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 at MichMarkers.com.
* Featured photo above was taken at the W.K. Kellogg Manor House by Jeff Baurs Photography
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.