Humphrey Block / Peninsula Building
A Commercial Landmark of Kalamazoo
Don’t believe everything you read. There’s a historical marker at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Portage Street that commemorates the building’s designation as a Michigan Historic Site. The building is indeed historical, but the marker claims it was built by Nicholas Baumann in 1874 and was originally designed for the Peninsula Restaurant, none of which is actually true. Baumann’s “Peninsular” (with an ‘r’) saloon, restaurant, and billiard hall was, in fact, located across the street on the north side of East Main (Michigan Avenue) between Burdick and Portage.
Still, the building on the southeast corner of Michigan and Portage is historically significant. Now called the Peninsula (sans ‘r’) Building, it was originally built as the “Humphrey Block” in 1855. At first home to a string of wholesale and retail grocery stores, the building has since housed some of Kalamazoo’s most prominent businesses. It predates every known photograph of the city, and has become an iconic local commercial landmark.
“We observe that energetic measures are in progress for the erection of the brick block on the corner of Main and Portage streets. It is to be one of the finest structures in our midst.”
—Kalamazoo Gazette, 16 March 1855
Named for General Bissel Humphrey, an area homesteader and well-known proprietor of Kalamazoo’s early stagecoach lines, the three-story brick building at the southeast corner of Main and Portage streets went up during the summer of 1855 on the property of a wholesale grocer named Charles Bates. It replaced a smaller wooden structure that faced East Main Street, which housed James A. Walter’s wholesale grocery house. Walter and Bates were business partners at the time.
“No one thing has added more to the city-like appearance of our place than the erection and beautiful finish of the ‘Humphrey Block’ on the corner of Main and Portage Streets. It looms up, grandly and proudly, on its conspicuous site and reflects food credit on the taste and enterprise of its projectors.”
— Kalamazoo Gazette, 28 September 1855
Edgar & Dudgeon
When the Humphrey Block opened in November 1855, its first tenants were William H. Edgar and John Dudgeon, proprietors of the Edgar & Dudgeon Wholesale & Retail Grocery & Provision Store. Edgar & Dudgeon stocked nearly every kind of foodstuff imaginable, from eggs and butter, to flour, sugar, salt, fish, tea, and whiskey.
After a year in business, Dudgeon and Edgar went their separate ways. Dudgeon ran a produce and commission business near the Michigan Central Railroad depot, while W.H. Edgar continued on his own with the grocery business “opposite the Kalamazoo House” for another year or so before selling out to begin a separate concern. S.E. Walbridge followed Edgar in 1859 with a flour and feed store.
Civil War Years
During the Civil War years, the Humphrey Block became “a place of great importance and renown” (Gazette). In July 1861, Lieutenant E.L. Maynard opened a recruiting station in the building for the 1st Regiment. The following spring, the provost marshal R.C. Dennison opened his headquarters there. An “Immense War Meeting” was held in July 1862 for “persons desirous of putting down the present Southern rebellion and sustaining the present administration at Washington” (Gazette). Charles Thompson immediately set up a recruiting office in the Humphrey Block, and Colonel O.H. Moore established a school of instruction for soldiers in the 25th Regiment, “perfecting the men in the drill and manual of arms… and the work of becoming soldiers” (Gazette). During the war, Mrs. J.B. Daniels operated an improvised hospital on the third floor of the Humphrey Block, where she cared for more than 100 soldiers, a dozen at a time, who had become ill due to poor conditions in their encampment.
During the years that followed, a string of retailers, both large and small, occupied the street-level portion of the building. At one time or another, these included S.E. Walbridge’s flour and feed store; merchant millers Fish & Merrill; Peter B. Appledoorn’s shoe store; Willard Morse, Jr.’s straw and millinery goods store; L.C. Starkey’s furniture store; the F.E. Curtenius grocery store; O.K. Buckhout & Company’s grocery store; Sam Mittenthal’s fruit stand; I.J. Hackley’s barber shop; Alexander P. Small, the marble cutter; and the list goes on.
At the same time, dozens of different businesses came to occupy the upper two floors of the Humphrey Block. J.H. Dolph’s fine art store; C.F. Miller, the civil engineer and surveyor; Prof. J.G. Meyer’s music instruction and instrument repair; L.L. Perrin’s sewing machine sales; the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church; Holland Free Gospel Church; the Industrial School for girls; YMCA; YWCA; the Kalamazoo Blank Book Manufactory; Parsons Business College; the Michigan Cycling Club; F.R. Phetteplace’s bicycle shop; the Chaplin & Ihling book bindery; the Henderson-Ames manufacturing company; the Union Dental Parlors; a ballroom dancehall; Maurice L. Wells’ nine-hole indoor golf course; and others.
