NOTICE: On Sunday, April 2nd, from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Lovell Street will be closed to traffic due to an upcoming crane project by our neighbors at the AT&T building across the street. Library guests can access the Central Library parking lot on the corner of Rose and Lovell via the Rose St. entrance which will also serve as the exit during this time. 

Asbestos Row and the Dewing Building

The story of the Dewing Building (132 N. Kalamazoo Mall), a structure so long that it embodies an entire city block (from Michigan Avenue to Water Street), will forever be connected to a series of 19th century-built, low-slung buildings once referred to as Asbestos Row.

Dewing Building, 2022, photograph by Ryan Gage
Asbestos Row

Along the 100 block of North Burdick, on the east side of what today is referred to as the Kalamazoo Mall, was once a series of 19th century brick and wood buildings dubbed Asbestos Row, the label derived from having survived destruction by fire. Some of these buildings, having been erected as far back as the 1880’s, survived until 1928, when they were demolished to make room for the Dewing Building. By the 1920’s, the beat-up, single-story buildings which extended from Water Street southward to the George McDonald drug store building on the corner of Burdick and Main (Michigan Avenue) streets, were judged an eyesore. Eventually, businessman William Sheldon Dewing purchased the unattractive structures.

View of Asbestos Row, c. 1926, Kalamazoo Gazette, 24 February 1997

The Dewing Building

Built in 1928, at a cost of $250,000, the W.S. Dewing Building replaced the George McDonald drugstore at the corner of North Burdick and Main (now Michigan Avenue) streets. Local contractor Henry Vander Horst was hired for construction, with the design originating from William Stone. The austere building reflects the Art Deco-style, and is most notable for its length. Over the years, the building has had many occupants, including the Old Kent Bank of Kalamazoo.

Named for William S. Dewing, a leading industrialist in Kalamazoo, who notably was one of several men who founded the Kalamazoo Stove Company. Like many entrepreneurs of his era, Dewing dabbled in a variety of commercial ventures (paper making, brass fabrication, banking), including real estate. He was active in philanthropy as well, giving money to the Children’s Home (Dewing’s father and mother’s creation) and the founding of the Lake Farm Home for Boys (1907). Dewing died in 1929.

Dewing Building, c.1982. Photograph by Sarah Hultmark. History Room Photograph File P-1327

In the early 2000’s, Kalamazoo Valley Community College purchased the building, and then renovated it at a cost of $9.6 million, housing inside their Center for New Media facilities.


Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, August 2022

Sources
Articles

“WM. S. Dewing, 83, Stove Firm Founder, Dies”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 10 March 1929

“Looking Back: Asbestos Row occupied N. Burdick”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 21 July 1985, B,003:5 News


Books

Kalamazoo Lost & Found, Lynn S. Houghton, Pamela H. O’Connor (H 720.9774 H838)


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Historic Sites scrapbooks

Subject File: Roads – Kalamazoo – Kalamazoo – Burdick St., N.

Name File: Dewing, William S.

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