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Old Posted Jun 4, 2017, 2:35 PM
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Discovering KALAMAZOO, Michigan

This thread will be for urban-related photos of Downtown Kalamazoo and its surrounding neighborhoods, taken by the author. There is a lot to discover in this small (but growing), midwest city, and in the nearly two years that I have lived here, I’m still finding new things every day. Folks are proud to live in Kalamazoo, and I hope some of these photos will show you why.

We’ll start with some photos from this weekend.

June Jubilee 2017



June Jubilee is the unofficial kickoff to summer here in Kalamazoo. Every year, on the first weekend in June, the entire city comes alive, with a variety of coinciding events, including:
  • Historic Walking Tours and Building Tours
  • 'Art Hop'
  • The annual 'KIA Arts Fair' (200 juried artists' booths from around the country)
  • 'Art on the Mall' (40 local artists booths)
  • The annual 'Do-Dah' Parade (started 1984, based on the one in Pasadena)
  • Live music events, like 'Concerts in the Park'
  • Food trucks
  • The Kalamazoo Public Library Bag-of-Books Sale
  • Lots of other free events
For a short while, the city seems a much larger place than it is, truly taking on a more urban and metropolitan feeling with all of the activity and people. Next to nearly every other city represented on this site, Kalamazoo is quite small, but it is filled with things to see and do, and if you're looking for variety, you don't have to look far. Anyway, this year, I tried to experience as much of it as possible, and some photos of the weekend are posted here. I will probably do a couple of posts.

First, some theme music:

Video Link


June Jubilee Part 1 - Historic Walking Tour - Friday morning, June 2 - we start with a historic walking tour, focused on the Haymarket and Arcadia districts (brown and yellow on the map), with a little bit of the Mall included too (red). About 50 attendees went on the 1 or 2 mile walk, led by Lynn Houghton, who is the Regional History Curator at WMU.

Kalamazoo Downtown Districts Map:

Image Source: DKI

Lynn is in the blue t-shirt, at center:


The Kalamazoo Building, built 1907, basking in the morning sunlight. The building was designed by Chicago architect Joseph C. Llewellyn:




A colonial detail at the base of The Kalamazoo Building, likely added sometime in the 1920's:


Across from The Kalamazoo Building is the First National Bank and Trust Building, constructed 1917 and designed by Weary and Alford in the neo-classical style. In the 1970s it received the cladding that it still carries today. It is currently in phase 2 of a conversion to apartments and ground-floor commercial space:


This cluster of buildings is now known simply as 'The 100 Block' on Michigan Avenue. They were all restored and redeveloped recently with commercial on the ground level and apartments above.


The small 3-story structure at the right-end of the 100 Block dates to the Civil War.


Looking west along Michigan Ave, towards the Radisson:


This is the Kalamazoo Savings Bank, another neo-classical building that is currently vacant:


Across from it is the American National Bank (now Fifth Third Bank), a handsome Art Deco tower designed by Weary & Alford and completed during the Great Depression in 1930:






For the past few years, the tower has been home to peregrine falcons that have reared several chicks each year. If you squint, you can see the falcon at the top of this radio tower that is near the nest:


Adjacent to the art deco tower, Farmers Alley is being reconstructed with a full-width sidewalk, which is great, because it is a popular shortcut for many pedestrians:




Farmers Alley connects with Exchange Place, another alley that has been torn up for utility work, and one that intersects the Kalamazoo Mall, providing links to Portage St. and Rose St. Here again, the full-with sidewalk is a new improvement:


Further west on Michigan Ave you'll discover the Sweetland Building, one of the oldest intact structures in the city, built 1857:






And then there’s these two blocks, flanking the corners where Portage Road meets Michigan Ave. They are also both quite old:




Historic marker on the Peninsula Building:


A second marker tells of the AUV Auditorium, which was unfortunately destroyed in the 1980 tornado.


