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Downtown Kalamazoo Walking Tour 3

Posted on June 14th, 2016



Walking Tour #3

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


  1. 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.
  2. Kalamazoo Valley Community College Center for New Media (formerly W. S. Dewing Building) corner of Michigan Avenue and Burdick Street – Built in 1928, the Dewing Building was an unusual structure which has a very narrow frontage along Michigan Avenue but fills the entire block along N. Burdick from Michigan Avenue to Water Street. The block replaced a series of rambling structures knows as “Asbestos Row.” Many of these old wooden buildings dated back to Kalamazoo’s pioneer days and were considered eyesores.

    In 2004, the Dewing Building was purchased for the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Center for New Media and although much of the interior was renovated, the unique façade stayed essentially in its original form. All the programs at Center for New Media are designed to prepare students for the work within many creative industries like advertising, printing, publishing, web design, web development, telecommunications, computer support, sales, marketing, and multimedia production.

  3. The Orpheum Building (formerly home of the Orpheum Theater) 119 E Michigan Avenue (adjacent west of Subway) – Michigan Avenue was once lined with blocks of Italianate storefronts which only a handful survive. Among the survivors is the former home of the Orpheum Theater. The City Directors list a movie house at this address from around 1910 to the late 1940s. The theater is long gone but the frame which housed it still remains.
  4. Subway Shop building 125 E Michigan Avenue – Another Italianate building to survive now houses the Subway Shop. The projecting 2nd floor bay window was added after the building’s completion in the late 1860s. According to the 1939 City Directory, this building was home to the Samuel Becker Shoe Store and the John Kling Tailor Shop.
  5. Fifth Third Bank (American National Bank) 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. The building has consistently housed a variety of professional offices. Modern amenities in the original design include the 8th-10th floors being equipped with air, gas and specialized electrical service for the medical profession. Architectural style: Art Deco

  1. 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 with retail and restaurant space.
  2. 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. Upholsterers, jewelers, tailors and dentists occupied its second and third floors. 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
  3. Interurban Depot 167 Portage Street – Built in 1906 by the Michigan United Railways, this was Kalamazoo’s first interurban station. The curve off the street into the station was so sharp that inbound or westbound cars had to run past the station up to Michigan Avenue, way in the street, return down Portage Street and back up into the covered passenger area. The freight loading facilities were at the rear of the building. This location remained a station until 1914 when operations were transferred to a new station on Water Street. Today it has be renovated into condominiums.
  4. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (intersection of South and Portage Streets) – Opened in the fall of 2013, this dine-in cinema offers the best in movies with a full food and bar menu served at your seat.
  5. Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine 300 Portage Street – The school sits on the original plot of land that W. E. Upjohn acquired to begin the Upjohn Company in 1886. This 330,000 square foot structure received a $68 million renovation. The first class began August 18, 2014 with 54 students.
  1. Upjohn Building 24 at 301 John Street – Built in 1934, Building 24 was the world headquarters for the Upjohn Company through 1961. It then was executive offices for Upjohn, Pharmacia, and lastly Pfizer until 2005. Bronson Healthcare Group now owns the facility and spent $6.6 million to renovate the 48,000 square foot, four-level building. Many original walls, doors, flooring and accents remain but the infrastructure, windows and internal workings were made energy efficient and were totally updated to complement the original design work of Detroit architect Albert Kahn.
  2. Epic Center (northeast corner of Lovell and Burdick Streets) – Shortly after the mall was again opened to vehicular traffic (1999), one of the last two remaining department stores, Jacobson’s, closed. This building was built in 1959 just as the pedestrian mall was finished. The building replaced the old Central Fire Station and was remodeled and expanded in 1974. Soon after the 1997 closing of Jacobson’s, the empty store was converted to the Epic Center. The building houses various art-related businesses such as the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, the offices of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, the Black Arts Center, as well as the Nature Connection and the Epic Bistro.
  3. Kalamazoo Gazette Building (southeast corner of Lovell and Burdick Streets) 401 S Burdick – The Kalamazoo Gazette is Kalamazoo’s oldest business and the second oldest newspaper in the state. The original portion of the building was erected in 1925 and is made of Indiana limestone. The building was expanded in 2003 with an addition to the rear of the building which housed a MAN Roland press and a GPS tower clock. The Gazette building has been for sale since 2011, shortly before the Gazette and MLive Media Group relocated their news and sales operations to 306 S. Kalamazoo Mall in February 2012.
  4. State Theater 406 S Burdick Street – Built in 1927, the State Theater was the largest (1,569 seats) and grandest theater in Kalamazoo. The Chicago architect John Eberson developed the ‘atmospheric’ style of the State Theater. The auditorium resembles a Spanish courtyard full of statues and false facades. The ceiling is painted a dark blue and is enhanced with a cloud machine and glittering stars. The original pipe organ is still in working order. The State opened on July 14, 1927 to run films and host vaudeville shows and was run by the Butterfield Theaters organization. It was sold in 1987 and is currently an entertainment venue.
  5. Kalamazoo Public Library 315 S Rose Street – The original library structure on this site was built in 1955. The 1998 renovation 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.

  1. Miller Canfield Building 227 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.
  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 Street in the previous home of Nathaniel Balch. In the early 1920s, the club needed a large 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 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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 during New Year’s Fest.

22. 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.