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Downtown Kalamazoo Walking Tour 2

Posted on June 14th, 2016






Walking Tour #2

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


  1. 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.
  2. First Baptist Church 315 W Michigan Avenue – This structure was built in 1856 and is the oldest church in the county. The First Baptist Church was founded in 1836 and built on one of the four lots which Titus Bronson (white founder of Kalamazoo) had designated for churches of the town. For many years the clock built into the bell tower was known as THE “town clock” because it could be seen from many outlying areas (and many town residents did not own a time piece). At one time a tall steeple was atop the clock tower; however, after the tornado of 1980, it was considered too unsafe to remain.


4. Bronson Park has been a New England-style commons in the center of Kalamazoo since the 1850s. The park has provided a meeting place for entertainment and public gatherings, a setting for monuments significant to the community and a shady spot for downtown residents, workers, and visitors.

In 1856, then-attorney Abraham Lincoln spoke at a rally for presidential candidate John Fremont. In later years, Stephen A. Douglas, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, and both John and Robert Kennedy spoke to assembled crowds in the park.

An interesting spot at the southwest side of the park is “The Mound.” It is believed to be a remnant of the mound-building Hopewell Indians who lived in the area centuries ago. The mound was first excavated in 1832 but revealed nothing. In the early 1800s, local businessman Alexander J. Sheldon restored the mound which had been damaged over the years. During this process, he buried a time capsule containing coins, information about the time, and issues of the Kalamazoo Telegraph, which he published. In the early 1950s, the mound was re-excavated. Recovered was that time capsule and the outlines of a grave (presumably left by the Hopewell Indians) were discovered. A new time capsule replaced the original with the intention it remain until at least 2054.

Fountains have decorated the park since 1879. “The Fountain of the Pioneers” has stood at the center of the eastern half of Bronson Park since 1940. Designed by Alfonso Iannelli, it symbolizes the removal of the Native Americans from the local area by the federal government. The sculpture has been criticized for its theme but remains a stark reminder of local history. The reflecting pool, part of the original Ianelli design, was adorned with bronze sculptures of Kalamazoo children to commemorate the United States bicentennial in 1976. Local artist, Kirk Newman, used the biblical verse “When justice and mercy prevail, children may safely play” as the inspiration for his sculptures.

The largest addition to the park is the band shell which was built in 1999. Many outdoor concerts are held in the park, as well as picnics, festivals, and art shows. Thousands gather in the park for the annual tree lighting ceremony and to ring in the new year at New Year’s Fest.

5. Kalamazoo Civic Theatre 329 S Park Street (corner of Park and South) – Dr. William E. Upjohn financed the building of this theatre in 1932. The exterior has the look of a circus tent, emphasized by the stone entry archways that give the impression of tent flap openings. The 500 seat theater houses lead crystal chandeliers imported from Yugoslavia and decorative limestone detailing. Legend has it that Dr. Upjohn’s daughter was determined to head to Broadway in New York City to follow her acting dreams. To keep her close to home, Dr. Upjohn built the Civic. The architect was Weary & Alford / TPTA. Architectural style: Art Deco.


  1. Kalamazoo City Hall 241 W South Street – This building was built in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression. The concrete exterior is accentuated by deeply recessed elongated windows. The stylized relief frieze by Studio of Architectural Sculpture depicts 12 local historical events. The interior is showcased by the lighting fixtures, elevator, clock, drinking fountain, mailboxes and travertine and Italian marble in the lobby. Artist Otto Stauffenberg painted the murals in the commission chambers and municipal courtroom. Architectural style: Art Deco.
  2. Park Club 219 W South Street – For 20 years, the Park Club (a private dining club) sat on the corner of West South Street and Rose in the previous home of Nathaniel Balch. In the early 1920s, the club needed a larger and more up-to-date facility. The members decided to buy the William Lawrence home (co-founder of the Lawrence Chapin Iron Works Company) which was located adjacent to the club. The Balch home was demolished to make way for a lawn and a side “motor entrance.” This structure was built in 1889 and was one of the most imposing homes in town. Mr. Lawrence probably spent $30,000 to $35,000 on its construction. In 1955, the lawn gave way to the much needed parking lot. Architectural style: Queen Anne.
  3. Kalamazoo Public Library 315 S Rose Street – The original library structure was built in 1955. The 1998 renovation of the building preserved the original building’s physical form by sheathing the building with a variety of materials which exhibit

different colors and textures. Included is reflective glass with purple mullions, black granite towers topped with iridescent beacons, limestone cladding the original cylindrical form, and a copper-shingled dome. As the sun travels through the day, colored light is cast about the interior rotunda by a glass and holographic film sculpture created by Michael Hayden. A unique canopy structure was created over the reading area illuminated by floating halogen lights which reveal sparkles of color reflecting from the sculpture above. In addition, the second level of the library appears to float on large columns above a recessed ground floor. The Kalamazoo Public Library was named Library of the Year in 2002.

9. Miller Canfield Building 277 S Rose Street – This multi-story structure was completed December 31, 2007 with a budget of $25,000,000. This 153,617 square foot building includes a parking structure (two levels below grade, two levels above grade) with four levels of office space. Prominent building features include the glass atrium at the face of the building and use of limestone and granite to disguise the above grade parking levels.


  1. Kalamazoo Mall (Burdick street between Eleanor Street to the north to Lovell Street to the south) – In 1959, the City of Kalamazoo created the first downtown pedestrian mall by blocking off traffic from three blocks of the main commercial area on Burdick Street. It was hoped that the mall would revitalize the downtown area to compete with the movement of retail businesses to suburban malls. Lawns, fountains, and play areas were added to enhance the “pedestrian mall” experience. The mall featured all the important department and clothing stores of its era but the trend in commerce was away from department stores and men’s clothing stores. The mall now features many specialty shops, cafes, and restaurants (and an indoor rock climbing venue). In 2000, the mall was reopened to limited automobile traffic.
  2. 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. 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.