Here’s what the auditorium looked like:

Image Source: Twitter

Today that site is just a parking lot:


The Main Street East Block has some great history in a grouping of 19th century buildings reflecting a variety of styles and detail. It has been fully renovated for retail and office space:


The W.A. Doyle Building is Richardsonian Romanesque:




And the Desenberg Building is the only existing building in Michigan designed by Adler & Sullivan. Built in 1886, it has detailing not seen on any other building in the city:






Coney Island, Since 1915:


Floor tile sign for a downtown restaurant – there’s a lot like this throughout the city:


The Rosenbaum Building, originally a pant factory, now a dueling piano bar, event space, luxury apartments, and sky deck:


Next to it is another Richardsonian Romanesque structure that houses a Post Office, and….a night club:


In this area of the Haymarket District, there were once a lot of hotels, because it was where several train depots and stations once were. This used to be the Arlington Hotel:


Next to it, what was once the Columbia Hotel:




Here’s a former train station that now houses the Kalamazoo Community Foundation:




More floor signage, of a long-gone hotel and Candy Store. The building is being renovated into new retail space with apartments above:




Wind chime sculpture at the YWCA:


The restaurant ‘”Food Dance” and other businesses are housed in this complex. The addition has two distinct styles, meant to represent different periods in the history of the original building on the right:


The National Storage Building, built 1912. I think it would make a great space for a boutique hotel or apartments:


The Globe Casket Company, completed in 1900, and one of the first businesses to offer cloth-lined caskets. Today it houses “The Beer Exchange” a bank, and professional offices.




The Haymarket Building dates to 1907. The large parking lot behind it used to be the site of the actual market. It is an area that I think is ripe for redevelopment:


“Slices of Heaven,” a recently-acquired addition to Arcadia Creek Festival Place. The sculpture is by Florida artist Craig Gray:


Anna Whitten Hall, on the downtown campus of KVCC. I suppose this could be considered post-modern. It’s meant to reflect some of the historic buildings around it:


Arcadia Creek. It was uncovered in the 1990s, but unfortunately is still completely inaccessible due to flooding concerns:


The Kalamazoo Valley Museum flanks part of the creek:


The Second-Empire style Lawrence and Chapin Building, built 1872:




Regus / Varnum Building, next-door. Not sure what this was originally:


And next to that, one of my favorites, the former Masonic Hall, built 1913, now commonly referred to as the Rose Street Market:


For a while, it housed multiple businesses inside. Now it sits vacant, and there are plans to convert it into a hotel:


It was almost demolished to build a parking deck for the County Administration Building, which fortunately did not happen. The County Building is a brutalist structure:


The Transportation Center on Kalamazoo Avenue - an Amtrak stop and a hub for Metro Buses:


More tile detail in an entryway:


The Waterbury Block, built 1883, an Italianate masonry building:




A resident steps out on her balcony to greet us:


This Art Deco structure is the W.S. Dewing building, completed 1928, it now houses classrooms and gallery space for KVCC:




Whiskey Alley cuts through the middle of the Dewing Building, providing a shortcut to parking and back entrances of several businesses:


One of several Neo-Art Deco pylons downtown, that provide wayfinding and historical information:


This one is at the corner of Kalamazoo Mall and Michigan Ave, near where we concluded the historic walking tour:


A peek at The Exchange construction site. There are more construction progress photos of this 15-story building here:


Finally, we end back at the Mall. It is quiet and calm at dawn, but vendors are already beginning to set up for the art fair:



Thanks for looking. More photos will be posted soon!
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Old Posted Jun 4, 2017, 8:31 PM
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I enjoyed your thread, I like seeing concentrated walking tours like this one. The Masonic building looks too small for a hotel though, is there room enough for a modern linked expansion building? Looking at the photo again, it looks like there is plenty of room behind it.
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Old Posted Jun 4, 2017, 10:09 PM
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For a small city, Kalamazoo does have a pretty good historical building stock.

I hope the city keeps focusing on developing and investing in the urban core.
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Old Posted Jun 4, 2017, 10:21 PM
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Thanks for the thread! KZoo is a very underrated town, with a large student population, lively downtown, thriving nightlife scene, and eclectic culinary scene. Definitely worth a visit!!
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Old Posted Jun 4, 2017, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geomorph View Post
I enjoyed your thread, I like seeing concentrated walking tours like this one. The Masonic building looks too small for a hotel though, is there room enough for a modern linked expansion building? Looking at the photo again, it looks like there is plenty of room behind it.
Thanks! So there's still no detailed info to go off of for the hotel plans - yet, but what you suggest seems likely, at least as shown in a preliminary site plan, which indicates a hotel addition in back of the existing structure (as well as a lot of other major developments, including the new courthouse).

One major asset is that the Masonic building contains several ballroom-size spaces, stacked on top of each other - ideal for weddings or other events. I am guessing that to convert it into a profitable hotel, at least one or two of these spaces will be lost.

