Kalamazoo is a city in the southwest region of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is the county seat of Kalamazoo County. As of the 2010 census, Kalamazoo had a population of 74,262. Kalamazoo is the major city of the Kalamazoo-Portage Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 335,340 as of 2015. Kalamazoo is equidistant from the major American cities of Chicago and Detroit, each less than 150 miles away.
One of Kalamazoo's most notable features is the Kalamazoo Mall, an outdoor pedestrian shopping mall. The city created the mall in 1959 by closing part of Burdick Street to auto traffic, although two of the mall's four blocks have been reopened to auto traffic since 1999. Kalamazoo is home to Western Michigan University, a large public university, Kalamazoo College, a private liberal arts college, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, a two-year community college.
Kalamazoo's name is a familiar reference in popular music, since its exotic sound makes it a "great word for a lyric". Its use as metonym for a remote place is discussed above — "although when it comes to both Timbuktu and Kalamazoo, most of that brag-worthy exotic allure is merely in their names." Nonetheless, numerous songs use the city's name in their song title or lyrics.
Probably the most famous and first was (I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo" (1942) by the Glenn Miller band with Tex Beneke. This #1 popular song was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren. The performance was recreated with Gene Morrison Orchestra as the Glenn Miller Band and the Nicholas Brothers (doing a memorable dance) in the 1942 movie Orchestra Wives. This was nominated: Best Music, Original Song in Academy Awards) Harry Warren (music), Mack Gordon (lyrics). See 15th Academy Awards.
At least a dozen (and many more versions) of "Kalamazoo" songs have been recorded. In chronological order others include: "I've Been Everywhere" by Hank Snow (1962) (album of the same title) and Johnny Cash (1996) Unchained — reworked from the original 1959 Geoff Mack Australian-place-names version made popular by the singer Lucky Starr; "Down on the Corner" (1969) by Creedence Clearwater Revival on their fourth studio album, Willy and the Poor Boys — covered by a dozen other groups – though the reference is not to the city but to one of the "Kalamazoo" line of budget priced guitars manufactured by Gibson; "Kalamazoo" (1995) by Luna on Penthouse; "Cold Rock a Party" (1997) by MC Lyte on Bad As I Wanna B; "Kalamazoo" a song by the rock trio Primus on the 1997 Brown Album'; "Top of the World" by Rascalz (1999) on Global Warning; "Kalamazoo", a song by Ben Folds on the 2004 EP Super D; and "Kalamazoo" (2009) by Mike Craver on his album Shining Down.
The city was also mentioned in the opera by Philip Glass, Einstein on the beach, and in the chorus of the song "Gotta Get Away" by The Black Keys, from their album Turn Blue ("I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo/Just to get away from you..."). Like Miller, the Creedence and Axton lyrics probably use the word "Kalamazoo" as an oblique reference to Gibson Guitars, which made various models named "Kalamazoo", all prominently adorned with the city's name as their origin. In 2011 rap artist Young Jeezy mentioned the city in the song "Higher Learning" on his album TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition. In 2014 the city of Kalamazoo was mentioned again by Rittz in the song "Bounce" on his album Next to Nothing.
Originally known as Bronson (after founder Titus Bronson) in the township of Arcadia, the names of both the city and the township were changed to "Kalamazoo" in 1836 and 1837, respectively. The Kalamazoo name comes from a Potawatomi word, first found in a British report in 1772. However, the Kalamazoo River, which passes through the modern city of Kalamazoo, was located on the route between Detroit and Fort Saint-Joseph (nowadays Niles, Michigan). French-Canadian traders, missionaries, and military personnel were quite familiar with this area during the French era and thereafter. The name for the Kalamazoo River was then known by Canadians and French as La rivière Kikanamaso. The name "Kikanamaso" was also recorded by Father Pierre Potier, a Jesuit missionary for the Huron-Wendats at the Assumption mission (south shore of Detroit), while en route to Fort Saint-Joseph during the fall of 1760. Legend has it that "Ki-ka-ma-sung," meaning "boiling water," referring to a footrace held each fall by local Native Americans, who had to run to the river and back before the pot boiled. Another theory is that it means "the mirage or reflecting river". Another legend is that the image of "boiling water" referred to fog on the river as seen from the hills above the current downtown. The name was also given to the river that flows almost all the way across the state.
The name Kalamazoo, which sounds unusual to English-speaking ears, has become a metonym for exotic places, as in the phrase "from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo." Today, T-shirts are sold in Kalamazoo with the phrase "Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo."
The area on which the modern city of Kalamazoo stands was once home to Native Americans of the Hopewell culture, who migrated into the area sometime before the first millennium. Evidence of their early residency remains in the form of a small mound in downtown's Bronson Park. The Hopewell civilization began to decline after the 8th century and was replaced by other groups. The Potawatomi culture lived in the area when the first European explorers arrived.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, passed just southeast of the present city of Kalamazoo in late March 1680. The first Europeans to reside in the area were itinerant fur traders in the late 18th and early 19th century. There are records of several traders wintering in the area, and by the 1820s at least one trading post had been established.
