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Downtown Kalamazoo Walking Tour 1

Posted on June 14th, 2016




Walking Tour #1

1. Starting point – Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites corner of West Michigan Avenue and Rose Street


  1. National City Bank (Lawrence Chapin Building) NW corner of Rose and Water Streets – Originally home of Kalamazoo Ironworks. Completed in 1872. By 1874 the company employed 60 to 100 men making steam engines, sawmills, plows, cultivators, scrapers, horsepower machines, wood-sawing machinery, iron fences and ornamental ironwork. The iron used was pig iron which was mined along the banks of the Kalamazoo River. The company stayed in business through the 1890’s. Since that time it has been a rescue mission, hub of the interurban, a skating rink and was a furniture store up until 1983 when it was renovated into office space. Architectural style: Second Empire.
  2. Kalamazoo Valley Museum 230 N Rose Street – Originally this was a commercial Italianate building which housed the Wheeler-Blaney Company for several decades. In 1937, local theater mogul Peter Schram announced that his Mayfair Theater (later renamed the Uptown) would go into the building. After a 20-year life, the Uptown closed. In 1967, the Schram estate sold the building which was then leased for a number of years. In 1991, the City’s Downtown Development Authority took title and razed the building for the Arcadia Creek Redevelopment Project. The museum was completed in 1996.
  3. Arcadia Creek runs E to W from Westnedge Avenue to the Arcadia Creek Festival Place – Over a century ago, Kalamazoo buried Arcadia Creek underground. By the 1980s, the streets flooded often because underground pipes backed up as a result of the city’s growth. With the 1986 major renovation of the downtown area, the creek was resurrected which brought revitalization to the downtown as well as alleviating the flooding problems. The Arcadia Creek Festival Place holds numerous festivals throughout the year.
  4. Rose Street Advisors (Salvation Army) 244 N Rose – “Erected for God and Humanity 1926” are the words on the cornerstone of the original headquarters for the Salvation Army. It served the community until 1991. It was designed by local architect Ernest Batterson and constructed by local contractor Lather & Sons. It became known as the Citidel which reflected the organization’s military emphasis. In 1992, renovations took place to convert this original two story building, including religious sanctuary, into a three story office building. The discovery of a full-height window at the end of the sanctuary was advantageous to adding light to the overall

space. The offices are organized around the perimeter of the interior, creating a “town-square” common meeting space in the center for the use of the various tenants. Architectural style: English Tudor Revival

6. Rose Street Market (Masonic Temple) 303 N Rose Street – This distinctive landmark was built in 1913 as the local Masonic Temple. The building was designed by Detroit architect F. H. Spier and built by Henry Vanderhorst. Included in the building were three auditoriums, office space and ground level shops. The building declined in the 1970s when it was sold by the Masons. It stood vacant and threatened by demolition. In 1988 it was given a new lease on life as the Rose Street Market, which now houses office space and restaurant/deli/banquet hall.


  1. Transportation Center (Michigan Central Railroad Station) 459 N Burdick Street – The first train through Kalamazoo was a Michigan Central in 1846. A few years later, passengers and freight could move on as far west as Chicago. Eventually, four rail lines converged at the edge of downtown but the Michigan Central played the major role. In 1887, the Michigan Central Railroad Station was built of red brick and stone. It offered Kalamazoo the fashionable “Romanesque” architecture that Henry Hobson Richardson had made popular in the East. Heavy arches and turrets gave it something of the massiveness of a medieval castle. By 1906 fifty trains a day came into Kalamazoo. By WWI, thirty-five passenger trains stopped at the station platform. Fortunately, the depot was never razed but renovated and added canopied bus ports to reflect the original style. Architectural style: Richardsonian Romanesque
  2. Rickman House (Rickman Hotel) 345 N Burdick Street – This finely detailed white brick and stone structure was one of the leading hotels for years since the location was just a few steps from the Michigan Central Depot. When the railroad fortunes declined, so did those of the Rickman Hotel. Operations ceased in the 1960s. It is now an apartment building. Architetural style: Classical Revival
  3. Shakespeare’s Pub (Speareflex Building #100) 241 East Kalamazoo Avenue – Dating from 1941, this building was the office of the Shakespeare Company which manufactured fishing tackle, automotive parts, and products used in WWII. Originally called the Shakespeare Company for the family who started the business, it was renamed Speareflex to reflect their most popular item. Its manufacturing building was located just to the east. In the 1970’s, Speareflex relocated to South Carolina and other subsidiary locations. Shakespeare’s Pub opened in July of 2003. Architectural style: Art Deco


