Archive for November, 2012

My great-great-grandfather, Richard DeKorn, was a brick mason who worked on many public buildings in the Kalamazoo area.  He was a brick mason on the beautiful Ladies’ Library Association in 1878-79 and lead brick mason on theKalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital Water Tower  in 1895. According to his obituary he was the contractor for the Pythian building and the Merchants Publishing Company building.

Richard was born on August 21, 1851* in Goes, Zeeland, the Netherlands to Boudewijn and Johanna (Remijinse) DeKorn.  When he was four or five years old, the family immigrated to Zeeland, Michigan.  I have not yet discovered when or why Richard moved to Kalamazoo.

Richard was sometimes called Dick or Dirk, but more importantly, his birth name was Derrick and it’s likely that Richard was actually his middle name.

On May 10, 1872, at the age of 20, Richard married Alice Paak in Kalamazoo.  They lived in Kalamazoo, in the Burdick and Balch Street area, for the rest of their lives.  For much of the time, they lived in a house which Richard built with his characteristic style:  dark brown brick with stripes of light brick or stone.

Richard and Alice had three children: Joseph, Cora, and Jennie.  After Alice’s death in 1908, he married Jennie Sootsman who had two daughters, Marian and Marge.

The family refers to him as “Richard DeKorn” with great respect for the reputation he achieved as a wonderful craftsman and contractor.  Richard did a little gardening on the property, but he really enjoyed relaxing with a pipe and spending time with his family.  His door was open to any friend or family member and he was a good stepfather to his 2nd wife’s daughters.


*On his marriage document, Richard’s birth date is given as 1852, not 1851, and it states that he was born in Kapelle, not Goes.

Richard DeKorn’s home at the corner of Burdick and Balch, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Richard surrounded by family, including son-in-law Lou Leeuwenhoek (L), daughter Jennie (to Richard’s right), wife Alice in front.

Richard picking strawberries

Richard with his beloved pipe

Richard holding unidentified baby

Richard with his granddaughter Alice Leeuwenhoek (Moerdyke)

Richard DeKorn crew at work in an area which would become The Kalamazoo Mall

Lou Leeuwenhoek and Richard DeKorn

Ladies’ Library Association, Kalamazoo, MI
Photo from LLA website

KPH Water Tower, Oakland Drive, Kalamazoo, MI

KPH Water Tower article, February 2010

Here’s a video which shows a climb up the inside of the tower!

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Printshop at Holland American newspaper, 1899 Adrian Zuidweg 3rd from left; Lou Leeuwenhoek 5th from left

Printshop at Holland American newspaper, 1899
Adrian Zuidweg 3rd from left; Lou Leeuwenhoek 5th from left

This photograph shows my great-grandfather Adrian Zuidweg (Adriaan Zuijdweg) and Aunt Jen’s husband (and Alice’s father) Lou Leeuwenhoek working in the printshop at the Holland American newspaper in 1899.

According to information provided by Larry Massie, historian and storyteller, the paper was called Hollandsche Amerikaan, founded in 1890 as a tri-weekly, 8 page newspaper.  It was published in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in Dutch.  The editor in 1899 was P.A. Dalm.  The circulation of the paper was 1,500.


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