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Kalamazoo is a name familiar to many Americans, immortalized by Carl Sandburg in his poem “The Sins of Kalamazoo” and popularized by the World War II–era song “I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.” Kalamazoo also has supplied the world with products as diverse as peppermint, corsets manufactured in the world's largest corset factory, reams of fine paper, “hip-zip” knickers, Shakespeare rods and reels, Checker cabs, Gibson musical instruments, Unicap vitamins from the Upjohn Company, and stoves shipped from “Kalamazoo direct to you.”

Beginning in the 1840s, Kalamazoo residents built fashionable houses and commercial buildings following contemporary architectural trends. Many of the city's early neighborhoods and a portion of its late-nineteenth-century commercial district have survived relatively intact. Building in the twentieth century continued to reflect national trends, and within the city are works by major midwestern architects. The city has an Adler and Sullivan commercial building ( KZ11) and, in its suburbs, two developments by Frank Lloyd Wright ( KZ22, KZ25). Kalamazoo's architecture is a midwestern microcosm of American architecture. Revival and contemporary, conservative and flamboyant, Kalamazoo architecture is alive and working; and much of the city's historic architecture is preserved as an integral part of the community.

Since it was announced in 2005, the Kalamazoo Promise, a pledge by anonymous donors to pay up to 100 percent tuition at a Michigan public university or community college for graduates of Kalamazoo's public high schools, has benefited the city. Today Bronson Hospital and Western Michigan University are the major employers.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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