The amount of history in the 269 area is not only abundant, it’s practically overflowing with under-the-radar type information from the past. We wanted to highlight a few historic sites and pay tribute to the rich history in our area of West Michigan.
And since we wanted to make it easy for you to plan a weekend road trip, we only chose designated historic sites of Michigan,which means they have been commemorated through the placement of a historical marker. All of the historical information and facts that you’ll find below are taken directly from, and credited to MichMarkers.com.
Eastbound I-94 Rest Area, East of Kalamazoo Comstock Township
Kalamazoo is an Indian word said to mean “boiling water,” Originally it was applied to the river that flows northwesterly to Lake Michigan. A trickle of setters in the 1820’s became a torrent in the 1830’s as the region’s fertile prairies, oak openings, bottom lands, and ample sources of water power became known. The village of Bronson, founded in 1829 by Titus Bronson, is now the city of Kalamazoo. Here, Lincoln made his only known Michigan speech. J. Fenimore Cooper wrote about the area in Oak Openings. Kalamazoo College, founded in 1833, Nazareth College (1871) and Western Michigan University (1903) are here. Once famous for its celery and stoves, Kalamazoo is now known for many products including paper and drugs. The nation’s first permanent pedestrian mall was opened in the downtown section in 1959.
13319 Augusta Drive (M-96), Augusta
The Barn Theatre, originally constructed in 1943 by Robert M. Cook as a dairy barn, is the home of Michigan’s oldest resident summer stock theatre. Such theatres use a group of actors who perform consecutive productions of different shows. Founded in 1946 as the Village Players, the company first used the Community Hall in Richland. The company was incorporated as The Barn Theatre Inc. on July 12, 1949. It became an Equity (union of professional stage actors) theatre in 1951. The company has performed over 300 plays and musicals and played to over one million patrons.
First Women’s Club in Michigan
333 South Park Street, Kalamazoo
This building, completed in 1879, is the first in the nation erected for the use of a women’s club. The Ladies Library Association, organized in January, 1852, grew out of a reading club started in 1844. It was the first women’s club in Michigan and the third in the United States. Mrs. Lucinda H. Stone, who is known as the “Mother of Women’s Clubs,” helped found this club. The Association has had a continuous existence from its organization.
Crosstown Parkway and Park Streets, Kalamazoo
A Scotsman, named Taylor, grew the first celery in Kalamazoo in 1856. Diners at the Burdick Hotel regarded it with curiosity. Cornelius De Brun, a gardener, who came from The Netherlands in 1866, developed the modern type of celery from the earlier soup celery. Other Dutch farmers by 1872 were turning muckland into fields of celery. J.S. Dunkley sold medicines and condiments made of celery. Soon Kalamazoo celery was known the nation over. Michigan has been a leading celery producer ever since.
Lincoln at Kalamazoo
Bronson Park, Kalamazoo
On August 27, 1856, here in this park, Abraham Lincoln, then an obscure lawyer spoke to a rally for John Fremont, the Republican presidential nominee. This was the only time that Lincoln addressed an audience in Michigan. The event was almost unnoticed in the press. Some Republicans felt the speaker was too conservative on the antislavery issue. Four years later Michigan’s vote helped put Lincoln into the White House.
The Peninsula Building
111 Portage Street, Kalamazoo
Originally designed for the Peninsula Restaurant, this three-story brick structure was build by Nicholas Baumann in 1874. The elegant ethnic restaurant gave way to the Franklin and Folz clothing store in 1884. After Franklin and Folz moved in 1924, the building housed a succession of businesses including a stove company, a department store, a book bindery and a hotel. It became the headquarters for the W.R. Biggs / Gilmore Agency in 1973. Severly damaged by a 1980 tornado, the building was completely rehabilitated in 1980-81.
W.K. Kellogg Manor House
3700 Gull Lake Road, Ross Township
W. K. Kellogg (1860 – 1951) founded the Toasted Corn Flake Company of Battle Creek in 1906. In 1925, Kellogg and his second wife, Dr. Carrie Staines, a physician at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, commissioned Benjamin and Benjamin of Grand Rapids to design a summer house here. Their picturesque estate includes this Neo-Tudor manor house, a windmill, a greenhouse, a stable, a boathouse, a combined guest house, garage and chauffeur’s residence and a caretaker’s house. Marshall Field and Company of Chicago decorated the interior. From 1944 to 1950 the estate served as a rehabilitation center for the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek. In 1952 the W. K. Kellogg Foundation gave the property to Michigan State College (now Michigan State University), which developed it as the Gull Lake Biological Station.