During the War of 1812, the British established a smithy and a prison camp in the area.
The 1821 Treaty of Chicago ceded the territory south of the Grand River to the United States federal government. However, the area around present-day Kalamazoo was reserved as the village of Potawatomi Chief Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish. Six years later, as a result of the 1827 Treaty of St. Joseph, the tract that became the city of Kalamazoo was also ceded.
In 1829, Titus Bronson, originally from Connecticut, became the first white settler to build a cabin within the present city limits of Kalamazoo. He platted the town in 1831 and named it the village of Bronson—not to be confused with the much smaller Bronson, Michigan, about fifty miles (80 km) to the south-southeast of Kalamazoo.
Bronson, frequently described as "eccentric" and argumentative, was later run out of town. The village was renamed Kalamazoo in 1836, due in part to Bronson's being fined for stealing a cherry tree. Today, a hospital and a downtown park, among other things, are named for Bronson. Kalamazoo was legally incorporated as a village in 1838 and as a city in 1883.
The fertile farmlands attracted prosperous Yankee farmers who settled the surrounding area, and sent their sons to Kalamazoo to become businessmen, professionals and entrepreneurs who started numerous factories. Most of the original settlers of Kalamazoo were New Englanders or were from upstate New York.
In the 1940s, the city became the first to install curb cuts.
In 1959, the city created the Kalamazoo Mall, the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States, by closing part of Burdick Street to auto traffic. The Mall was designed by Victor Gruen, who also designed the country's first enclosed shopping mall, which had opened three years earlier. Two of the mall's four blocks were reopened to auto traffic in 1999 after much debate.
An F3 tornado struck downtown Kalamazoo on May 13, 1980, killing five and injuring 79.
On February 20, 2016, Kalamazoo became the site of a random series of shootings in which six people were killed. A prime suspect was apprehended by police without incident.
In the past, Kalamazoo was known for its production of windmills, mandolins, buggies, automobiles, cigars, stoves, paper, and paper products. Agriculturally, it once was noted for celery. Although much of it has become suburbanized, the surrounding area still produces farm crops, primarily corn and soybeans.
Kalamazoo was the original home of Gibson Guitar Corporation, which spawned the still-local Heritage Guitars. The company was incorporated as "Gibson Mandolin - Guitar Co., Ltd" on October 11, 1902, by the craftsman Orville Gibson. One budget model was named the Gibson Kalamazoo "Melody Maker" Electric Guitar. Operations were moved gradually from Kalamazoo to Memphis, Tennessee, (Electric Division) and Bozeman, Montana, (Acoustic Division) in the 1980s. Some workers from the original factory stayed in Kalamazoo to create the Heritage Guitar company.
Kalamazoo was once known as the "Paper City" because of the paper mills in and near the city. The Allied Paper Corporation operated several mills and employed 1,300 people in Kalamazoo during the late 1960s. As the forests of West Michigan were logged out, paper mills closed.
Kalamazoo was also headquarters of the Checker Motors Company, the former manufacturer of the Checker Cab, which also stamped sheet metal parts for other auto manufacturers. Checker closed on June 25, 2009, a victim of the Late-2000s recession.
Most of Kalamazoo is on the southwest bank of a major bend in the Kalamazoo River, with a small portion, about 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2), on the opposite bank. Several small tributaries of the Kalamazoo River, including Arcadia Creek and Portage Creek, wind through the city. The northeastern portion of Kalamazoo sits in the broad, flat Kalamazoo Valley, while the western portions of Kalamazoo climb into low hills to the west and south. Several small lakes are found throughout the area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Kalamazoo has a total area of 25.11 square miles (65.03 km2), of which 24.68 square miles (63.92 km2) is land and 0.43 square miles (1.11 km2) is water.
Another watershed, Kleinstuck Marsh, is popular with hikers and birdwatchers. Kleinstuck Marsh is south of Maple Street, between Oakland Drive and Westnedge Avenue, Kalamazoo's major north-south artery.
As of the census of 2010, there were 74,262 people, 29,141 households, and 13,453 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,009.0 inhabitants per square mile (1,161.8/km2). There were 32,433 housing units at an average density of 1,314.1 per square mile (507.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 68.1% White, 22.2% African American, 0.5% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 2.8% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.4% of the population.
There were 29,141 households of which 25.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 26.1% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 53.8% were non-families. 36.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 3.04.
The median age in the city was 26.2 years. 20.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 27% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.9% were from 25 to 44; 18.2% were from 45 to 64; and 9.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.3% male and 50.7% female.