Two years ago, Plazacorp purchased the Masonic Temple building, with a condition in the contract that if they did not begin development on the block within three years, the property could be bought back by the city. Redevelopment is reported to begin by December of this year.


Source: MLive

There's a surface parking lot currently behind the building that the development company (PlazaCorp) recently bought from the county for $500K. This spring, PlazaCorp also acquired the Arcadia Parking Ramp from the City for $3 million, located immediately across the street from the building.
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Old Posted Jun 5, 2017, 12:02 AM
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Looks great!
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Old Posted Jun 5, 2017, 11:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The North One View Post
For a small city, Kalamazoo does have a pretty good historical building stock.
It does indeed. Although I still have to cringe when I see old aerial photos of the city from the 40s - 50s. A lot was lost. Not as much as say, Detroit or Pittsburgh, but still a lot for a city this small.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The North One View Post
I hope the city keeps focusing on developing and investing in the urban core.
Same. The progress made in the last 5 years especially is encouraging.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2017, 12:27 AM
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That was fun. I'm glad you posted this thread. I did a brief stop in Kalamazoo nearly a decade ago and due to time constraints only did a brief drive around downtown. (I was able to grab a poor quality pic of the American National Bank bldg) I believe Kalamazoo was one of the first downtown pedestrian malls in the country, and helped influence city leaders in Ithaca to construct the Ithaca Commons.
Thanks for the tour.
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Old Posted Jun 9, 2017, 5:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Ithacan View Post
That was fun. I'm glad you posted this thread. I did a brief stop in Kalamazoo nearly a decade ago and due to time constraints only did a brief drive around downtown. (I was able to grab a poor quality pic of the American National Bank bldg) I believe Kalamazoo was one of the first downtown pedestrian malls in the country, and helped influence city leaders in Ithaca to construct the Ithaca Commons.
Thanks for the tour.
You are correct about that. According to many, it is considered THE first outdoor pedestrian mall, at least in the modern sense. The master planner of the Kalamazoo Mall, Victor Gruen, was hugely influential in mall design in America - he designed dozens of shopping malls around the country, including the '-Lands' (Northland, Eastland, and Westland Shopping Centers in Michigan) and Midtown Plaza in Rochester, NY.
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Old Posted Jun 9, 2017, 6:07 PM
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thanks for these great pictures. Years ago I had a friend from Kalamazoo who absolutely hated the place. She has since passed away, but grew up there in the 1950's and early 60's. I never understood her disdain but she said it had something to do with the Calvinist heritage of the city and that part of Michigan. I don't think she ever got passed that (plus, like many of us, a bit of family dysfunction has something to do with it). I would have loved to send her these pictures.
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Old Posted Jun 9, 2017, 7:21 PM
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June Jubilee Part 2 - KIA Annual Art Fair, Art on the Mall, Art Hop, and some general Bronson Park sites - Friday Afternoon & Evening, June 2

The next part of this Kalamazoo spotlight includes a mix of photos from several coinciding events, as listed above.

Some listening music if you want:
Video Link


Starting with our lunch, at the newly-opened Vietnamese restaurant in Washington Square, Pho on the Block (P.O.T.B.) - it was quite good:


The Mall is usually quite active around noon time in the warmer months, with many of the restaurants offering outdoor seating. Here is The Union:


And Taco Bobs:


Part of the massive Art Fair is along the Mall, which is entirely closed to vehicular traffic for two days:


Another decorative floor tile sign - I could probably do a whole album of just these:


This is a newer office building downtown, Miller-Canfield, which I actually like quite a bit:


There are plenty more vendor's booths in Bronson Park (about 200):




Also scattered among the tents are several topiary and flower art sculptures:








In the middle of Bronson Park, you find the 1930s-era Art Deco Fountain of the Pioneers. it is controversial to some for its depiction of westward expansion by white European settlers, but regarded as a local treasure by many others. It was designed by the renowned Italian sculptor Alfonso Iannelli and it includes a westward-facing settler and an opposing eastward-facing Native American. The Fountain was granted National Register status last year and is awaiting restoration:





Here is a photo from 1940, shortly after fountain was completed:

Image Source: believed to have been photographed by Mamie L. Austin.