6597 138th Street, Laketown Township
Chicago inventor and businessman Dorr Felt built this as a summer home for his wife, Agnes. Felt held numerous patents, most notably for the Comptometer, the first machine to do complex calculations. In 1919 Felt purchased more than 750 acres of land here and named it Shore Acres Farm. The family stayed in a farmhouse on the property until 1928, when this house, designed by Frank P. Allen and Son of Grand Rapids, was completed. The estate had extensive gardens, orchards, cornfields, a dairy, vineyards, and a small zoo that was open to the public. Agnes Felt died two months after the house was finished, and Dorr died two years later. The Felt’s daughters and grandchildren owned the estate until 1949 when they sold it to a Augustinian order of the Catholic Church.
Francis Metallic Surfboat
130 Center Street, Douglas
From about 1854 to at least 1863, this surfboat was used for lifesaving purposes near the Saugatuck Lighthouse. It was one of 48 used on the Great Lakes and one of 137 used nationally. Joseph Francis, owner of the Francis Metallic Lifeboat Company, used his patented press to form the boats’ metal hulls. In 1890 Francis was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for his many inventions used to improve life-saving. In 2015 this boat was listed in National Register of Historic Places.
Saugatuck City Hall, Saugatuck
Beneath the sands near the mouth of the Kalamazoo River lies the site of Singapore, one of Michigan’s most famous ghost towns. Founded in the 1830’s by New York land speculators, who hoped it would rival Chicago or Milwaukee as a lake port, Singapore was in fact, until the 1870’s, a busy lumbering town. With three mills, two hotels, several general stores, and a renowned “Wild-cat” bank, it outshone its neighbor to the south, “The Flats,” as Saugatauk was then called. When the supply of timber was exhausted the mills closed, the once bustling waterfront grew quiet. The people left, most of them settling here in Saugatauk. Gradually, Lake Michigan’s shifting sand buried Singapore.
Van Buren County
220 Dyckman St.
Stanley Johnston Park, South Haven
The Haven peach varieties were developed here by Michigan State University’s South Haven Experiment Station, under the direction of Professor Stanley Johnston. From 1924 to 1963, eight yellow-fleshed freestone varieties were selected from more than twenty-one thousand cross-bred seedlings. They were named Halehaven, Kalhaven, Redhaven, Fairhaven, Sunhaven, Richhaven, Glohaven and Cresthaven. Redhaven was the first red-skinned commercial peach variety. It is now the most widely planted freestone peach variety in the world. Haven peaches have provided an orderly supply of high quality peaches extending over a seven-week period. Prior to the development of Haven peaches, harvests had been restricted to a three-week period.
646 North Nursery, Lawton
Grape growing began in Lawton in 1868 when A.B. Jones planted one hundred vines. By 1900 many eastern Van Buren County farmers converted their land to vineyards. In 1903 the Lawton Vineyard Company built a winery on this site, which William C. Houppert purchased in 1933. The regions grape production peaked in 1939. During the harvest the Houppert Winery took in two to four hundred tons of grapes daily. On June 7, 1940 Houpperts’s prosperity ended when fire destroyed the complex. Houppert rebuilt the winery, but he never recovered financially. In 1943 he sold the he sold the property to the predecessor of the Warner Vineyards of Paw Paw, which operated the winery through the 1970s. In 1990 the Lawton Lions Club purchased the winery and rehabilitated it as a community center and a museum.
Paw Paw Public Library
129 South Kalamazoo Street, Paw Paw
This building opened as the Paw Paw Library on June 26, 1920. Jackson architect Claire Allen designed the library, as well as the nearby county courthouse. Pennsylvania industrialist Andrew Carnegie donated ten thousand dollars toward construction and required Paw Paw citizens to contribute forty-five hundred dollars and commit to long-term maintenance. In 1991 the library relocated. This building reopened as the Carnegie Community Center in 1995.
