THE HISTORY OF THE DRIVE IN MOVIE THEATRE
“WAY BACK WHEN” COLLAGE #ANA CHRISTY
Advertising Ideas – Snack Bar Rico’s Nachos (Vintage Drive-In Movie Ad) – 1970s
Drive-In Movie Ads : Drive in Intermission 1960’s
By Mary Bellis
Richard Hollingshead was a young sales manager at his dad’s Whiz Auto Products, who had a hankering to invent something that combined his two interests: cars and movies.
Richard Hollingshead’s vision was an open-air movie theater where moviegoers could watch from their own cars. He experimented in his own driveway at 212 Thomas Avenue, Camden, New Jersey. The inventor mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, projected onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard, and used a radio placed behind the screen for sound.
The inventor subjected his beta drive-in to vigorous testing: for sound quality, for different weather conditions (Richard used a lawn sprinkler to imitate rain) and for figuring out how to park the patrons’ cars. Richard tried lining up the cars in his driveway, which created a problem with line of sight if one car was directly parked behind another car. By spacing cars at various distances and placing blocks and ramps under the front wheels of cars that were further away from the screen, Richard Hollingshead created the perfect parking arrangement for the drive-in movie theater experience.
The first patent for the Drive-In Theater (United States Patent# 1,909,537) was issued on May 16, 1933. With an investment of $30,000, Richard opened the first drive-in on Tuesday June 6, 1933 at a location on Crescent Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person.
The design did not include the in-car speaker system we know today. The inventor contacted a company by the name of RCA Victor to provide the sound system, called “Directional Sound.” Three main speakers were mounted next to the screen that provided sound. The sound quality was not good for cars in the rear of the theater or for the surrounding neighbors.
The largest drive-in theater in patron capacity was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York. All-Weather had parking space for 2,500 cars, an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, kid’s playground, a full service restaurant and a shuttle train that took customers from their cars and around the 28-acre theater lot.
The two smallest drive-ins were the Harmony Drive-In of Harmony Pennsylvania and the Highway Drive-In of Bamberg, South Carolina. Both drive-ins could hold no more than 50 cars.
An interesting innovation was the combination drive-in and fly-in theater. On June 3, 1948, Edward Brown, Junior opened the first theater for cars and small planes. Ed Brown’s Drive-In and Fly-In of Asbury Park, New Jersey had the capacity for 500 cars and 25 airplanes. An airfield was placed next to the drive-in and planes would taxi to the last row of the theater. When the movies were over, Brown provided a tow for the planes to be brought back to the airfield.
The drive-in theater movie experience cannot be beat.
all artwork Mary Bellis – (original photo source LOC)
CNN – TELEVISION-THE COMING OF AGE
THE HISTORY OF TIMES SQUARE
Humanity Not at its Best, or Worst – but
at its Most
Times Square is the intersection of spectators and performers, tourists and locals; all the diversity of the city, the country, and the world interacting. Times Square accommodates many activities both planned and spontaneous, and connects streetscapes, underground passages, and penthouses. Finally there are the layers of history that lie under the streets and behind the facades of theaters, diners and stores. The density and the congestion are part of what is authentic to a place where art, life and commerce quite literally collide.
Much of what constitutes modern American culture has been invented and reinvented, tested, and displayed in the few blocks that make up the Times Square district. This is where Americans devise new ways to entertain themselves. By 1928, some 264 shows were produced in 76 theaters in Times Square. These theaters showcased not old-world opera, but the new popular culture born of America’s immigrant stew – vaudeville and musicals, jazz and the movies. Today it remains the busiest theater district in the world, and is also home to MTV, ABC, B.B. Kings, Hard Rock Cafe, Best Buy Theater, and Madame Tussaud’s.
The most popular spectacles of Times Square have always been free – the dazzling electrical signs that gave Broadway its reputation as “The Great White Way.” Over the course of the past hundred years, Times Square has become an outdoor laboratory for new ways to communicate and advertise.
Times Square is also where American news was made. It was here that writers like Walter Winchell and Damon Runyon perfected their punchy reporting style, the gossip column, and the use of slang, that redefined what news was – how it was to be written and reported, and what counted. Now ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Reuters, Viacom, Condé Naste, and of course the New York Times are all here.