First Congregational Church, on the northern side of Bronson Park. This building has been undergoing restoration for what seems like forever:


Built in 1937, the Kalamazoo County Courthouse on the north edge of Bronson Park is an Art Deco masterpiece comprised of exterior Mankato stone. M. C. J. Billingham was the Architect.


The future of the building is uncertain - the County has promised the building to the developer PlazaCorp in exchange for property in the west end to build a new consolidated courthouse and judicial facility. As part of the agreement though, PlazaCorp is required to do a full restoration of the façade.

On the east edge of Bronson Park, local news station Wood TV8 recently opened a small studio space for live broadcasts in the first floor of the Comerica Building. Their main studio is in Grand Rapids:


In the same building is a neat little coffee place that faces the park:


'Corporation Alley' - providing a shortcut between Bronson Park and the Mall. It needs to be more activated, but it is a good step towards more pedestrian connectivity downtown:


The monthly Art Hop runs from 5:00pm to 9:00pm the first Friday of every month. This evening, we checked out a few spots. First, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum (Science & Natural History). I didn't photograph the artists' work, just the lobby, where there's a 3-story wall of local history - pretty cool:




A friendly fire hydrant "Have a nice day!):


Lots of musicians through the festival grounds, including an a Capella group:


And the Michigan Hiryu Daiko ensemble, with Carolyn Koebel (she's a crazy-good percussionist) - the one with her tongue out:






And the Dacia Bridges Project (again, with Carolyn at the drums):




We took a break from the sun in the basement-level bar of Tibbs Brewing Company. Dark bar, dark beer - the way I like it. Throw in some Mario Kart for good measure. Tibbs is considered a nano-brewery - they make very small batches of good beer, and have been established near the south end of the Mall for a few years now.




As evening sets in, the Mall grows more crowded, and the restaurants all do some healthy business:


'Fandango' outdoor seating:


Some flowers on the Mall:


Newly-opened 'Fuze', along Michigan Ave. Featuring art by one of the Art Hop artists, Amy Lambert (who also worked there):






In 'Suzanne's Organic Salon' some gorgeous black and white infrared light photographs by Ryan Davis Flathau:


There was a mix of works and artists in the basement studio space of local Architectural firm INFORM Architecture:




That's it for Part 2. Thanks again for stopping by.

Last edited by deja vu; Today at 5:38 PM.
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Old Posted Jun 9, 2017, 7:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gothamite View Post
thanks for these great pictures. Years ago I had a friend from Kalamazoo who absolutely hated the place. She has since passed away, but grew up there in the 1950's and early 60's. I never understood her disdain but she said it had something to do with the Calvinist heritage of the city and that part of Michigan. I don't think she ever got passed that (plus, like many of us, a bit of family dysfunction has something to do with it). I would have loved to send her these pictures.
Thanks for the note. I'm sure it was quite different in the 50s and 60s - I would have loved to see the downtown Mall in its originally conceived form back then. In terms of the Calvinist heritage of the area, it's true SW Michigan is still a big area for Calvinism, but I notice it more in Grand Rapids, not so much in Kalamazoo (different time, maybe).
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Old Posted Today, 8:21 PM
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Fifth Annual Hidden Kalamazoo Tour

This past weekend was the annual 'Hidden Kalamazoo Tour'. In its fifth year now, the event highlights rarely seen spaces, as well as historic properties, throughout downtown. For two days (6/17 - 6/18) the doors of several buildings are opened to the public, and for a small fee ($15) you can explore these spaces with the guidance of volunteer docents. Some of the spaces on the tours haven't been updated or altered in decades.

This was my first year attending. The weather started out gray and wet but it turned to sunny skies later in the day. Twenty sites have been featured in the five years, and the limited amount of tickets tend to sell out quickly each year. In truth, the City is running out of downtown locations, since so many properties have been redeveloped in recent years. There is talk of extending the tour to non-downtown sites next year. The event is organized by the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission, and all of the ticket sales go towards supporting the Commission's Preservation efforts.

This year's sites include:
  1. The Muleskinner Building - 316 E Water St
  2. The Star Paper Building (now Old Dog Tavern) - 402 E Kalamazoo Ave
  3. The Park Club - 219 W South St
  4. City Hall - 241 W South St
  5. The Ladies Library Association - 333 S Park St
  6. The Masonic Temple (a.k.a. Rose Street Market) - 309 N Rose St

The Park Trades Center and Bronson Park were also hosting tours, but I skipped these because of time and because I've seen them before. There is also typically an additional 'Secret Site' announced the day of the event, but that was unfortunately cancelled because of the rehab going on at the property (it was the Austin Sill House, located at 226 W Lovell St).