Perhaps the best-known is Bell's Brewery, established as the Kalamazoo Brewing Company in 1985 by Larry Bell. The brewery has expanded from its original Kalamazoo location, which houses the Eccentric Cafe, to another brewery in nearby Comstock Charter Township. Bell's beer is distributed to 40 US states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Other local breweries include Tibb's Brewing Company, Gonzo's BigDogg Brewery, Rupert's Brewhouse, Boatyard Brewing Co., One Well Brewing, and Latitude 42 Brewing Company, the latter in the southern suburb of Portage. In 2014, Battle Creek's Arcadia Brewing Company opened a new operation (brewhouse and pub) in downtown Kalamazoo. On a smaller scale, Olde Peninsula Brewpub, Bravo! restaurant, and Bilbo's Pizza and Brewing Company serve their own brews. The area is also a hotbed for home brewing and partners with neighboring Grand Rapids to form what is widely considered one of America's more important regions in American craft beer explosion. In recent years, at least two community events have evolved from the growing craft beer industry in the Kalamazoo area (Kalamazoo Beer Week (annual), Kalamazoo Craft Beer Festival). In 2015, the Give a Craft beer trail and passport were introduced. A shuttle bus (Kalamazoo Brew Bus) service and party bike tour service became available in 2016.
In 2015, Rupert's Brew House entered the Kalamazoo craft spirits market. Two additional distilleries, Green Door Distilling, formerly Revival Distilling and Kalamazoo Distilling Company, are in the licensing stage.
The city has an Arts Council. On the first Friday of each month, the council organizes the 'Art Hop'. Art Hop is a free event, during which downtown businesses and galleries display works by local artists, and patrons 'hop' from venue to venue, enjoying art, live music, and the chance to interact with local artists.
On New Year's Eve, downtown Kalamazoo is the site of an annual New Year's Fest celebration. This celebration is centered at Bronson Park and surrounding venues, allowing patrons to walk from venue to venue to enjoy an all ages showcase of performing arts and other activities (music, magic, comedy, exhibitions, fireworks, food). Initiated in 1985, the event has grown in scope and popularity.
The annual "Eccentric Day" at Bell's Eccentric Cafe celebrates the brewery's Eccentric Ale on the December Friday that marks the end of finals at Western Michigan University.
The Moped Army was founded in Kalamazoo in 1997.
Next to Milham Park is the Milham Park Golf Course. Completed in 1936, the 18-hole, par-72 course is entirely within the city limits of Kalamazoo. During winter, sledding and cross-country skiing are popular activities at the golf course (free of charge). In recent years, the Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers club has groomed and maintained skate ski and classic ski trails for community use.
In 2002, the Kalamazoo Public Library was named "Library of the Year" by Library Journal. The library includes a main location and four branch libraries, and until 2010, a bookmobile system. In 2014, the library opened 'The Hub', a digital lab open to the public for digitizing photos and video, producing podcasts, preserving old vinyl records, cassettes and VHS tapes, and other services.
Kalamazoo's theaters and performing groups include the Kalamazoo Civic Players, New Vic Theatre, Farmer's Alley Theatre, Crawlspace Theatre Productions, The State Theater, and the Barn Theatre in nearby Augusta. Plays and musicals are also performed at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University.
The city's most prominent art museum is the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, whose collection has more than 3,600 works and a focus on 20th-century American art. The KIA regularly mounts temporary exhibitions.
The Kalamazoo Valley Museum, established in 1881, is an American Association of Museums accredited museum operated by Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The museum features "hands-on" exhibits aimed largely at children, and has a planetarium and a Challenger Learning Center.
The Kalamazoo Air Zoo, just south of town, has several dozen aircraft on display, from biplanes to jets.
The Gibson Guitar Corporation, founded in Kalamazoo in 1902, spurred local musicians to play a wide variety of styles, from classical and folk to modern rock (the company relocated to Nashville in 1984). The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1921, is directed by Raymond Harvey. The city also hosts the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, a Bach Festival, the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music, and the Stulberg International String Competition.
Waldo Library and the University Computing Center, joined by the Stewart Clocktower, on Western Michigan University's campus.
The campus of Kalamazoo College.
Kalamazoo is home to Western Michigan University. The college has four campuses in Kalamazoo, (West Campus, East Campus, Parkview Campus and Oakland Drive Campus) as well as several regional locations throughout Michigan and two in Florida. West Campus, located just west of downtown, has the largest concentration of university students, programs and school services. In 2005, Western Michigan ranked #2 Wireless Campus in the U.S. in a national survey done by the Intel Corporation. In 2014, the WMU Homer Stryker School of Medicine (WMed) opened, welcoming an inaugural class of 54 students.
Each May, WMU hosts the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Organized by the Medieval Institute's faculty and graduate students, the Congress brings some 3,000 professors and students from around the globe to present and discuss a variety of topics related to the Middle Ages.
Kalamazoo College, a private liberal arts college founded in 1833 is located on a hill opposite WMU's original campus.
Kalamazoo is home to Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Davenport University, and Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center (KAMSC). Construction of the new Kalamazoo Valley Community College Culinary and Allied Health campus began in August 2014. It had also been the home of Nazareth College, which closed in 1992.
The public schools are managed by Kalamazoo Public Schools. Every resident graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools is provided with a scholarship for up to 100% of tuition and mandatory fee costs for four years at any public university or community college in Michigan, starting with the class of 2006. This program is known as the Kalamazoo Promise. Books and room and board are not included. In 2014, it was announced that 15 private colleges would also be included as Promise-eligible schools. In 2015, Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo received Communities in Schools' national Unsung Heroes award in recognition of elementary school programs aimed at overcoming cultural and language barriers faced by students.