251 E. Michigan Avenue
Downtown Kalamazoo’s Michigan Avenue is home to the last known Louis Sullivan-designed building in the state of Michigan. Located at 251 E. Michigan Avenue, the Desenberg Building was built in 1886 to house the Desenberg Grocery Company, a tobacco and grocery wholesale business. Designed by legendary Chicago architect Louis Sullivan (considered the father of modern architecture and the skyscraper) and his partner Dankmar Adler, the building remains preserved today in the Haymarket Historical District, on the north side of the street, just west of Edwards.
The square building is three-stories tall, made of brick, and adorned with terra cotta detailing. The symmetrical façade includes six panels of sash windows, three of the panels are square, with the others arched. Two copper turrets sit atop the roof’s corners. Decorative limestone spandrels are located between the second and third floor windows. The building was built by local contractors Bush and Patterson at a cost of $17,500.
In the early 1980’s, a project to restore several buildings along Michigan Avenue included Sullivan’s building. At the time of the restoration, the building housed the Schau-Powell Sport Centre. Gordon Rogers & Associates was hired for the restoration project, and worked with Western Michigan University professor of architecture, Dr. Elizabeth Dull in an effort to restore the building as close to Sullivan’s original design as possible. Because of his dedication to historical preservation, the building’s owner, Russell D. Powell, was the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Preservation and Restoration, given by the Kalamazoo Commission for Historical Preservation. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, March 2022
B. Desenberg and Company: Selected Articles from the Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph, May 11, 1881,
(H 338 K14, P.4)
Local History Room Files
Subject File: Buildings – Kalamazoo – Michigan, E., 251