Anyway, here are some photos of the sites. And some music, to take you back in time...

Video Link



1. The Muleskinner Building - 316 E Water St (c. 1915)

This building was moved in 1995 from its original location on Portage Road to its current location on E Water Street. It has housed many businesses over the years, including a heating & plumbing shop and a barber shop. There is an old Interurban car attached to the eastern side of the building. This car was originally used for maintenance and service on the surrounding train lines. The building is slowly being rehabbed by its current owner, who also owns the adjacent Star Paper Building, also on the tour.











The sound of rain heard through this now-windowless opening:




All of the old gas piping for gas lamps is still seen in the walls and ceiling:






2. The Star Paper Building (now Old Dog Tavern) - 402 E Kalamazoo Ave (1898)

The longest tenant of this building was Star Paper Company, which was a wholesale wrapping paper dealer (not for presents, but for packaging, etc.). The building sat mostly vacant in the 1970s – 1980s, until the Heritage Company (architectural salvage business) moved in. Today it is the home of Old Dog Tavern, opened in 2010 by the same folks who own the aforementioned Muleskinner Building.



It was Father's Day morning, and they had a live jazz band for brunch:




This casework was installed specifically for use in the shooting of an independent film. It never functioned as an actual kitchen for residents that would have lived above the first floor space decades ago:












There's a good view of the new HopCat from the second floor window:


3. The Park Club - 219 W South St (1889)

The Park Club was established in 1904 through the merger of three private clubs. The current Park Club building was originally built in 1889 as a private residence for William S. Lawrence, a wealthy industrialist involved in the iron industry (Lawrence and Chapin Iron Works). Starting around 1912 it was used by the Order of Oddfellows, until it was sold to the current Park Club association around 1927. Today the building serves as a private dining club, with many beautiful fireplaces and details throughout.

































The third floor is currently used for weddings and banquets and has yet to be restored to its former glory. Right now it is trapped in the 70s:


But if you look, you can still find a wood floor under the tired carpeting:


A peak of City Hall, through a third floor window:


They are currently restoring the turret. Unfortunately, we could not go up, and it was hard to get a good picture because of the sunlight pouring in:


4. City Hall - 241 W South St (1931)

City Hall served as the central hub for the tour. The building fronts the southern side of Bronson Park and was completed in 1931. Art Deco detailing abounds. It was designed by Weary and Alford Co.











Ceiling of the City Commissioners chamber:






There was also a small display of some historic local structures, rendered in Legos. By far, the most impressive of these was the old East Hall on WMUs campus.







5. The Ladies Library Association - 333 S Park St (1878)

The building that houses the Kalamazoo Ladies Library Association is one of the most beautiful that downtown has to offer. The Kalamazoo LLA was the first women’s club in Michigan, and the third in the nation, according to their records. The building has been continually occupied by its members since its construction in the 1870s. Construction was entirely funded by monies raised by the all female membership. It is considered a fine example of late Venetian Gothic.





This little gargoyle is a replica of one that was stolen a long time ago. The original was eventually returned, and it is now stored safely inside the building (see further down):
















Here is the original gargoyle that once was outside, which is said to date to 12th century Europe:




A lot of the stained glass windows reference literary works - North American authors on the first floor and European authors on the second:








This is the ceiling above the main stair. The star motif is applied throughout the building:


This auditorium was recently restored and is still used for live concerts. The chandeliers were originally gas-fired:


The ceiling above the stage, with more stars:




'Shakspere'


6. The Masonic Temple (a.k.a. Rose Street Market) - 309 N Rose St (1913 – 1915)

The cornerstone of this building was laid in 1913, and it was completed in 1915. It features three-foot thick exterior walls, floors reinforced with railroad ties, and beautiful brick detailing. The Masons moved out in 1972, and (after it was saved from near-demolition by the County) it was rehabilitated into an indoor Market with leasable office space in the 1980s. Today the building sits vacant, with plans rumored that it we be converted into a boutique hotel. The building is composed of three double-story halls stacked on top of each other. The third one, on floors 5-6, is the most intact.









Awesome windows:






Finally, some parting words found in an alley. I hope you enjoyed these more rarely seen sights:
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