Posts Tagged ‘downtown Kalamazoo’

I dug into the bottom of a file drawer and pulled out a book I forgot that I had. It was put together by the Kalamazoo Gazette and featured photographs sent in by individuals of Kalamazoo from the past up to the early 1960s.

My grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg, is listed as one of the contributors, so I went through and tried to find the photos he might have sent in.

Definitely these two photos. The little boy in the check dress and straw hat is grandpa himself. And the little girl on the hammock is his cousin Alice Leeuwenhoek.

Those are the relatives sitting on the front porch. Gosh, I own that photo! I didn’t realize that was Richard Remine (though I can see right now that it is, of course, him)–or his children Therese, Harold, and Jane either. It would fit that the two little girls are Alice (next to her grandma Alice Paak) and Therese. With Harold behind the children. But Jane doesn’t really look old enough in this photo. According to my records, Jane was 14 years older than Therese. Something is off here. That big gap in age between Jane and Therese bothers me, and it always has. And if you recall when I wrote about Frank and Jane Tazelaar, I had been confused for awhile about if there had been 4 Remine children and 2 girls of similar names.  This photo must be somewhere around 1901, based on the assumed aged of the 3 little children. Jane was born in 1881 and is not 20 here!

The known people: back row is Aunt Jen DeKorn Leeuwenhoek, Richard DeKorn, Richard Remine. Front row is Lambertus (Lou) Leeuwenhoek, Alice Paak DeKorn, and then the little girl next to Alice definitely looks like Alice Leeuwenhoek, Jen and Lou’s daughter. It would seem plausible that the three other children belong to Richard Remine, but Jane could not have been that small.

What else? Here is Harold Remine big enough to go fishing at Long Lake. The other photo is not from my family, but it does show off a great collection of hats!

This is the Ladies Library building that Richard DeKorn was the mason contractor for.

But I don’t think that is one of our family photos.

One of these photos could have been taken by Joseph DeKorn and been submitted by Grandpa. It is very similar to the ones that I own.

Take a look at the captions for the downtown views. Does it make sense? It doesn’t make sense to me for some reason.

Most importantly, Grandpa autographed this book!

Here is a bonus photo. It isn’t from my family, but isn’t it a cool reminder of the kitschy business architecture popular in those days?

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I was doing a little research for a post I want to write about my grandfather when I discovered this link to a historical photography project in Kalamazoo.

Students are taking old photos from the Kalamazoo Public Library collection and photographing the same scene from the same angle. Very interesting. It’s still a work in progress, and I can’t wait to see more.

Check it out here: KALAMAZOO THEN & NOW

Although I am so disappointed that Western Michigan University’s old campus was allowed to be destroyed for the most part, I do think Kalamazoo has a strong voice for history–in part because of the university and an active library and in part because so many people love Kalamazoo.

How about your community? How does it take care of its history?

downtown Kalamazoo, photo by Joseph DeKorn


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While I’m working on the 30/30 Poetry Project through Tupelo Press this month, I am not doing any work on the genealogy project!

But I found something yesterday that I wanted to share.

About 2 1/2 years ago, I mentioned that my father, and later my husband and I, owned Stanwoods Luggage and Leather in Kalamazoo.

These photos are from the 60s and 70s.

In that first post, I included this photo. There was a bell hanging from the front door so we could hear it open and close if we were in the back.

You see Why Shoe Works next door? Dad was the last owner of that business.

Every July the Downtown Kalamazoo Association would organize a sidewalk sale that most merchants would participate in. We always did, marking down items and putting them out in the heat for customers to pick over.

Here’s a photo of the sidewalk sale. I used to love working those for the excitement. Dad would stand out in front with a megaphone, addressing people across the wide main street. Our routine was broken, I was out of the confining store, and I could people watch as they rummaged through our merchandise.

Notice the round suitcases on the luggage display rack. Do you know what those are? Hatboxes!! We were still selling those in the 60s. Train cases, too. Those were boxlike suitcases where all your cosmetics and toiletries could stand upright. Today we use BAGGIES to carry our liquids. Yes, we’re definitely more civilized today.

Eventually we had T-shirts made with a new Stanwoods logo and wore the T-shirts on sidewalk days. That’s what I found yesterday! The last Stanwoods T-shirt.

Here’s a photo of the block of E. Michigan Avenue where Stanwoods existed.

