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Kalamazoo Street Names

The following is a partial list of the origins behind the names of city streets, many of which were named after prominent members of business and politics. As with many aspects of history, the exact origins can often be a difficult matter to determine and verify as time passes, memories fade, and secondary sources fail to elicit certainty. We expect to add other origin stories as we find information about them, so check back later if you do not find what you are looking for.

1844 Kalamazoo Plat Map
Miscellaneous Street Milestones

1881: First sanitary sewer laid

1884: Streets were paved with wood blocks

Paving North Edwards Street, 1884-88. KPL catalogue number P-208

1894: The introduction of brick streets

1903: The first asphalt was laid along W. South Street

1924: By this year, 52 miles of streets had been paved

1925: The effort to renumber homes and buildings completed

1949: The city’s parking meter ordinance went into effect. 531 meters were placed throughout the central business district.

1954-55: Kalamazoo’s street plan includes the increasing of one-way streets, including Westnedge, Park, South, and Lovell.

1965: On October 11th, Kalamazoo Avenue and Michigan Avenue become one-way streets.

1967: The Park Street extension project is completed. Park Street at Crosstown Parkway becomes connected southward to Westnedge Avenue near the top of Crane Park.


Academy Street

Once known as “Cow Alley”, Academy Street has long been associated with educational institutions. First, there was the University Michigan branch which was located along the eastern portion of Bronson Park, where Academy and Rose Street join. This area was later renamed Courthouse Square. But, as noted by the Kalamazoo Gazette in “In the early days the lots in Main Street and in South Street extended entirely through to Academy Street, and backed up on either side of the alley were barns, swine pens and shed of all descriptions. Everybody in those days owned a cow and in the early morning Academy Street resembled very much a dairy farm in full operation. It was, in fact, the dairy center of the village.” (KG, 2-8-1917)

F. S. Nichols’ milk wagon on Academy Street side of Bronson Park, 1890-93. KPL catalogue number P-215

Adelaide Street

More than likely, named for the wife of Patrick H. Burke, an Irish developer and businessman behind Burke’s Addition, which includes the land that the Edison Neighborhood street is on.


Burdick Street

Named for General Justus Burdick, early settler, leader and owner of the Kalamazoo House, one of the village’s first downtown hotels.

Facing south on Burdick Street, at the corner of South Street. Post Office is at right. Catalogue Number P-1513

Burr Oak Street

“Burr Oak Street was given a name after the nick name given the village of Bronson. Owing to the fact that this city was located in burr oak woods the village was for many years called Burr Oak.” (KG 12-7-1902)


Bush Street

“The most prominent building contractors of the 19th century were Frederick Bush and Thomas Paterson. Their firm built many of downtown Kalamazoo’s most prominent public buildings, some of which, like the Ladies Library Association and the Intermodal Transportation Center (formerly the Michigan Central Railroad Depot) still stand.” (Museography, Winter 2011, p.17)


Bryant Street

Named for industrialist Noah Bryant, who was the President of the Bryant Paper Company.


Cameron Street

Named for Emma Cameron, daughter of politician and farmer Alexander Cameron.


Cedar Street

“One of the prettiest drive ways in the state was the one leading to the doorway of Governor Ransom’s home. On both sides of the driveway was located lines of cedar trees. For a time it was called the Cedar driveway, but later the name was changed from Cedar driveway to Cedar street and it has remained such ever since.” (KG 12-7-1902)


Clinton Street

Named after a 19th century citizen DeWitt Clinton Reed. Both Clinton and Reed Streets derive from the Edison Neighborhood landowner. Egleston Avenue was originally named DeWitt. “Reed’s son, Heber, married Emma Cameron, daughter of politician and farmer Alexander Cameron (Cameron Street).” (Museography, Winter 2010, p.18)


Cobb Street

Possibly named for Charles L. Cobb, a northside developer who platted between North, Burdick, Paterson, and Westnedge Avenue.


Cooley Street

Named for Anthony Cooley, an early settler and artist who captured the first images of village life by painting a scene from the first court case in the county, as well as a rendering of Titus Bronson’s log cabin.