Sam Folz’s “Big Corner”
Certainly, one of the building’s most prominent and longest-running tenants was Samuel Folz, “The Excelsior One Price Clothier.” Originally opened at 103 East Main Street in 1884 with partner J.A. Franklin, Folz & Franklin built their clothing business rapidly, based on the concept of “one price, the lowest price, for all” customers. Franklin retired in 1887 citing health reasons, so Folz bought him out and soon became “one of the most prosperous business men of the city” (Gazette).
In April 1892, Sam Folz made the move to the vastly larger quarters of the Humphrey Block, replacing four separate smaller stores on the main level of the building, creating a single expansive 6,000-square-foot retail space. Downtown shoppers were “dazzled by the 80 electric lights” (Gazette) in the building’s large street-side plate-glass windows and wowed by the firm’s impressive inventory. The Folz store soon became known as “The Big Corner.”
During an 1895 interior renovation and building facelift, the third story of the forty-year-old building failed a city inspection and was cited in violation of a building safety ordinance. According to the city clerk’s report, the walls of the third story were “10 inches thick, two layers of brick with an air space making a ten-inch wall” (Gazette), clearly seen as inadequate and in need of repair. Still, the Henderson-Ames Company took over the space as a temporary factory until a new building could be secured.
In 1902, Henderson-Ames vacated the upper floor of the Humphrey Block, which allowed second-generation property owner John R. Hunter to make additional interior renovations (although mostly decorative) to the 4,300-square-foot third floor. The building saw additional renovations in 1910 (again, mostly decorative) under the guidance of architect F.D. Van Volkenberg, which included yet larger display windows in the Folz space and new fixtures.
Hoover-Bond Furniture Company
During the summer of 1921, the Humphrey Block was sold to William Hoover of the Hoover-Bond home furnishings company for $151,000. Humphrey planned to extensively remodel the structure, replace the third floor, and perhaps add a fourth story.
In July 1923, an application for a building permit was filed by E.W. Mamaugh, a building contractor from Lima, Ohio, home of the Hoover-Bond company. Folz vacated the building in August and a building permit was hastily issued, which allowed Hoover-Bond to make $15,000 worth of improvements. However, the permit was quickly withdrawn and the building was condemned instead, after inspections revealed loose bricks in the upper floors, crumbling mortar, and loose floor and ceiling joists. City officials ordered the upper floors of the building to be taken down, leaving only the street-level first floor and basement from the original construction.
After Hoover-Bond underwent a corporate restructuring, Moore McQuigg was awarded a contract in October to dismantle the building as ordered, while Manuel Newlander, an associate of Kalamazoo architect R.A. LeRoy, prepared plans to rebuild the upper two floors and update the exterior of the aging building for a sleek, more modern appearance. Plans for a fourth floor were abandoned.
Once the renovation work was complete, the newly reformed Hoover-Bond company opened its expansive new home furnishings store in June 1924 with a splash, but the business lasted only a few years. After losing the building to foreclosure, Hoover-Bond closed its Kalamazoo location in 1928. Ownership reverted to the bond holders who organized the Bates Building Corporation and promptly leased the 27,000-square-foot facility to Montgomery Ward and Company, who opened a branch retail store there in September, utilizing all four floors of the building. Wards remained in the building until 1933 before moving to Burdick Street. The Leath Furniture Company took over the space in 1937.
Kalamazoo Stove Company Retail Store
The Kalamazoo Stove and Furnace Company, a leading local manufacturer of stoves, furnaces, and heating appliances, purchased the building in 1946 and opened a retail store for use as a showroom, training center for stove company salesmen, and demonstration lab for its products. A large 15-foot by 50-foot porcelain and steel sign was erected atop the building facing Michigan Avenue. For many years, the massive sign carried the company’s motto, “A Kalamazoo – Direct To You.” When the stove company was dissolved in 1952, Harold D. Schrier took over ownership of the building. He in turn sold it to a Detroit firm two years later. The iconic Kalamazoo Stove Company sign atop the landmark building remained until 1970, long after the company had gone out of business.
The Kalamazoo Office Equipment Company changed its name in 1957 to Michigan Office Equipment, Inc. and opened a new showroom “in the old Kalamazoo Stove Company Corner,” which the company claimed was the “largest exclusive Office Furniture and Interiors Display Room in the Middle West” (Gazette). In July 1961, the City Building Department approved a $10,000 permit to James S. Gilmore, Jr.’s General Enterprises for commercial alterations to the building. Once the renovation work was complete, the name of the building was changed to the “Peninsula Building,” likely prompted by a popular misconception that the building once housed a restaurant by that name. Michigan Office Equipment remained in the building until 1969 when the space became home to the Ambassador Travel Service.