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I like to talk about Grandpa Adrian Zuidweg’s Sunoco gas station because it seemed a little magical when I was a kid. Here is how it looked 20 years before my time–in 1939:

I don’t know who lived in the house on each side in 1939, but I did 20 years later. Maybe it was the same people. The man who lived in the house on the left of the photo (to the right of the station) was Willie Dunn. When I was newly married and he was moving, he let me have an antique oak library desk from the house. I’m looking at it right now. Simple Queen Anne legs and two drawers without pulls.

Here’s a photo I’ve posted before–the view is different, so here you can see a sampling of the houses across the street on Balch Street. Any ideas on the date of this photo? The pump looks different than the ones in the 1939 photo, and then there is the car to help. I bet Uncle Don would know!

Grandpa by the pump at his Sunoco station

Grandpa by the pump at his Sunoco station

The pumps in the first photo have globes on the top of them. Does anybody know if the globes lit up like lighted signs? I found a photo of a vintage pump that looks like that type:

There is something to be said for such a fancy model, but it was probably more expensive to build and to maintain. In case you’re wondering, yes, people collect old gas station memorabilia–anything with a brand name and a logo!

Here is what Grandpa’s gas station looks like today. Or shall I say the site of the station. You see that white house? You can see all the way to that house because Willie Dunn’s house is gone.

When you were a kid, did you enjoy visiting or playing at or working at a small business in your family?

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It’s been a month and a day since I’ve written on this blog.

One month ago today my father passed away. It seems both ages ago and as if it’s happening right now.

I am going to get back to work over here at The Family Kalamazoo, but I wanted you to know why I haven’t been writing any posts or reading your blogs.

My father has shown up several times on this blog, both as a subject and as one of my family detectives. You can imagine how much he will be missed.

He was buried at the Fort Custer National Cemetery after a ceremony with military honors. I wrote about his military experiences here:

Dad Writes about His Wartime Experiences

Korean War: Why Did It Take Dad So Long to Get to Korea?

Next Sunday will be Father’s Day here in the United States. It’s hard to believe he won’t be here for that day. I wrote blog posts for Dad for the past two Father’s Days here:

Happy Father’s Day to An American Veteran

Keeping Busy

The last post featured some of Dad’s yard art. For his funeral, we covered a large poster board with photos of some of the items he made through woodworking and metal scrap art.


Dad was always doing something, always involved, and always present in every moment.

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Richard DeKorn’s house is still standing, at the corner of Burdick and Balch Streets in Kalamazoo. Someone lives there, but the house needs some TLC, in my opinion. I wonder if the owner knows who built the house–or is interested. I love the distinctive light brick stripes on the dark brown brick. The house was most likely built in the 1880s. I would love to know the exact year.

Although the basic house hasn’t changed, the property has. In the old photographs, the house looks set back from the street. The house number is now different.

It looks like a barn to the left, doesn’t it? Notice that the above photo is the same view as the first photo. Is that a fire hydrant in the same spot? Did they have fire hydrants in those days? Or is it something else?

Here is a photo of the area where the barn was. I wonder if the garage has the same footprint as the barn. And you can see the house that is next door. How old do you think the gray house is?

In the following photograph, Richard DeKorn stands by the house he built.

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

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


Here is another angle of the house today:


In the above photo, the right side (two windows in 2nd story, 1st floor, and basement) faces Burdick Street. The left side (two windows 2nd story and three windows on the 1st floor and basement) faces Balch Street. In the old photo, where is Richard standing? Is he at the opposite corner from the Burdick-Balch corner–at the back of the house?

Here’s a view from the opposite side of Balch. I think it shows that Richard has his back to Balch Street in the old photo.

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Although I’m in such a busy period that I can’t work on genealogy, I do have my daughter’s help right now to scan some old photos, so I will post some of them while I am too busy for research.

On the back of this photo it says Frank Tazelaar (near Whistle Stop).

Frank Tazelaar near Whistle Stop Kalamazoo

Frank Tazelaar
near Whistle Stop

So I looked up Frank Tazelaar on my family tree. Sure enough, he’s on there. He was born January 17, 1876 in the Netherlands, to Pieter Tazelaar and Adriana Bek. The family immigrated to the United States when he was 12, in 1888. On July 9, 1906, he married Genevieve Remine in Chicago. Genevieve was my first cousin 3x removed. Frank died in 1950.