Cork Street

Pioneer Cornelius Lacey provided this east/west road with its name. (KG, 1-3-43)


Douglas Avenue

Named by former U.S. Senator Charles E. Stuart for his friend and 1860 presidential nominee Stephen A. Douglas, for whom Stuart invited to speak in Kalamazoo prior to his losing to the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln.


Drake Road

“Drake Road, the border of Kalamazoo and Oshtemo townships, is a reminder that Benjamin F. Drake’s 1830 homestead, located north of West Main Street, straddled that boundary.” (Museography, Fall 2009, p.18)


Dunkley Street

“Samuel J. Dunkley, who also owned a nursery at Pearl and Dutton streets, was also a major celery grower. His celery fields were located near the street that bears his name.” (Museography, Winter 2011, p.17)


Dutton Street

Named in honor of a popular Professor William Dutton, who taught at the local branch of the University of Michigan.


Edwards Street

Named in honor of Major Abraham Edwards (only an honorary title), one of the early settlers of the city, and who headed up the the local land office where land holders could register their claims in 1834.


Eleanor Street

“Eleanor Street is another of the early streets of Kalamazoo for which there is no authentic record as to the origin of its name. It was, however, one of the first streets mapped out in an addition opened by Anthony Cooley, for whom Cooley Street was named, and is believed to have been named in honor of some woman relative of Mr. Cooley.” (KG, 2-2-1917)

Wyllys C. Ransom, a pioneer from the city, told the Kalamazoo Gazette in 1902 that Eleanor Street was named for the wife of General Burdick. (KG, 12-21-1902)


Eldred Street

“Caleb Eldred was on e of the two co-founders of the Michigan and Huron Institute, as Kalamazoo College was originally known. He chaired the school’s board of trustees for 25 years.” (Museography, Vol. 10, p.19)


Farmers Alley

Originally named Farmers Avenue, this little street that runs north and south between Michigan Avenue and South Street, just east of the Kalamazoo Mall, took its name from the nearby site of an outdoor farmers market situated behind Gilmore’s Department Store. Today, this site is occupied by a parking ramp and retail space, but in the late 19th century, one would find a gathering of individuals that looked like the following photograph, taken by Schuyler C. Baldwin in 1884.

Photograph by Schuyler C. Baldwin, 1884. KPL Photograph Number P-1443

Gilbert Avenue

Named for the founder of the Kalamazoo Gazette, Henry Gilbert.


Harrison Street

Harrison Street was named for the son of Judge Bazel Harrison, considered the first white settler in the county (1828). Nat Harrison was the proprietor of the first hotel/tavern, situated along the banks of the river. He also owned and operated the well-used rope ferry, located nearby.


Henderson Court and Drive

Named after Frank Henderson, who platted Henderson Park, built the Henderson Castle, and who operated the Henderson-Ames Company.


Kalamazoo Avenue

Named shortly after the Village of Bronson was renamed Kalamazoo in 1836. Kalamazoo Avenue at the time was the village’s longest roadway, extending from West (later Westnedge) to East Main Street, near where it coupled with Walbridge Street.


Krom Street

“Andrew Krom owned a farm near where Krom Street intersects Paterson Street. In 1871, he and Lucien Hascall laid out the small Krom and Hascall Addition.” (Museography, Winter 2011, p.17)


Lane Boulevard

Named for Moses Henry Lane, whose wife Ida was the sister of Lane’s business partner Frank B. Lay (of nearby Lay Boulevard). Lane was President of the Kalamazoo Wagon Company and the Michigan Buggy Company, the latter of which built a plant on the aptly named Factory Street. In an ironic twist, Lane died at the age of 80 from injuries sustained from an automobile accident in Los Angeles.

Lane Boulevard looking East from Portage, Kalamazoo, c.1938, photographed by Slocum Bros. KPL catalog number P-1196

Lovell Street

“After three streets had taken on a sturdy growth and were spreading out to a considerable length, other streets began to branch out and it became necessary to give them names in order to distinguish them from the other streets. Lovell Street was given a name after one of the first settlers in the city, Cyrus Lovell. He owned property on this street and as he was considered one of the leading men in the village at the time and the town officials honored him by naming one of the new streets after him.” (KG, 12-7-1902) Lovell was also the first prosecuting attorney of Kalamazoo County.


