

Land was purchased on South Main Street where an office and warehouse were built. Two farms were purchased north of town off from what is now Dahlia Avenue.

The Wayland Globe said in June of 1931, it was planting time at the Wayland Dahlia Gardens and 40,000 were to be planted that year.

“The amount of outside or new money that comes into Wayland for flowers, bulbs, etc, and the field holds many opportunities as Wayland is ideally located for this branch of Agriculture and there is a world wide market for the product,” the newspaper said.

The little retail project that became a large national wholesale business with 300 varieties of Dahlias, had such customers as Sears, Roebuck and Company, Interstate Nurseries, Condon Bros. and R.H. Shumway, to name a few.

Mr. Ryno died in 1956 and in 1958, the planting stock was sold and the business terminated, according to “A Story of Wonderful Wayland: Wayland centennial 1868 to 1968.”

Kessler Undies and Woolies moved into Ryno’s South Main Street building in 1958 after outgrowing the old Ford garage at 145 South Main St. The manufacturer of infant’s underwear and sleepers broke ground for a new sewing room at 801 S. Main St. and in 1963, ground was again broken for an office building and additional warehouse south of downtown.

While the Dahlia gardens and Kesslers are a few of the businesses that are a legacy to Wayland’s past, there is one that has remained a major industry for more than a century.

Due to increased consumption of evaporated milk, a milk condensery was built in Wayland in 1915. The Helvetia Company took advantage of the thriving dairy herds around Wayland and began producing canned milk. Two sizes were made, a tall can and a small can of six ounces, which was called “Our Pet.” This was shortened over the years to “Pet” and eventually the name of the company was changed to “ Pet Milk Company.”

After World War II the plant started to make non-fat dry milk and eventually changed over completely to a powdered milk plant. In 1964, due to several factors, the Wayland plant discontinued receiving milk and became known as the Food Products Plant. In 1982, it became Dean Foods and today it is Bay Valley Foods.

The Allegan County News will have more on Wayland’s history in upcoming editions.

For the sesquicentennial celebration, Wayland Main Street is seeking volunteers to help mark the special occasion. To volunteer, email Ingrid.Miller@downtownwayland.com or call (269) 525-2323 to share some ideas on how to commemorate this milestone.


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