10. Woodside Building (National Storage Building) on corner of Kalamazoo Avenue at 309 East Water – In 1912, the National Storage Company building was erected. Constructed of concrete with brick curtain walls, it provided 30,000 feet of space. Within the next decade, an addition was constructed to mimic the original’s details on the west side, roughly doubling the square footage. Starting with a horse-drawn truck, National Storage offered garment and fur storage; climate-controlled piano storage; vault rental for personal belongings and household goods; packing and

crating shipments; and moving services. Over the next 25 years, the company added sales of household furniture and appliances as a “discount” house. It bought railroad carloads of goods at a larger discount than those offered to traditional main street retailers. By 1938, its advertisements claimed it was “The Big Warehouse Furniture Store” and offered living, dining and bedroom suites, washing machines, ranges, carpets and rugs. National Storage moved its business to another part of town and sold the building in the mid-1970s. The building was bought in 1978 and parts are still used for storage and offices.

  1. Little Brothers (stay on Pitcher Street, look to your left on Water Street; you will notice mural of mule) – The Little Family has a long agriculture industry history in Kalamazoo, beginning with the feed and grain business in 1904 founded by George Little. In 1912, brother George joined the business to form ‘Little Brothers.’ Growth continued and in the 1920s, George’s sons, Alvin and George R. joined the business. Over the next decades, in addition to buying and re-selling grain, Little Brothers prepared custom-mixed livestock and poultry feeds and bred poultry. In 1965, the business was sold to Farm Bureau. This building is one of only two buildings left of the Little Brothers complex – the city razed its 1864 grain elevator and numerous other buildings in 1974. It is now under renovation.
  2. Kalamazoo Community Foundation (Grand Rapids and Indiana Line Station) 402 E Michigan Avenue – Initially a weigh station in a plan to run rail lines from Ft. Wayne through Grand Rapids to Mackinac and then to connect across the Upper Peninsula with the Northern Pacific. In 1870, tracks stretched from Ft. Wayne to Grand Rapids and a little north. The Grand Rapids and Indiana line was soon to receive its passengers and freight in the stately Italian Revival station which now stands at the corner of Pitcher and East Michigan. This line ran until after WWI when it was leased to the Pennsylvania Line. It was a popular restaurant and night club in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 2005, the structure was renovated into office space which includes a state-of-the-art, closed-loop geothermal heat pump system which provides heating and cooling for the building. This historic structure is complemented by a modern glass, steel and aluminum addition. The renovation also incorporates exterior pedestrian gathering plaza space. Architectural style: Italian Revival


13. Columbia Plaza (The Columbia Hotel) 350 E Michigan Avenue – Built in the 1890s and bought by German Adam Ehrmann in the early 1900s and expanded. Ehrmann would give his hotel the flavor of his home country and offered 150 guestrooms, a dining room, and a bar named the Beer Stube. He staffed his hotel restaurants by German immigrants and the facilities were top notch. This was Kalamazoo’s 3rd largest hotel. Today it houses offices and Sarkozy Bakery. Architectural style: Georgian