Old US-12 near State Police Post, Paw Paw
One of the three great east-west routes in pioneers days, the Territorial Road from Detroit to St. Joe tapped the rich lands of the second “tier” of counties. Approved in 1829, the road was not surveyed through Van Buren County until 1835. Although at first it was only a “blaze and a name,” the route was soon teeming with emigrants and travelers. The Dodge Tavern in Paw Paw a famed stopping, point was so crowded at times that some weary persons, old timers said, “offered a dollar for a post to lean on.”
Warner Wine House
706 South Kalamazoo, Paw Paw
Completed in 1898, this structure was built as a waterworks station for the village of Paw Paw. Water from artesian wells powered the plant, first by steam and after 1908 by hydro-electricity. In the 1920s the wells were capped, and the structure soon fell into disrepair. Warner Vineyards purchased the structure in 1967. Using lumber from old wine casks and period materials, the firm remodeled the station as a tourist and education center, which opened in 1967.
Labardy Road, Berrien Springs
This, the oldest Seventh-day Adventist college and the pioneer in a world-wide system of Christian education, was chartered in 1874 at Battle Creek as Battle Creek College. It was moved to Berrien Springs in 1901 where its name was changed to Emmanuel Missionary College. The first classes were held in tents. The old Berrien County Courthouse served as an administration building. Permanent buildings were erected by student labor. In 1960 the Adventists’ Theological Seminary, founded in 1934, and the Graduate School (1957), were moved here from Washington D.C., to join Emmanuel Missionary College under one charter as Andrews University. The name honors a pioneer Adventist author, administrator, and missionary, John Nevins Andrews.
Carl Sandburg and Chikaming Goat Farm
Harbert Community Park – Red Arrow Hwy, Harbert
From 1828 to 1945, poet Carl Sandburg and his family lived in a beachfront home near here. When he took breaks from his writing, Sandburg walked the sand dunes or studied Lake Michigan from his deck. Often he entertained friends by singing and playing songs on his guitar. His wife Lillian developed an interest in farming, and in 1935, purchased a small herd of goats. They named their property Chikaming Goat Farm after an early Native American tribe in the area. As Lillian’s goat breeding increased, the herd earned national recognition for high milk production. Seeking a milder climate, the Sandburg family moved to North Carolina in 1945. In an interview for a local newspaper, Sandburg said, “I’ve traveled from coast to coast… and I find Harbert best of all. Lake Michigan is beautiful and I love this spot.”
The Fruit Belt
Territorial Road, Benton Harbor
Because of Lake Michigan’s moderating effect, a narrow coastal strip from Indiana to Grand Traverse Bay, 300 miles north, is blessed by a climate uniquely suited to fruit growing. This fact was observed by the 1840’s when peaches were being shipped from Berrien County to Chicago. Apples, cherries, berries, grapes, pears, and plums added to the fame of the “fruit belt.” One of the worlds great fruit markets has developed here in Benton Harbor to provide an outlet for these bountiful crops.
John and Horace Dodge
1724 North Fifth Street, Niles
Auto barons John (1864 – 1920) and Horace (1868 – 1920) Dodge were born and raised in Niles. During the 1830s, their grandfather, Ezekiel, had migrated from Massachusetts to Niles, where he ran a steam engine shop. John and Horace’s father, Daniel, operated the business during their youth. The Dodge’s lived in a small house that stood on this site. John once recalled they “were the most destitute kids in town. often going without shoes in cold weather.” The boys spent their free time in the machine shop, developing an interest in mchanics at a young age. In Niles they built their vehicle — a high wheel bicycle. Upon John’s high school graduation in 1882, the family left Niles. However, in 1919, the brothers formed a building and loan association here that built homes of Michigan Central Railroad workers.
Red Bud Trail, Buchanen
People have lived on the terrace between Moccasin Bluff and the St. Joseph River for eight thousand years. The first inhabitants stayed in small temporary camps as early as 6300 B.C. The residents of A.D. 500 traded with groups in Indiana and Illinois. Those living here 600 to 900 years ago farmed and had more permanent villages. In 1977 Moccasin Bluff was listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its archeological importance.
New Buffalo Welcome Center
Welcome Center Northbound I-94, New Buffalo
The nation’s first Highway Travel Information center opened on May 4, 1935, on US-12 at New Buffalo, not far from here. Other states followed Michigan’s lead, and by 1985 there were 251 travel information centers across the nation. The New Buffalo center was built by the Michigan State Highway Department, now the Michigan Department of Transportation, to welcome motorists entering the state via US-12. It was relocated at this site with its more modern building, on April 6, 1972, after the I-94 Freeway was completed. Michigan’s state-wide travel information program, which began in 1935, includes staffed welcome centers and interpretive, promotional and informational displays at rest areas and roadside parks across the state.