Prostitution and sex theaters defined the area for much of the post-World War II era. In a larger sense, Times Square was a place where boundaries could be pushed, and broken, and desire expressed. It is no accident that, in Times Square, women could challenge the rules of dating, and gays and lesbians could find a greater level of freedom than they found elsewhere in the city.
Times Square blossomed in the first third of the twentieth century, only to slide into notorious decay in the face of the post-1945 world of television, suburbs, and racial strife. Times Square has returned in the past two decades. The crowds that first made the place have also returned, contributing to the unique mix of creativity and commerce, energy and edge that makes Times Square both an international icon and a universe in miniature, reflecting the obsessions, desires and priorities of a changing world.
Paul McCartney Pops Up in Times Square
The star plays four songs from his ‘New’ album at unannounced New York performance
PAUL MCCARTNEY PLAYES IN TIMES SQUARE
| October 10, 2013
Just 24 hours after playing a surprise show at a Queens high school auditorium, Paul McCartney gave another impromptu performance in New York’s Times Square today, delighting tourists and Midtown workers with four songs from his upcoming album New (due out next week).
McCartney alerted his fans around noon with a tweet: “Wow! Really excited to be playing New York Times Square at 1pm this afternoon!” By 12:45, a sizeable crowd had already gathered at Broadway and West 46th Street, where a large truck was parked blocking pedestrian traffic. Many of them were there to see McCartney, but more than a few could be heard asking what, exactly, was about to happen.
A few minutes after 1:00 p.m., McCartney and his band pulled up in a caravan of yellow taxicabs. The star emerged to huge cheers and climbed up into the truck – where a curtain had by now been pulled away to reveal a bare-bones stage, set up with instruments. “OK, we’re just going to do a few songs from my new album,” McCartney said as he took a seat at his multicolored piano. “Ready?”
A sea of cameras, phones and iPads followed McCartney as he began to sing the album’s lead single, “New,” smiling bright enough to make everyone forget the gray afternoon weather. “Well, this is something, isn’t it?” he said when it was done. “Let’s stay here all day!”
McCartney switched to his Hofner bass for “Save Us,” a fast-paced number that recalled Wings at their most rocking. Album promotion is a chore for some artists, but not for McCartney, who looked like there was nowhere else he’d rather be. “I’ll be putting a little hat out here later,” he joked. “We’re basically busking.”
His wife, Nancy Shevell, could be seen off to the side of the crowd dancing to the next song, “Everybody Out There” – a jangly anthem with McCartney on acoustic guitar. “There but for the grace of God go you / and I,” he sang. “Do some good before we say goodbye . . .” By song’s end, he’d broken into his trademark Little Richard howl.
“We’ve just been told we’ve only got one more,” McCartney said. “We’ve only got 15 minutes!” The crowd booed heartily, but he was in a goodnatured mood. “Mr. Andy Warhol predicted I’d get 15 minutes of fame,” he added with a grin. “This is it.”
With that, he returned to his piano and launched into one last song from the new LP: “Queenie Eye,” a psychedelic pub singalong. The song featured a sly wink to Beatles superfans: At one point, McCartney sang, “O-U-T spells ‘out’!” – just like on “Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” a fan-club exclusive recorded by the Beatles in 1967 and first released to the wider public as the B-side to 1994’s “Free As a Bird.”
And then, alas, it was time to go. “See you next time!” McCartney said brightly as he vanished back into the Manhattan crowd.
HOW TIMES SQUARE WORKS
When we stepped out onto the roof, the wind whipped me sideways, and it took me a second to get my bearings. I was nine stories above Times Square, staring at the back of its biggest LED sign, and it was thrilling.
Of course, standing on a dirty rooftop shouting over the cacophony of Midtown Manhattan is not thrilling in and of itself. I was with an engineer from D3 LED, one of the leading digital display manufacturers in the world, who was explaining to me how the sign worked. Gizmodo’s photo savant Michael Hession was wandering around, shutter snapping, and I was staring down into the guts of the 100-foot-wide LED display. As the engineer explained how the modular LED panels could be swapped out in seconds and the entire display switched with just a few key strokes, I straightened up.
“So you’re saying it’s just one big huge computer?” I asked.
He thought for a second and then nodded, “Pretty much.”
