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Short Road Mansions

Three Large, Stately Homes


Short Road is just that, a diminutive stretch of pavement that runs south from Grant Street through Wheaton Avenue, between Oakland Drive and the Vine Neighborhood. The road is home to three grand and ostentatious mansions once inhabited by a former mayor (Arthur Blakeslee), WMU presidents, and a well-known family.

The Arthur L. Blakeslee House
The Arthur L. Blakeslee House, (1111)

Built in 1938 for the former President of the Kalamazoo Stove Co. and onetime Kalamazoo mayor (1937-1939), Arthur L. Blakeslee, this Georgian-style home was designed by Chicago architect Robert Work. Blakeslee was both industrialist and civic leader. His Kalamazoo Gazette obituary noted his many affiliations, including the American National Bank & Trust Company of Chicago, Kalamazoo Malleable Iron Co., Kalamazoo Community Chest, Kalamazoo County Red Cross, Kalamazoo Country Club, Park Club, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and Kalamazoo College. He died in 1961.

“Situated high above Kalamazoo on 3.5 secluded acres off Short Road, the home is pure Georgian: mid-1700’s in design. The exterior is French antiquated brick with copper roofing. Much of the home’s interior is furnished in Chippendale style, an era of craftsmanship associated with Philadelphia during the 1700’s.”

“The less formal rooms are where the family enjoys spending most of their time. Everyone’s favorite is the lanai, or summer porch. During the spring and summer it is the perfect retreat: white with black speckled Terrazzo floor, glass French doors and wall-to-wall screens…” (KG 6-11-89)

4 Light House, 1986 Homes Tour Booklet
4 Light House, (1201)

Originally built for Dr. S. Rudolph Light in 1926, most know of this English Tudor-style home by its second owners, Donald S. Gilmore and his wife Genevieve. Light had come to Kalamazoo in 1904 to work in the Kalamazoo State Hospital before being hired by the Upjohn Company in 1907. He married Dr. W. E. Upjohn’s daughter Winifred a year later. Light, mayor of Kalamazoo from 1929-1931, remained the occupant until his death in 1961. Western Michigan University presidents have called this home since 1974, when the Gilmore’s sold the property to the university. Then newly hired President John T. Bernhard and his family moved into the Howard Young-designed structure after previous university presidents had lived at a hilltop home at 315 Woodside Avenue and the campus-based, Oaklands Residence. The home is nicknamed “Orchard Hills”.

“The house features a paneled piano room finished with wooden nails. Most walls are textured plaster. Much of the artwork within the house has a local connection.” (KG, 5-12-02)

The Donald S. and Genevieve Gilmore House
The Donald S. and Genevieve Gilmore House (1219)

Gifted to WMU in March of 1991 by three of the Gilmore’s daughters after Genevieve’s death in 1990, this luxurious English Tudor sits on a secluded, five acres of land. Designed in 1924 by architect Lovell Rile of New York, the almost 8000 square foot property justifies a term like ‘country estate’. Additions were added in 1938, including a large library and upstairs bedroom. The five garages were paneled in wood and the floors were painted. Donald Gilmore, a silversmithing and woodworking enthusiast, made much of his work in the basement facilities.

 

Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, December 2022

Sources

Articles

“Arthur L. Blakeslee, 70, expires”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 November 1961

“Long on grandeur…”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 11 June 1989, page C1, column 1

“New home for new president: WM buying Short Road residence”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 22 June 1974, page A1, column 4

“Gilmore home given to WMU”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 March 1991, page D5, column 2

“Door to swing open on the Gilmores’ classic Tudor”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 1 March 1992, page D3, column 1


Local History Room Files

Subject File: Houses – Short Rd., 1111-1219

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