So what is “Whistle Stop”? It’s the train station. But when I tried to figure out if it was the same Whistle Stop where my friends and I used to go to eat and drink (and a building that my father owned) or if it was the other train depot (where we owned a concession stand with my father), I discovered that there were actually seven train stations in Kalamazoo. Here is a fascinating article that says that Kalamazoo may have had more train depots than any other city. I am going to tentatively assume that this photo was taken near what I knew as the Whistle Stop.

Here is a painting my mother-in-law did of the Whistle Stop. I apologize for the flaws in my copies on the computer for the next two photos.

The Whistle Stop  Kalamazoo

The Whistle Stop

And here is one she painted of the other train depot:

Train depot Kalamazoo

Train depot

OK, dad correct me if I made any mistakes!

What does the date on the photo of Frank Tazelaar say? Is it 1904 or 1914?

Be sure to note the type of rig he was driving, the dog, and his clothing compared with the men up on the roof. What is that pole thing coming down from up there? What do you think Gaslight means? The mark (pencil or crayon?) going through the photo wasn’t noticeable until my daughter scanned it. And thanks to Amberly at The Genealogy Girl she is scanning into .tif files.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation is begging Western Michigan University not to destroy history–its own, that of the Kalamazoo area, and that of higher education. There are four old buildings which represent the origins of the university which those who head up the school want to demolish.  Here‘s an article that Mom clipped and mailed me. It was printed in the Kalamazoo Gazette on June 27, 2013.

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

I keep asking myself  the question, “What kind of people want to destroy history?”

My family has graduated from Western Michigan University for four generations. As I explained in a previous post “Western State Normal School, Kalamazoo, Michigan: A Personal View,” my grandmother, L. Edna Mulder Zuidweg, graduated from the school when it was Western State Normal School, a teacher training school. Both my parents, my aunt, my brother, and yours truly also graduated from WMU.  In addition, my husband graduated with a BBA degree, as well.  And at least one member of the most recent generation–my cousin’s daughter– has graduated from Western.

Because my husband and I both got business degrees (I also majored in history and he did so in political science) in the late 70s, we spent a lot of time on the oldest section of the university–East Campus, which housed the business school.

If you follow this link you will read a good history of the old campus.  They have some beautiful photos posted, too.

State Normal Kalamazoo front


1.  Be an advocate for smart adaptive re-use!  Tweet, display yard signs, display bumper stickers,write letters, TELL YOUR FRIENDS and ASK THEM TO HELP!  ACT NOW.  Click here for  Action Plan

2.  Join our “cast of thousands!” 
     Click here for details of our quest to post pix of you holding the Save East Campus sign for Youtube

3.  Click here to get your printable pix-poster for Youtube video

4.   Express your concerns to WMU’s Board of Trustees [go HERE to email the Board]

5. Express your concerns to elected officials:
Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker

State Representative Margaret O’Brien

State Representative Sean McCann

Mayor Bobby Hopewell

6.  Express your concerns to WMU’s Board of Trustees [go
 HERE to email the Board]

7. Sign a petition here 

8. Write to news media in support of the FOHEC request for a moratorium and community input.

9. ASK:  How much will taxpayers/students have to pay to demolish the buildings?  How much will taxpayers/students have to pay to transport resulting debris to landfills?  How much will taxpayers/students have to pay to pave over historic East Campus to create the proposed parking lot?  How much does it all add up to?  

10. ASK:  How much will it cost to save the buildings and make a serious survey of ways they could be used to serve and educate students?

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After my great-great grandmother Alice Paak DeKorn passed away, Richard DeKorn remarried a woman named Jantje, called Jennie.  Her story begins this way . . .jenny j from ann marie

Once upon a time –well, in the 19th century–in the province of Groningen, the Netherlands, Martje Derks Wiltje married Harm Jansen.  They had two daughters, Kate and Jantje, who were both born in a town called Uithuizen. After Martje passed away, Harm and his daughters immigrated to the United States, where the family adopted the surname Johnson.

Harm Johnson

Harm Johnson
Probably a copy of his wedding photo from 1858 (copied 1891)

Jennie Johnson (eventually Sootsman and then DeKorn) and her family traveled to the United States on the SS Castor, arriving in New York on May 4, 1881. Below is a copy of the manifest and a photo of the Castor.SS Caster Page 1 Janssen immigrationSS Caster Page 5 Janssen Immigration name listMedia0050

Kate married Hemmens Edward Siertsema.  Kate and Hemmens had several children, including Annetta Lucile (Harmens) who was born in 1884 and died on 16 Dec 1974 in Kalamazoo.  Eventually Annetta had her own daughter named Annetta (born 1910), as well as a son, Lowell (born 1913).