This is the back of the largest continuous surface LED display in Times Square. The blinking green lights mean that everything is working!
New York City’s Biggest Gadget
Times Square is one big, busy machine. Powered by American ingenuity and more than a few megawatts of electricity, these six square blocks stay bright 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’ve seen Times Square in movies and on TV a million times. A lot of you have probably seen it in real life, teeming with chaos and glowing with capitalism. But how exactly does all that work? The shops and restaurants are one thing, but what exactly makes Times Square such a functional, perpetual spectacle?
That’s a complicated question. Obviously there are the workers themselves. Times Square supports some 385,000 jobs, a little over half of which are in that bright sliver of Midtown, while the other half are strewn across the country supporting Times Square operations from designing the content on the signs to keeping the power plants that power them on line. All together, they help generate about 11 percent of New York City’s economic output, or about $110 billion annually, according to the latest figures. These are the men and women who man the ticket booths, who sell the T-shirts, who clean the hotel rooms, and who keep everyone safe. And since about 350,000 pedestrians pass through Times Square on an average day—that number jumps to 460,000 on the busiest days—that’s no small task.
We actually got to climb inside the sign that sits on top of the Double Tree hotel. It was as precarious and scary as it looks.
But then there’s the technology. Times Square is home to countless billboards, many of which are now digital, that make up some of the most expensive advertising real estate in the world. These signs are so central to the area’s identity that there’s actually a zoning code that requires all buildings on that stretch of Broadway to have at least one illuminated sign of a certain size. And while the buildings themselves aren’t too different than those found throughout the rest of Manhattan, Times Square does have that big ball.
Put simply, Times Square works thanks to a productive marriage of labor and technology. And what better manifestation of these two things than those countless billboards that turn night into day in the middle of Manhattan? They bring in tourists. They drive up real estate prices. They fuel innovation in media and advertising in a manner unlike any other place on Earth. Put simply: Times Square works as long as those signs are shining.
It Wasn’t Always Like This
Times Square was still considered countryside when John Jacob Astor started buying up real estate in the first half of the 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, the area—then known as Longacre Square—had been considerably built up, having become home to The New York Times as well as a subway stop (in that order). On April 9, 1904, the paper announced the new moniker with a bold headline: “Times Square Is the Name of City’s New Centre.” Three years later, in 1907, Times owner Adoph S. Ochs lowered an illuminated ball down a pole on the roof of One Times Square in the last minute of the year, a tradition that endures today. It was, arguably, the first electrified advertisement in Times Square.
A few decades later, Times Square had become the center of New York’s sin city. The theater district that had made the area an entertainment hub was eclipsed by the seedy strips of sex shops and adult cinemas. This, along with an ever-growing crime problem, is part of why the Timescalled the area around its former home “the ‘worst’ in town” by 1960. The slide into seediness continued through the 1970s and 1980s, eventually slowing with the election of Rudy Giuliani and an aggressive push to boost security and encourage tourists. That eventually meant those porn theaters had to close.
“Seedy” is almost too gentle a word to describe Times Square in the 1980s.
Times Square was properly “Disneyfied” by the mid-1990s. While it’s widely believed that aggressive urban planning caused the rebirth of Times Square, the former head of New York’s Urban Development Corporation says that’s not quite right. “The changes in Times Square occurred despite government, not because of it,” wrote William J. Stern a few years ago. “Times Square succeeded for reasons that had little to do with our building and condemnation schemes and everything to do with government policy that allowed the market to do its work, the way development occurs every day nationwide.”
What better beacon of progress than a bunch of blinking—and eventually glowing—billboards. By the 2000s, Times Square had been transformed into a sort of shrine to capitalism, with mansion-sized signs beaming down onto pedestrian walkways that steered out-of-towners into chain stores and scared locals into staying downtown.
Times Square is safer than it’s ever been, safe enough to slurp a bowl of gumbo at Bubba Gump Shrimp well past midnight and then stroll onto brightly lit sidewalks without fear of getting mugged. Businesses are clearly thriving, and even the empty pedestrian walkways turn a tiny profit. It wasn’t just real estate developers, or extra security, or even Guy Fieri that transformed Times Square into the well oiled machine it is today. It was the millions of LEDs.