The building was seriously damaged but survived the devastating 1980 tornado, which wiped out several of the nearby buildings along Portage Street, including the historic AUV Building. After an extensive $250,000 restoration effort, the Peninsula Building was reopened in 1981. A year later, the Peninsula Building — the third oldest-known surviving building in downtown Kalamazoo — was placed on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites.
Brewpub & Restaurant
During the 1990s, downtown Kalamazoo experienced a period of renaissance and business growth. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1996, Steve and Marie Blinn opened Kalamazoo’s first present day brewpub called the Olde Peninsula Brewpub & Restaurant on the ground level of the historic Peninsula Building. The upper floors were renovated as loft apartments soon after.
After 25 years in business, the Olde Peninsula closed its doors permanently in July 2021, a victim of the global COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, the Saugatuck Brewing Company purchased the assets of the Olde Peninsula Brewpub and signed a lease with the building owner, Peregrine Peninsula LLC. The company has since renovated the brewpub space and opened its own brewery and restaurant, hoping to recapture the magic of the landmark building.
Written by Keith Howard, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, March 2023.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 March 1855, p.2.
“Death of Gen. Humphrey”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 17 August 1855, p.2.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 31 August 1855, p.2.
“No one thing…”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 28 September 1855, p.2.
“Choice family groceries!! new store.”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 November 1855, p.3.
“A new enterprise.”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 23 November 1855, p.2.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 4 January 1856, p.3.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 6 June 1856, p.3.
“Fish & Merrill”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 30 March 1860, p.2.
“Mr. Chas. A. Thompson”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 25 July 1862, p.2.
“The Twenty-Fifth Regiment”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 12 September 1862, p.2.
“New express company”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 1 March 1872, p.3.
“Wholesale grocery house of Chas. R. Bates & Bros.”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 29 March 1872, p.4.
“Willard Morse, Jr.”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 11 April 1872, p.4.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 14 January 1881, p.8.
“Prof. Parsons is moving…”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 29 June 1882, p.4.
“The industrial school”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 26 April 1891, p.1.
“A new cement walk…”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 3 August 1891, p.5.
“In a new location”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 28 November 1891, p.5.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 13 December 1891, p.8.
“Enterprise. Sam Folz’ magnificent store opened.”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 3 April 1892, p.1.
“City officers reports.”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 5 November 1895, p.1, 8.
“The interior of the Humphrey block…”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 14 March 1902, p.8.
“Old Humphrey block”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 28 March 1902, p.6.
“Plan improvements for Folz big corner”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 7 December 1910, p.3.
“History of Kalamazoo Y.W.C.A.”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 30 April 1916, p.16.
“War spirit manifests itself in Kazoo and two companies organize”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 5 September 1916, p.7.
“Kalamazoo landmark threatened”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 29 January 1922, p.26.
“Big corner not to be altered by Hoover-Bond”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 17 September 1923, p.2.
“Explains stand on Hoover-Bond Building here”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 30 September 1923, p.30.
“Awards contract to dismantle building”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 2 October 1923, p.10.
“Fate Of ‘big corner’ soon to be settled”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 24 November 1923, p.6.
“Hoover-Bond building remodeling under way”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 28 November 1923, p.5.
“New building at big corner now certain”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 9 December 1923, p.36.
“Crowds throng Hoover-Bond’s at big opening”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 3 June 1924, p.15.
“Much recruiting was done in Kalamazoo during the Civil War”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 18 October 1925, p.95.
“Aided sick veterans”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 17 December 1925, p.7.
“Montgomery Ward Company leases Hoover-Bond site”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 12 July 1928, p.2.
“Bissel Humphrey ran stage lines”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 June 1929, p.16.
“Leath Furniture firm will move into new store”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 4 February 1937, p.13.
“Sam Folz’s Clothing Store hailed in 1892 as one of largest and most elaborate in state”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 30 January 1949, p.3.
“Remodeling of stove retail store planned”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 14 February 1953, p.16.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 June 1970, p.43.
“Page torn from Kalamazoo’s past”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 18 May 1980, p.3.
“Small businesses spearheaded city’s recovery from tornado”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 May 1981, p.4.
“‘Peninsula’ on historic sites register”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 7 April 1982, p.15.
“In downtown, what’s old is being made new again”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 9 May 1986, p.22.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 29 October 1995, p.E-1.
Kalamazoo Gazette. 25 June 1997, p.23.
“‘It will be missed’ Olde Peninsula, the city’s first brewpub, is closing…”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 15 July 2021, p.4.
“Saugatuck Brewing Co. moving to new spot down the street”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 14 November 2021, p.5.
“Saugatuck Brewing Co. targets 2023 opening date”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 25 December 2022, p.4.
Local History Room Files
History Room Subject File: Buildings – Kalamazoo – Michigan, E., 202-206.
History Room Subject File: Buildings – Kalamazoo – Portage, 111.