Jantje (Jennie) married Oscar Sootsman.  They had two daughters:

1. MARION SOOTSMAN was born on 30 May 1892 in Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County,

Michigan, USA. She died on 21 Apr 1948 in Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County,

Michigan, USA. She married John Ewart McQuigg, son of Moore McQuigg and

Lizzie on 11 Aug 1928 in St Joseph Co. IN. He was born in 1894.

2. MAJORIE (MARGE) SOOTSMAN was born in Apr 1896. She married GEORGE OWENS.

3. There might have been a son, but if so, I haven’t been able to locate him yet.

Oscar Sootsman passed away in Kalamazoo in 1907. Three years later, Jantje married widower Richard DeKorn (you were waiting for the DeKorn connection, right?).  Richard died in 1930, eighteen years before Jantje, who passed on in 1948.

So these girls, Marion and Marge, were Richard DeKorn’s stepdaughters.  When Richard and Jennie married, the girls were 18 and 14. In the family photographs I have the girls are sometimes in family group shots.  Here is a photo of Alice Leeuwenhoek (Uncle Lou and Aunt Jen’s daughter) with Marge Sootsman.  To clarify, Alice’s grandfather was married to Marge’s mother.

On the following page, first photograph, you can see Jantje (Jennie) with her daughter Marion.  In between them is Jennie’s sister Kate’s granddaughter Annetta (1910 – 2005).  The top middle photo is Marge (Marjorie) and Marion Sootsman.  Below that is a photo of Marge by herself.  The next, or fourth, photo is Richard and Jennie DeKorn.  The man at the right is George Owen, who married Marge Sootsman.

In this next set of photos, we have the granddaughter of Kate, Annetta in two photos by herself and one perhaps with her brother Lowell (1913 – 2004).  There are three photos of Marion Sootsman.

The final set of photos shows Annetta at the piano and Lowell playing, Comstock, Michigan.  Then Richard (“Uncle Dick”) and Jennie DeKorn are pictured with Annetta, Lowell, and their parents, Everett William  and Annetta Harmens VanHoeve.   The center photo is Annetta at Comstock School.  The top right photo is in front of the Bath House at Ramona Park at Long Lake, which was owned by Richard DeKorn’s sister-in-law from his first marriage and her husband.  Annetta is seen here with her cousin Herman Harmens.  The bottom right photo seems to be Annetta with Lowell’s bicycle.

The following obituary belongs to Jantje/Jennie Johnson Sootsman DeKorn:

Blog reader Grady Ellis sent me these copies of scrapbook pages, as well as some family history from that family group.  These photos came to Grady from Susan A. VanHoeve McEwen, who owns the originals. He says that the Harmens family owned the Shell Service Station on Portage Street, just north of the Lovers Lane intersection.  He worked there while he was going to college in the early 70s “back in the days when you really received service in a gas station . . .  long ago.”

Grady shared the contents of an obituary in the Kalamazoo Gazette on July 19, 1907 for Oscar Sootsman:

“Funeral for Oscar Sootsman.

The funeral of Oscar Sootsman who was killed by being run over by the city sprinkling wagon Wednesday night, will be held at the home, on South Burdick street at 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon.  The Rev. William Pool and the Rev. Mr. Koolker will officiate.  Interment will take place at Riverside.”

Here is another:

What a sad death.  He was run over by the truck he drove. No wonder the paper said he was a man of great courage.  Here is his death certificate:

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I wonder which Richard DeKorn building site this is.  The thin line of trees behind it is interesting because that doesn’t look like right downtown.  What do you think the buildings behind the site are?  And that long low structure?

The next photo was identified by reader David K. as “the old city hall in Grand Rapids.” http://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/habshaer/mi/mi0000/mi0015/photos/089268pv.jpg This makes sense because the photographer, Joseph DeKorn, ended up going to work for the City of Grand Rapids, eventually becoming  Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Water and Light Company. The details of the building are beautiful, as is the landscaping.

Joseph DeKorn took the following photo of Kalamazoo’s downtown. Comments by readers help to describe more about the location.

Downtown Kalamazoo

Downtown Kalamazoo

As usual, I don’t know enough about these photographs.  The first one was a photo I found with old newspaper clippings.  The other two were from glass negatives taken by Joseph DeKorn.  Any guesses on age, based on the clothing of the people?

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