Luella Street

See: Phillips Street


Michigan Avenue

Prior to white settlers arriving, this section of Kalamazoo was an Indian trail that stretched from the mouth of the Kalamazoo River toward Lake Michigan. In July of 1929, Main Street, the old territorial road, was renamed Michigan Avenue as part of a renaming effort focused on those cities along the path of U.S. 12 highway between Detroit and Chicago. Each city’s primary, downtown artery was to be named Michigan Avenue.

“The commission authorized the change in name of U.S. 12 through Kalamazoo after several petitions favoring the renaming had been received. The commission also had received protests against the change, some of which came from old established firms whose officials did not desire to have addresses familiar to patrons in many parts of the United States, changed.” (KG 6-16-29)


Myrtle Street

See: Richardson Street


Normal Court

More than likely, this Vine Neighborhood court was named for the nearby Western State Normal School (later Western Michigan University) that stood atop Prospect Hill.


Oakland Drive

Originally established as the Genesee Prairie Road by the Township Highway Commission on February 2, 1833, the name came to be known as Asylum Avenue–named for one of the north/south thoroughfare’s most prominent institutions, the Kalamazoo State Hospital. Oakland Drive became the name on March 4th, 1912.


Park Street

“Park Street was known before 1845 as Jail Street. The old village bastile constructed of logs and poles was located on the street where the present Congregational church stands but later it was moved from this place over in the same black where the court house is now located. Shortly after the jail had been moved, Titus Bronson, for whom the village of Bronson was named, gave to the city the land where Bronson Park is located and as considerable objection was made by the people who lived on Jail Street to its name the town council changed the name to Park Street.” (KG 12-7-1902)


Parsons Street

Jonathan Parsons, a hardware merchant, owned a large lot near where the Lincoln International School now stands. He platted the area around that lot as the Parsons Addition in 1867. Guitar lovers will recognize Parsons Street as the location of the old factory that once housed the Gibson and Heritage Guitar Companies. (Museography, Winter 2011, p.17)


Paterson Street

See: Bush Street


Peeler

Named for former City Assessor George C. Winslow’s pet dog (KG, 11-23-1919)


Phelps Avenue

Located on the city’s east side, Phelps Avenue is likely connected to Horace Phelps, part owner of the Bigelow and Phelps Windmill Company. “Phelps had two sons, Edwin and Charles. Perhaps it’s not surprising that there are streets named Phelps Avenue, Horace Avenue, Edwin Avenue, and Charles Avenue in the addition.” (Museography, Summer 2010, p.18)


Phillips Street

Phillips Street runs west from Portage Street a few blocks north of Cork Street. Named for Delos Phillips, an organ manufacturer who platted a small addition in the Edison Neighborhood in 1884. Luella Street, which runs north from Phillips, is named for Phillips’ oldest daughter.  In 1889 she married Charles B. Hays, who developed much of Kalamazoo’s southeast side. (Museography, Winter 2010, p.18)


Portage Street

Established as the Kalamazoo and Three Rivers Plank Road, it was also called Gourdneck Prairie Road. When the Plank Road Company vacated the right of way on May 9th, 1833, the present street was established by the Township Highway Commission.


Porter Street

It is possible that Porter Street was named in honor of George F. Porter, one of the early settlers of the village, or a Deacon Porter, who “had a restaurant at the corner of Main and Porter streets in 1835.” (Museography, Fall 2009, p.18)


Prouty Street

“Amariah T. Prouty platted several additions, including one as early as 1847 in the Stuart Neighborhood where his house still stands on Elm Street. He also owned a farm on the norther edge of the community where Prouty Street is located.” (Museography, Winter 2011, p.17)


Race Street

Named for its close proximity to the National Driving Park, a popular 19th century horse-racing complex situated in what became the Edison Neighborhood.