How LEDs Killed the Billboard
The thing about the signs in Times Square is that they never stay the same. Like the rest of America, the place is constantly reinventing itself through various innovations and a perpetual quest to grow bigger and become greater. So in the late 1990s, as LED technology was finally becoming affordable, Times Square became a testing ground for a revolutionary approach to display advertising.
D3 LED managing partner Meric Adriansen was one of the mad scientists in charge. Actually, he’s an engineer who was working in Disney’s fabled research arm before he got recruited to help design a new kind of sign for ABC in 1998. The network was preparing to move the fledgling Good Morning America franchise from Lincoln Center for Times Square, and it wanted a bright, splashy sign to announce the show’s presence to every passerby. The vision was to create a ribbon of sorts that wrapped around the corner of the the new Times Square Studios at the corner of West 44th Street and Broadway, where they could broadcast breaking news and the like. It was not an easy place to put an interactive display, especially with the state of technology at the time.
While the ribbon-like bands of LEDs panels looks like an obvious hardware challenge, writing the software that keeps everything in sync was the really difficult part.
Meric found a way to make it work. The challenge wasn’t so much getting the displays to curve. That was the easy part. The hard part was keeping the image on the screen in sync as it traveled across an uneven surface at various speeds.
The solution was smarter software. Using a series of morphing algorithms, Meric managed to program the display to move at varying speeds, so slightly out of sync that it looked completely in sync to the people on the sidewalk. The effect was spectacular, and Meric quickly realized that everybody in Times Square would want to one-up ABC with their own dancing LED creations. So he went into business.
Turning Times Square Into a Video Show
When you walk into Times Square today, there are no fewer than 55 giant-sized LED displays blinking and begging you to look at them. (It’s hard to keep count because new ones are going up all the time; D3 alone operates 27 of them at present.) That’s just a fraction of the 230-odd total billboards sprinkled throughout the Square.
The most prominent sign is certainly the skyscraper-high Walgreens display that D3 recently installed on both sides of One Times Square.Developers figured out that they could make more money selling advertising real estate on the outside than maintaining an office building inside, so they kicked out all the tenants and started basically minting money. That’s right. The former home of The New York Times is now just one big billboard, with companies like Toshiba, Sony, and Budweiser on display. Now the bright beacon of industry looks less like a sliver of Gilded Age grandeur, as it did when it was built in 1903, and more like the set ofBladerunner. In total, there are a staggering 17,000-square-feet of signage on the skinny old building.
On the left is the (still pretty new) One Times Square building in 1919. On the right is the (now completely empty) One Times Square building in 2012 as seen from the same vantage point.
The Walgreens sign is clearly a source of pride for D3, and it should be. It’s very impressive! When I first met Meric on an unusually cold early spring day earlier this year, he pulled out all of the plans to show me how all of the display’s 12 million LEDs were arranged so that the sign looked uniform to tourists passing by on the sidewalk, who remain the primary demographic for Times Square display advertising. He explained that the LEDs were denser on the bottom for higher resolution and spread out a bit towards the top. I still can’t see the difference.
“Content is king,” Meric kept saying. The signs, he explained, only looked as good as the images you displayed on them. And much to my surprise, they were just basic video files, run off of hard drives that were stored in any of D3’s facilities sprinkled throughout Times Square in buildings where the company either owns real estate or operates signs.
It’s hard to tell from photographs just how towering the Walgreens sign at One Times Square is, but it is. The diagonal slash is 30-stories tall, in fact.
Like Lego for Lights
At this point, you’re probably wondering exactly how these LED creations work. The answer is actually very simple. Each large LED display is actually an array of smaller LED displays that are connected to each other both physically and virtually.
The Walgreens sign is D3’s largest installation, with 29 separate displays that are lit with 16 miles of electrical cables and held together with half a million nuts and bolts. But the images themselves start out as regular old Adobe After Effects files that are then rendered into video. Clients need to supply D3 with just a single video file to get their dynamic ads in front of the 100-million-odd pedestrians who pass through the square annually. Well, that and a ton of money. An NYU study last year found that it costs a stunning $368,291,070 a year in water, electricity and green house gas emissions to run Times Square.
D3’s modular sign at the Quicksilver store in Times Square is one of the more creative uses of the LED module technology, with multiple displays forming a mosaic of moving images.