American Museum of Magic
107 East Michigan Avenue, Marshall
Pesto – Change – O! From saloon to billiard parlor, to clothing store, to bakery, to museum, this edifice built in 1868 has known many transformations. Since April Fools Day 1978 it has housed a unique collection that celebrates the magician’s arts of wonder and delight. Michigan’s link to magic is no illusion for nearby Colon, a center of magic manufacturing, was once home to famed magician Harry Blackstone, Sr., (1885-1965), whose memorabilia is displayed here.
Cereal Bowl of America
Capital Ave NE, Bailey Park Entrance, Battle Creek
This is Battle Creek, where the leading producers of ready-to-eat cereals are located. Early attempts to process grains into appetizing new foods for Sanitarium guests revolutionized the eating habits of people everywhere. “Made in Battle Creek” was the magic phrase used by over 40 cereal manufactures here in the early 1900’s. Millions the world over enjoy the benefits and convenience of packaged breakfast foods today. Cereals from “Foodtown U.S.A.” have made Battle Creek one of the best known cities of its size in the world.
Not available to the public
235 Porter St., Battle Creek
Will Keith Kellogg founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906. He manufactured the first boxes of cereal in a three-story building on Bartlett Street at the rate of thirty-three cases per day. In 1907 the original factory building was destroyed by fire, and part of the present structure was erected on this site. Kellogg Company sold more than one million cases of cereal in 1909, and by 1911 the company’s advertising budget had reached $1 million. In 1917 production capacity reached nine million boxes per day. In 1980, United States production of Kellogg’s ready-to-eat cereals required more than 110,000 bushels of corn, 225,000 pounds of bran, 9,000 bushels of wheat and 12,000 pounds of wheat germ each day. By its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1981, Kellogg Company had forty-seven plants operating in twenty-one countries.
Michigan Central Depot
West Van Buren (Clara’s Restaurant), Battle Creek
The Michigan Central Railroad Depot opened on July 27, 1888. Rogers and McFarlane of Detroit designed the depot, one of several Richardsonian Romanesque-style stations between Detroit and Chicago in the late nineteenth century. Thomas Edison as well as Presidents William Howard Taft and Gerald Ford visited here. The depot was acquired by the New York Cental Railroad in 1918, Penn Central in 1968 and Amtrak in 1970. The depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
W.D. Boyce/Butler-Boyce House
1110 Verona Road, Marshall
William D. Boyce, a Chicago publisher, founded the Boy Scouts of America. Boyce first became acquainted with the scouting movement while in London in 1909. He lost his way in the midst of a heavy fog, and was rescued by a Boy Scout who took him to the address he was seeking. Offering the young boy a tip, he was told that Boy Scouts do not accept money for doing a good deed. Impressed by this organization, Boyce returned home with pamphlets, badges and a uniform. He incorporated Boy Scouts of America, now Scouting/USA, on February 8, 1910.
Battle Creek Sanitarium
74 North Washington Avenue, Battle Creek
In 1876, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg became the medical superintendent at the sanitarium. Kellogg’s many innovations included the use of radiation therapy for cancer patients and the invention of flaked cereal. The sanitarium burned in 1902; the following year a six-story Italian Renaissance Revival-style building, deigned by Dayton, Ohio, architect Frank M. Andrews, was constructed. Kellogg’s brother W. K. Kellogg worked at the sanitarium for twenty-six years before leaving to establish the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company.
Town Square, West Michigan Ave, Marshall
Founded in 1831 by Sidney Ketchum and settlers from New York and New England, the town was named in honor of Chief Justice John Marshall. Townsmen Isaac Crary and the Rev. John Pierce planned in 1834 the innovative Michigan public school system. Marshall’s early hopes of becoming the state capital were not rewarded, but the coming of the Michigan Central Railroad in 1844 increased prosperity, and the town remained a rail center until the 1870s. In 1863 the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was founded here. Many of the citizens held strong abolitionist views, and in 1847 they prevented the return of fugitive slave Adam Crosswhite to Kentucky. The architectural excellence of Marshall’s homes is known throughout the Midwest.