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Local Preservation Projects to be Honored with Historic Preservation Awards of Merit

The Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission (KPHC) will present its 2020 and 2021 Awards of Merit on Wednesday, May 26, at 5:00 p.m. in a virtual ceremony. The awards are presented during Preservation Month in May of each year. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 awards were delayed and finally postponed until 2021. 

The awards will be showcased in a live virtual ceremony, broadcast on the City of Kalamazoo’s Facebook page and YouTube channel at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday May 26.

For over two decades the KHPC has presented awards for preservation projects in the city of Kalamazoo. Awards have recognized institutions such as the Woodward School, books such as Kalamazoo: Lost and Found, and nearly three dozen single and multiple family homes, rental and owner-occupied housing rehabilitation projects, as well as new infill houses. The awards also go to institutions and individuals that support and promote preservation.

The 2020 Historic Preservation Awards of Merit go to: 

Hotel Holt – Ritz Hotel – Tovich LLC - 320 East Michigan: Best known as Alfred E. Bike since the early 1980s, the partners in Tovich LLC purchased the three-story building with a plan to turn the two upper floors into four apartments. Before they began, the interior space was like a movie set – over 20 small hotel rooms with two shared bathrooms at the rear illuminated by a glorious skylight over the central staircase. The original stair was retained along with much of the hardwood maple floors and many items of trim. 

Illinois Envelope Building - Kalamazoo County Health and Human Services – Plazacorp - 311 East Alcott: Built about 1904 when the owners of the Bryant Paper Mill recruited the Illinois Envelope Company to construct their factory alongside the rolling mills. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only survivor from the entire paper mill complex. Plazacorp took on the challenge of rehabilitating this factory building to house Kalamazoo County Health and Human Services as part of the Community Services Campus. The high-ceilinged manufacturing areas have been converted to welcoming spaces with offices, conference rooms and laboratory space to house this vital service.

Lifecycles Studios – Rhonda and Toni Ethridge – 522 Mills Street: Rhonda and Toni Ethridge have combined their passions for styling hair and spin-cycling. With the help of a LISC façade grant they moved from a spare bedroom and their garage into a former grocery store at the corner of Crosstown and Mills Street. They opened up long boarded windows, repointed mortar and transformed the interior into two friendly spaces – for the hair styling at the front and the spin cycle room on the side. All the rooms are bathed with light and good cheer.

The 2021 Historic Preservation Awards of Merit go to: 

Douglass Community Association – 1000 West Paterson: More than 100 years after the founding of the Douglass Community Association, the organization continues to be a beacon of light to the community. The Douglass Community Association is recognized by the Historic Preservation Award as an organization whose historic presence in the community continues to contribute to the entire city, serving as a vital hub of community activity for all the people of Kalamazoo regardless of race or economic status.

Henry VanderHorst House – Kalamazoo College - 106 Thompson Street: One of Kalamazoo’s premiere builders at the beginning of the 20th century, Henry VanderHorst built this almost fireproof house as a home for his family, with concrete and steel. Kalamazoo College purchased this sturdy, yet elegant home in 2015, planning to rehabilitate it to serve as the admissions office, the first experience potential new students would have with the Kalamazoo College Campus. The rehabilitation carefully modified the house to provide barrier free access to the first floor, interview space, office space and a profoundly comfortable and welcoming atmosphere.

Carder-VanDeusen House - Upjohn Institute for Employment Research – 527 West South: Originally built in 1866 as an Italianate, about 1904 the generous eaves were re-decorated and the dramatic towering Ionic columns redefined the front façade. Best known in recent years as the Hospital Hospitality House, the Upjohn Institute purchased it in 2018 to convert to office and meeting space for its expanding programs. The exterior repairs included new bases for the massive columns, window rehabilitation, a rear addition and repurposing the small garage as a recording studio.

Gate Cottage – Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital – 1312 Oakland Drive: This small, picturesque Gothic Revival cottage was built to house a gatekeeper in 1880 to facilitate wagons entering and leaving the grounds of the Kalamazoo Asylum for the Insane. By 1885, the cottage became a home for privileged lady patients and later for hospital staff. Although the inside is still laid out as a small house museum, maintenance deferred had resulted in a roof leak. The last three years have seen a new furnace installed, the chimney repaired, the entire house painted and the return of the fanciful fleur de lis roof cresting missing for most of a century.

Sharon Ferraro – Historic Preservation Coordinator – Individual award: Since 1968, when her best friend’s family bought the Stewart-Chappell House on Elm Street, Sharon Ferraro has been fascinated by history and old buildings. She went to Eastern Michigan University to pursue a degree in historic preservation with the dream of bringing the tools of preservation back to Kalamazoo. In 2001 she got her dream job and has spent the last two decades spreading her enthusiasm for old buildings, championing old house owners by finding ways to teach DIY skills, showing off the unseen spaces in downtown Kalamazoo with five years of Hidden Kalamazoo Tours and working with property owners and developers throughout the city to preserve the sites and buildings that tell the story of Kalamazoo.

Please call Sharon Ferraro, City of Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Coordinator at 269-337-8804 or email at ferraros@kalamazoocity.org for more information.

City of Kalamazoo

Home to the Kalamazoo Promise, three institutions of higher education, two nationally recognized healthcare systems, cutting-edge medical research, world-class brewing and dining, outstanding parks, and an extensive variety of music, art, theatre, and cultural attractions.


 (269) 337-8000
 (269) 337-8182
 241 West South Street
     Kalamazoo, MI 49007

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