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The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour Becomes The Hidden Kalamazoo Book

A wide view of a tall, heavy, metal circular hatch that has been opened to the left, revealing a room with safe-deposit boxes inside.
Regina Gorham
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Hidden Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo has plenty of official historic sites. But the Hidden Kalamazoo tour took a different approach to the story of the city’s downtown. For half a decade, it led curious visitors through unofficial but revealing locations - places like old apartments and long-defunct department stores. Those rooms said something about how life used to be lived. There wasn’t a tour this summer, but as we hear in an interview that first aired in June, the people behind Hidden Kalamazoo are trying another approach.

 

  

"We decided that this year rather than do a tour we planned we were going to do a book," City of Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Coordinator Sharon Ferraro said.

Ferraro says that as the downtown redevelops, it's getting harder to tour. Spaces that sat empty for years have been put back to use as offices or apartments.

"I want to make it really clear, none of these buildings are coming down," she added. "The reason we can't look at them again is because they're now rooms, offices, apartments, they're all sorts of different things so they're no longer vacant - which is wonderful, that's what we wanted, but it's harder to get in to tour when it's someone's apartment."

A view of a long, mostly empty, former commercial space with windows at one end. The ceiling has a series of older-looking small spherical light fixtures. The wall has wallpaper in some places, paint in others and might have been stripped at the far end.
Credit Regina Gorham / Hidden Kalamazoo
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Hidden Kalamazoo
Inside the former Mongtomery Ward building on the Kalamazoo Mall.

  

City of Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission member Regina Gorham says the paper version of the Hidden Kalamazoo tour, which the group hopes to finish in time for the winter holiday season, will answer questions such as "What is a transom window? Why were there skylights in the center [of many downtown buildings]? Why are all the rooms faced toward the center?"

"Plus we are adding more, as a group of nerdy researchers who love looking things up, " Gorham added. "Many of us, I will include myself in it, went down rabbit holes of researching finding the names of people that lived in the apartments, finding that they had an office up there and did sewing on the side out of their apartment."

We learn more about Hidden Kalamazoo - the tour that's becoming a book - in an interview with Ferraro, Gorham and former Historic Preservation Commission member Tony Holewinski.

 

State_2018.jpg
Credit Regina Gorham / Hidden Kalamazoo
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Hidden Kalamazoo
The State Theatre in downtown Kalamazoo was one of the Hidden Kalamazoo tour's stops.

  

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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