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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 total 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.
Main article: Etymology of Kalamazoo
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. Still 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.
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.
Early in the 20th century, Kalamazoo was home to the brass era automobile company Barley.
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.
In 2007, Kalamazoo was named to Fast Company (magazine)'s 'Fast 50: Most Innovative Companies 2007', in recognition of the city's Community Capitalism approach to revitalize the economy. In 2012 Kiplinger's Personal Finance ranked Kalamazoo fourth of the Ten Best Cities for Cheapskates. The city was named in NerdWallet.com's 2014 'Top 10 Best Cities for Work-Life Balance'.
Kalamazoo has many local breweries and brewpubs that produce a variety of beer styles.
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. Bell's beer is distributed to 32 US states. 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 A.M. Todd Company, one of the lead producers of peppermint oil and other flavorings, is headquartered in Kalamazoo. Its founder, Albert M. Todd, was elected to the United States House of Representatives for the 55th Congress.
Kalamazoo is also home to Kalsec, another flavorings company, which was founded by Paul H. Todd, Jr., Albert Todd's grandson and U.S. Representative in the 89th Congress. Founded as the Kalamazoo Spice Extraction Company, Kalsec is owned and managed by Todd family descendants.
Stryker Corporation is Kalamazoo-based and makes medical equipment.
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet designs and manufactures outdoor kitchen equipment.
Fabri-Kal, a supplier of food service and other containers produced from thermoform plastic or plant-based materials (Greenware product line), has operated corporate headquarters in Kalamazoo since the 1960s. The company closed the Kalamazoo-based manufacturing facilities in 1991, but returned an expanded manufacturing capacity to Kalamazoo in 2008 with the opening of a LEED-certified 400,000 square foot (37,000 m2) facility. In recent years, the company's product lines have introduced sustainable and plant-based materials, and innovations to reduce the plastic content of consumer and other packaging.
Parker Hannifin Aerospace's Hydraulic Systems Division (HSD) is located at 2220 Palmer Ave in Kalamazoo, MI. The 170,000 square-foot facility designs, manufactures, and services hydraulic components for both military and commercial aerospace sectors. It produces hydraulic axial piston pumps and motors, electric motor-driven pumps, hydraulic power transfer/supply units, electrohydraulic power modules, hydraulic thrust-reverser & landing gear actuators, accumulators, reservoirs, filter modules and valve packs.
The Upjohn Company was a pharmaceutical manufacturing firm founded in 1886 in Kalamazoo that is now part of the Pfizer Corporation. Most of Upjohn's original facilities remain, many have been renovated and some new buildings have been constructed. The bulk of the facilities exist in Portage, Michigan, but many also exist in Downtown Kalamazoo.
Western Michigan University School of Medicine (WMed) is a collaboration involving Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo's two teaching hospitals, Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare. The new medical school has been in planning since 2008, and was granted Preliminary Accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education in October 2012. Welcoming its first class in August 2014, the school is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supported by private gifts, clinical revenue, research activity, student tuition, and endowment income. In March 2011, Western Michigan University received a gift of $100 million for the medical school from anonymous donors.
The global Research and Development organization of Zoetis, the world's largest producer of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock, is headquartered in downtown Kalamazoo.
The city is also home to the Stryker Corporation, a surgical and medical devices manufacturer.
Kalamazoo hospitals include: Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital, Bronson Methodist Hospital, and Borgess Medical Center.
In 2014, Newell Rubbermaid established a global product design center in Kalamazoo, consolidating fifteen global design units at a single location within the Western Michigan University Business Technology and Research Park. The Business Technology and Research Park is also home to design firm TEKNA Solutions. In 2015, Kalamazoo-based landscape design and manufacturing firm Landscape Forms, Inc., received five National Design Awards.
Research and economic development
The W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research organization, has operated in Kalamazoo since its establishment in 1945. The Institute conducts research into the causes and effects of unemployment, and measures for the alleviation of unemployment. The Institute also publishes Business Outlook for West Michigan, a quarterly journal that provides economic analysis and forecasts on the West Michigan economy.
The Fetzer Institute promotes and funds holistic solutions to everyday problems. It was founded by John Fetzer, a broadcasting magnate and former owner of the Detroit Tigers and WKZO radio and television in Kalamazoo.
The economic development organization Southwest Michigan First was established in Kalamazoo in 1999, with a focus on Community Capitalism. The organization was recognized as a Best and Brightest Company to Work Force in 2013, and has received Fast Company (magazine) commendations for innovative strategies to improve the economy. In 2015, two members of Southwest Michigan First were selected for Development Counsellors International's "2015 40 under 40," top 40 young economic developers in the United States.
Other notable Kalamazoo businesses include:
The Farmers' Market, located on Bank Street, is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays, May through November.
The Bank Street Winter Market is open Saturdays, December through May.
PNC Bank — Kalamazoo was formerly the corporate HQ of First of America Bank, which merged with National City Bank in 1997. National City has since been purchased and merged with PNC Bank which still maintains a large corporate building in Texas Township, and several locations downtown, along with numerous branches in the region.
mophie, a smartphone accessory company, was kick-started in a Kalamazoo barn in 2006 (as mStation)
Henderson Castle, a 1895 Queen Anne-Style house that sits on West Main Hill across from Mountain Home Cemetery, overlooking the city. It is privately owned but open to the public and currently functioning as an Bed and Breakfast, Restaurant and Spa.
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 several 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.
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.
Music groups and other performing artists perform at the downtown State Theatre, Western Michigan University's Miller Auditorium, and Wings Event Center.
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.
There is no longer a zoo in Kalamazoo. The Milham Park Zoo closed in 1974.
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, and the Barn Theatre in nearby Augusta. Plays and musicals are also performed at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University.
A project of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, The Kalamazoo Animation Festival International (KAFI) encourages and educates animation artists, promotes Kalamazoo's animation industry, and provides community entertainment. In addition to a biannual festival, KAFI sponsors events such as film screenings and workshops throughout the year.
KAFI's first festival drew 235 submissions and nearly 1,000 attendees in 2002. A second festival was held in 2003. Since then, an every-other-year schedule has been adopted. The 2007 festival attracted more than 500 entries from 37 countries. In addition to an animated film competition with $15,000 in prizes awarded, the festival features events for students, artists, educators, filmmakers and the general public. Past KAFI award winners include Bill Plympton, Chris Landreth and John Canemaker.
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.
Northeast of town, in Hickory Corners, is the Gilmore Car Museum, which includes cars used in Walt Disney movies.
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.
The local and indie music scene has produced pop stars such as RCA recording artists The Verve Pipe and Metal Blade recording artists Thought Industry.
In popular culture
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 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. Rapper Young Jeezy also referenced the city in the song "Higher Learning" on his third album "TM103:Hustlerz Ambition".
The "Kalamazoo" was one of several names of a railroad Handcar, and was produced by the Kalamazoo Manufacturing Company.
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