Ghosts of the Past

A sneak peek at 'Hidden Kalamazoo'
The dusty stairway of the former Hotel Holt located above Alfred E Bike in downtown Kalamazoo.

You emerge from a dark stairway, turn a corner and are suddenly bathed in light. Stand there a moment and take in the wide wooden staircase and the balconied walkways illuminated from above by a large double pitch skylight.

As you go from room to room, amid the peeling paint and scuffed floors, you can see stubs of pipes peeking out of the wall and the outlines of where sinks used to be. Some rooms still have their towel bar in place.

At the end of the hall, a communal clawfoot bathtub and toilets are still in place. In the front of the building is a suite — two rooms with windows that overlook a bustling street below.

Welcome to the Hotel Holt.

Last used as a hotel in the 1980s, the two floors above Alfred E Bike, at 320 E. Michigan, are unrestored and full of reminders of the building’s history. The former hotel space also happens to be one of the seven stops on the Hidden Kalamazoo tour set for June 20 and 21. The tour, in its third year, offers people a chance to see downtown Kalamazoo spaces rarely glimpsed by the public, where the ghosts of the past are still visible.

Coordinated by the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission, the tour raises money for the commission, which uses it to fund historic preservation projects. Sharon Ferraro, historic preservation coordinator for the city of Kalamazoo and a member of the tour’s planning committee, says the project the commission is currently working on is restoration of the Fountain of the Pioneers, in Bronson Park.

Only 1,000 tickets, which cost $15 each, are available for the tour, which sold out in 2014.

“The tours have been so popular because it’s a chance for people to look behind the scenes,” Ferraro says. “They get to go inside buildings that are vacant or that most people don’t ever get to visit. We all lose the chance to see these spaces as more and more of these spaces are developed.”

In addition to the Hotel Holt, this year’s tour features:

  • The State Theatre, including the stage door and dressing room areas.
  • The Civic Theatre, including the green room, kitchen, backstage and under the stage.
  • The Bronson Healthcare corporate offices, which were formerly The Upjohn Co.’s world headquarters.
  • The upper level of The Heritage Company.
  • The Van Kersen Building, above Food Dance.
  • The Fountain of the Pioneers.

A number of downtown restaurants and stores, including Mangia Mangia, Tudor House Teas & Spice, Taco Bob’s and Popcorn City, offer discounts on food or beverages for tour-goers. The discounts are valid only on the days of the tour, and patrons must show their tour tickets to get the discounts.


Check out Hidden Kalamazoo

10 a.m.–4 p.m., June 20 & 21

How much:
$15; children must be accompanied by an adult.

Where to buy tickets:
Available at both D&W Fresh Market locations, 2103 Parkview Ave. and 525 Romence Road; The Spirit of Kalamazoo, 128 Portage St.; The Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission, 415 Stockbridge Ave.; and the Kalamazoo City Treasurer’s Office, 241 South St.