  1. Bimbo’s Pizza (The Arlington Hotel/Columbia Annex) 338 E Michigan Avenue – Hotelier Adam Ehrmann connected the neighboring Columbia Hotel with the Arlington being renamed the Columbia Annex. Architectural style: Romanesque
  2. U. S. Post Office / Monaco Bay (Rosenbaum Block) 310 E Michigan – When Samuel Rosenbaum’s Kalamazoo Pant Company outgrew its quarters in the A. J. Doyle building, he had this six story steel and concrete structure erected and moved into the Block in 1907. It was one of the first buildings in Kalamazoo to exceed four stories. Adjacent to the six-story Rosenbaum Block is the U. S. Post Office which was also built for Rosenbaum’s Kalamazoo Pant Company. The two structures were connected for the company but now house both the post office and Monaco Bay with office space, condos, and restaurants on the upper stories.
  3. Town Wigs (Hugh McHugh Building) 276 E Michigan – This three-story structure is one of the more unique structures on East Michigan. It was built by Hugh J. McHugh, an Irish stone mason. Completed in 1885, McHugh rented the building to J. H. Hobart Babcock. Babcock operated a pharmacy on the ground floor with offices and living space on the upper levels. It would remain the site of various pharmacies for nearly a century. Architectural style: Italianate with Queen Anne accents
  4. Coney Island (Hall Building) 266 E Michigan – Built in 1896, the Hall Building is home to Kalamazoo’s oldest continuously operating restaurant, Coney Island. In 1906, the upper floors were converted to a hotel of about 44 rooms. Glass panels found in the attic suggest the name Hotel Reed. The 1939 city directory identifies the address as Hotel Windsor.
  5. Uncle Ben’s Uniform Company 262-264 E Michigan – This building housed a harness shop in 1885. In later years it housed retail, a grocery, a used furniture outlet, and sporting goods store. Until 1950, the second and third floors served as offices and residences. Architectural style: Italianate
  6. The Jannasch-Shortt Musical Institute 254 E Michigan – This red brick gothic inspired structure was built in 1878 by Charles Jannasch for his daughter Anna. Anna Jannasch was a skilled musician and music teacher at one of the village ward schools and she established a musical institute in the building. She would teach music in the building from 1878 to 1909. Please note the reminder of its past in the musically-inspired frieze. Architectural style: Italianate
  7. The Button Jannasch Building 246 E Michigan – This is the oldest surviving building on East Michigan Avenue. It was built in 1869 by Charles Jannasch. He was a prominent German businessman who came to Kalamazoo from Germany in 1850. Architectural style: Italianate
  8. London Grill (Fischer’s Meat Market) 214 E Michigan – In the 1880s, this building housed Fischer’s Meat Market. The 1939 City Directory lists the Lee Moy Laundry and the Celery City Tailoring Company. Architectural style: Italianate
  1. Olde Peninsula (The Humphrey Block) intersection of E Michigan and Portage – In 1869, Nicholas Baumann erected a fine three-story Italianate building. It originally housed the Peninsular restaurant and over its long life, the building provided space for Parson’s Business College, the Starkey and Gilbert Furniture Company, Samuel Folz’ clothing store, the Kalamazoo Stove Company and many others. The building was remodeled multiple times – the last coming in mid-1990s to create the Olde Peninsula Brewpub on the main floor with offices and apartments on the second and third floors. Architectural style: Originally, Italianate
  2. Main Street East Building (Doyle Building) 251 E Michigan – early home of the Kalamazoo Pant Company. It also had apartments on the upper floors. Today it is professional office space which includes Huntington Bank, Southwest Michigan First and Folio.
  3. Haymarket Building (Edwards & Chamberlain Building) 161 E Michigan – At the convergence of Michigan Avenue and Portage Street is the Haymarket Building, so named for its proximity to the farmers’ hay market of the mid-1800s. The building was completed in 1908 to house the hardware store of Edwards & Chamberlain. Its unique angled front façade was designed to accommodate the bend on Michigan Avenue. By the 1950s, it was home to Sears & Roebuck and since the 1980’s, it has functioned as an office building, retail and restaurant space.
  4. Fifth Third Bank (American National Bank Building) 136 E Michigan – This is the tallest commercial building in Kalamazoo. It was designed by Chicago architects Weary and Alford and completed in 1930. Chicago immigrant Otto Stauffenberg hand painted the lobby mural. The curved entry leads to the soaring perception of the building, departing from classical monolithic architecture. Architectural style: Art Deco
  5. Kalamazoo Building (corner of Burdick and Michigan) – Kalamazoo’s first skyscraper was built in 1907 and was originally the Kalamazoo National Bank Building since the bank was the primary tenant. The upper floors housed a variety of small businesses. Kalamazoo National Bank moved out in 1929 and thereafter has been called the Kalamazoo Building. It has housed such businesses as a cigar store; law, dental, and doctor offices; and a photography studio. Today there is also a privately-owned penthouse. Its architectural style has been described as utilitarian due to its boxy design and rows of equal-sized windows.
  6. Kalamazoo County Court House 222 W Michigan Avenue – Built in 1937, this is the 3rd Kalamazoo County Court House. It now houses the 9th Circuit Court, 8th District Court, and the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Originally, the top floor housed the county jail. The exterior is Mankato stone. The interior features marble hallways, brass, and metal ornamentation. Surrounding the entrances are reliefs which depict Law, Justice, and Vigilance which were wrought by Corrado Joseph Parducci. The architect was M. C. J. Billingham. Architectural style: Art Deco.