There are few people who have contributed as much to the city of Kalamazoo as Charles B. Hays. He was born, lived, worked, played, and died in Kalamazoo, and he left his city a much better place then he found it. "The man who helped build Kalamazoo" was a businessman, a developer, a husband, a father, a politician, and a golfer. Most importantly, Charles B. Hays possessed the fighting spirit that is so essential for a successful entrepreneur.
Hays was born in Kalamazoo on 15 November 1862. He graduated from Kalamazoo High School in 1881 and completed his education with two years at Kalamazoo College and two years at Michigan Agricultural College. In 1889 he married Luella Phillips, daughter of local businessman Colonel Delos Phillips, and eventually they had three children.
It has been said that Hays started his business career the day before he graduated from high school and did not quit until the day he died. He bought his first plat of land for $12.50. In 1887 he formed a partnership with August B. Scheid who financed many of Hays's ventures. The two men were both willing to take risks in business, and although they both profited from their success, it was the city of Kalamazoo that was the real winner. In 1937 it was estimated that Scheid's money and Hays's real estate acumen were responsible for one sixth of all the streets in Kalamazoo, employment for over 3,000 people, the building or improvement of 1,500 homes, and the sale of 3,000 city lots. Hays saw some rough times, and his fortunes rose and fell with the economy. However, he had an uncanny ability to keep the confidence of his creditors and always managed to come out ahead. Among other things, he developed the area once occupied by the National Driving Park and the land south of it, including the South Side Improvement Addition, Hays Park, South Park and the Elmwood Plat. This area includes much of what is now the Edison Neighborhood.