Ransom Street

Named in honor of Epapharatus Ransom, the only Michigan governor to have hailed from Kalamazoo.


Richardson Street

“Thomas Richardson and Myrtle Wattles, who ran a butcher shop, platted two additions in 1868 north of North Street between Pitcher and Walbridge streets. Residents of that area today are familiar with three short streets, Richardson Street, Myrtle Street, and Wattles Place.” (Museography, Winter 2011, p.17)


Rose Street

Likely named for the daughter of city pioneer Thomas C. Sheldon. Rose was characterized as the “belle” of Kalamazoo.

South Rose Street, south from Main Street, 1885-1893. Jail visible at right center. Second county courthouse partially visible at extreme right. Street cars in center of photo. A portion of a building on the east side of Rose Street can be seen on the left. Bronson Park appears in the background on the right. KPL catalogue number P-310

Sherwood Avenue

“It’s named for Thomas R. Sherwood, a prominent attorney and an associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He owned three acres of land on the west side of East Main a bit north of Michigan Avenue in the Sherwood Addition. The East Avenue School later was located on this property.” (Museography, Summer 2010, p.18)


Stanwood Street

“Probably named for the Rev. Henry C. Stanwood who was the college’s governing board from 1857 to 1884.” (Museography, Vol. 10, p.19)


Stearns Avenue

Possibly named after former mayor Allan M. Stearns or his son Clare H. Stearns. But, more likely, is that its name derives from James Nelson Stearns, who for many years was engaged in the nursery and fruit business in Kalamazoo near the area of Spruce Drive.


Stockbridge Avenue

“Stockbridge Avenue takes its name from Francis B. Stockbridge. A lumber baron, manufacturer, and real estate investor, Stockbridge was later a U.S. senator from Michigan. Stockbridge and his business partner, Lorenzo Egleston (Egleston Avenue), bought the National Driving Park, a former race track located east of Portage between Stockbridge and Reed streets. Together with prominent real estate developer, Charles B. Hays (Hays Park Avenue), they developed the Hays Park Addition in 1900.” (Museography, Winter 2010, p.18)


Stone Street

Named in honor James A.B. Stone, the first president of Kalamazoo College, and his wife Lucinda Hinsdale Stone, a noted suffragist.


Stuart Avenue

Named for Charles E. Stuart, an attorney and later U.S. Senator who arrived in Kalamazoo in 1835.

Northwest corner of Stuart Avenue and West Main Street, Kalamazoo, c. 1894. KPL catalog number P-981 

Walbridge Street

Named for David S. Walbridge, a “grain dealer who operated a small fleet of flat boats carrying grain down the Kalamazoo River to Lake Michigan. He was also a founder of the Republican Party.” (Museography, Fall 2009, p.18)


Water Street

“How Water Street came by its name is not definitely known but the general supposition is that the race way that was built near the present line of the street suggested to the town council a name for the street. A race was built by early settlers along its course and the saw-mills and old grist mill received their power from it. The race was later filled up and the street constructed over it. It is thought that the name was given to it on this account. For three or four years after it had been filled with dirt and logs it was almost impossible to use it owing to the springs and water soaking through the soil, making it almost impassable.” (KG 12-7-1902)


Wattles Place

See: Richardson Street


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

Sources

Articles

“How They Were Named: Brief History of Some of Kalamazoo’s Streets”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 7, December 1902

“Engineering History Made in Kalamazoo”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 18, October 1925

“First Paving in Kalamazoo Laid in 1884”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 18, October 1925

“Kazoo Street Bears Name of a Doggie”

Kalamazoo Gazette, 23 November 1919

“Streets of Kalamazoo: Part 1”

Museography, Fall 2009, p.18

“The Streets of Kalamazoo: Part 3, The East Side”

Museography, Summer 2010, p.18

“Streets of Kalamazoo: The Edison Neighborhood”

Museography, Winter 2010 p.18

“Streets of Kalamazoo: The North Side”

Museography, Winter 2011 p.17

“Streets of Kalamazoo: West Main Hill and Kalamazoo College”

Museography, Vol. 10, Issue 1, p.19


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Roads – Kalamazoo

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