William S. Lawrence House
219 W. South Street
The Park Club (219 W. South St.), situated at the southwest corner of South and Rose streets moved into the handsome, Romanesque home in 1926, and continues to operate its restaurant and club activities on the premises today. The home was built for William S. Lawrence, a successful industrialist who headed up the Lawrence and Chapin Iron Works Company. Lawrence’s foundry located at 201 N. Rose Street also survives today, having once been the storefront for Vermeulen Furniture Company.
Lawrence had been living on the corner of Rose and South streets since 1870, when he decided to uproot his home in 1889, moving it to 725 Academy Street. The move cleared the lot for the building of his lavish, Queen Anne-style house. Finished in 1890 by local contractor William L. Welsh, the three-story home symbolized the largeness and excesses of the decadent Gay Nineties. The late 1800s saw a rise in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, developed by Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886). The rugged masonry hints at the Richardson influence, despite the vertical orientation of the house, a feature more commonly associated with the Queen Anne style. The green fish- scale shingles of the roof handsomely contrast with the red sandstone and brick. A turret and conical spire rise from the front of the home.
“When completed, the new home was an outstanding example of the solid enduring architecture of the day. It’s many spacious rooms, (including a ballroom and maid’s quarters on the third floor), numerous and varied chandeliers, four fireplaces, massive carved cornices and parquet flooring, give ample evidence of the desire to create a home of sumptuous comfort.”
–Kalamazoo Gazette, 20 August 1944
By 1901, banking executive Frank N. Rowley moved into the home with his nieces Evelyn and Blanche Hull. Several years later, the Odd Fellows Club used the house for its meetings and activities. It wasn’t until 1926 when the men-only private Park Club purchased the property for $50,000 and conducted a largescale repurposing project that included the installation of a Rathskeller and a new dining room. In May 1939, a powerful explosion and subsequent fire that began in the kitchen, raged throughout the southwest portion of the building, seriously injuring several employees. The lot to the east of the home, formerly occupied by the Nathanial A. Balch House, was eventually converted into a parking lot in the mid 1950s. Over the years, the club has added subtle makeovers to the exterior, and stylistic modifications to the interior to this onetime home.
Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, October 2023
Walking through time: a pictorial guide to historic Kalamazoo
H 720.9774 H498
“Force of blast blows out walls; trio in hospital”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 28 May 1939
“The W.S. Lawrence House”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 20 August 1944
“The glorious dowager: a brief history of the Park Club of Kalamazoo”
Gilbert Edwin Smith, June 1998
Copy located in History Room Subject File: Park Club
Local History Room Files
Subject File: Park Club
Subject File: Historic sites scrapbook, v.12