So much of our community’s history can be seen in the buildings of downtown Kalamazoo and in our neighborhoods, but many people may not realize that some of these buildings are hiding a part of their own past. Changes, alterations or additions have concealed the original structures but left an original window, cornice or roof still visible. These are a few of my favorite “hidden” buildings in Kalamazoo:
Sill Terrace Apartments/Prange Building
Northwest corner of South Rose and West Lovell streets
A small Greek Revival home sat on this corner until its owner, Dr. Joseph Sill, moved it to make way for a different type of structure, a four-story building filled with 12 apartments completed in 1869. It also contained a common dining room, with meals prepared by a cook. Originally named Sill Terrace, this Italianate building later became known as Rose Terrace. Around 1920, optician Henry Prange, who had owned the building for about 11 years, built onto the original structure. Designed by the former local architectural firm Billingham & Cobb, the addition added space for offices and stores. If you look closely, especially on the sides of the building, you can see details of the original structure.
Northwest corner of West South Street and the Kalamazoo Mall
The first hidden building I found is this Italianate house completed in 1860 for John Bassett, who operated a store and owned land in the village. Position yourself facing west on South Street at the Kalamazoo Mall and you can see it. You can even get inside the house by entering 248 S. Kalamazoo Mall, now the location for Taco Bob’s, and walk up the stairs. Originally it had a very large lawn surrounding it and provided a home for John, his sister and his young son. After John’s death, the family continued living there, later renting it out for several purposes. Beginning in 1901, Bassett’s daughter-in-law built a series of commercial structures around the house for a variety of professionals and retail establishments.
Harding Elementary School
Bronson Hospital campus
A need for more school buildings in the 1920s led to the construction of Harding Elementary, which was completed in 1926 and located on Pine Street (which no longer exists), just to the south of East Lovell Street. An older school next door became the administration building for the district. Harding Elementary, designed by the former local architectural firm Billingham & Cobb, remained a school until 1960, when both buildings were sold to Bronson Methodist Hospital. The administration building came down, but the Harding building remained, housing the hospital’s school of nursing, medical library, outpatient clinics and other functions. The building, or what is left of it now, is surrounded by a parking ramp and other hospital structures, but the top of the front façade still can be seen.
315 Woodward Ave.
Over the years, this house in the Stuart Historic District has undergone some noticeable changes, but if you look closely, you can find evidence of the original Italianate structure hidden behind everything added on to it. Julius Caesar Burrows came to Kalamazoo County in 1860, working as a teacher and lawyer and eventually serving in both the U.S. House and Senate. This house, completed in 1872, provided a home for him and his wife, Frances, for more than 40 years. It remained a single-family home until the 1930s, when it became apartments. Eventually it contained eight units, which may be the reason for all the existing additions and windows and the prominent portico with very tall columns at the front entrance.
Carriage Steps for the Brown House
427 S. Burdick St.
Many people walk by these two sets of carriage steps and fail to notice them, but they served an important purpose — they helped people enter and exit carriages. The set of stairs to the north of the home were installed sometime after the completion of the house in 1867. The home’s second owner, Dr. John Bosman, built a small medical office on the house’s south side and added the second set of carriage steps, which included his name and the shape of a serpent. One can only hope these will remain for many more years.