While the Walgreens sign looks impossibly vivid compared to its neighbors, it will fade over time, just like its painted and vinyl ancestors. LED technology is certainly much better than it used to be, but it’s still not invincible. An individual LED works by sending electricity through a semiconductor, or diode, but over time, heat causes the wires to degrade and the light to fade. The signs in Times Square, Meric told me—which stay on 24 hours a day, seven days a week—typically have a lifespan of about 10 years.
As the D3 technician told me, the LED displays are effectively giant computers. In fact, each of the individual modules is equipped with its own processor that coordinates with the rest of the modules to create one huge seamless image. The whole thing is internet-connected, too, so it can be controlled remotely. Meric told me that he gets push notifications on his phone if a sign has a problem, and no matter where he is in the world, he can troubleshoot on the fly.
The LED modules come in several different sizes and resolutions. The pixels on modules for outdoor signs are spaced between 10 and 24 millimeters apart, while they’re usually six millimeters apart on indoor displays.
The modules also each have their own MAC address, which makes it easy for technicians to identify exactly where the problems are. This is a big improvement over the old incandescent signs that required daily checks to see if any bulbs had burnt out. While Times Square was certainly impressive back when it was coated in incandescent light, the introduction of LED technology not only transformed the types of content that could be displayed, it made maintenance so easier which encouraged more people to build the futuristic-looking displays. Dynamic billboards used to be a thing of science fiction. Now it’s the de facto standard, thanks to LEDs.
Of course, no technology is perfect. Errors don’t happen often, but when they do, fixing them is sort of a cinch. As if they were big electronic Lego bricks, the broken modules can simply be swapped out for functional ones, and they’re good to go.
The modules (pictured from behind here) are completely, well, modular and can be swapped out in a matter of seconds.
The software that runs the whole system is also smart enough to route around problems whenever possible so that the whole sign doesn’t go down like a string of Christmas lights with a bad bulb. Meanwhile, the video files are all stored on hard drives in control rooms around Times Square, and D3 keeps backups on hand. While each sign has its own controller and control system, many of them have dedicated real estate where the hardware can live. In total, D3 operates 35 separate control rooms in Times Square.
All of the control panels and server towers are custom built for D3. On the right, above, you can see the hard drives displaying previews of the live content.
Obviously, security is an issue when you’re running several dozen giant, internet-connected displays in one of the most conspicuous places on Earth. “It’s a sobering thought that you’re always vulnerable,” Meric said. “If there’s anything that keeps me up at night, it’s the security aspect.”
As such, D3 follows very rigorous protocol to ensure that the whole system doesn’t get hacked. That includes routing signals through VPNs and running intrusion detection systems at all times. And if someone wanted to physically break into one of the control rooms, they’d have a damned hard time finding them. When I visited, we walked through the bowels of some pretty nondescript buildings, ducking under pipes and climbing over ventilation ducts to find a tiny unmarked door with a bunch of servers inside. It felt like a game of hide-and-seek.
The Spectacle of Darkness
It’s not until you gaze at the backside of the largest LED display in Times Square that you can finally get a sense of perspective. First of all, these things are huge. That particular sign spans over 100 feet and weighs a whopping 82,000 pounds. It’s filled with five million LEDs that produce a resolution thats four times denser than standard definition.
While LED signs are a relatively new addition to Times Square, they’re becoming more and more popular. They’re also getting better. While the resolution of existing signs is good, the technology is starting to get great. Some of the latest D3 creations almost look like high definition displays from afar, despite the fact that the individual pixels are spaced a few millimeters apart.
An up-close look at the modules reveals how much black space is between each pixel, but you can’t even tell when looking at the displays from the ground.
As smart companies tend to do, D3 is constantly looking ahead and trying to predict the next big innovation. Believe it or not, they think it’s 3D displays. The technology isn’t quite there to support glasses-free 3D images that passers by would enjoy, but Meric and friends built the this particular LED sign with 3D in mind, though they don’t currently display any 3D content. This basically means that they’ve built in enough resolution and back end support that 3D could be possible with the right content. It’s outfitted with 16 state-of-the-art SSD hard drives and enough processing power to handle 5 gigabytes per second of data. (3D video requires a lot of data.) The sign is also capable of playing video at 120 frames per second, so it looks smooth as can be. Oh, and it can handle live video, too.
All of this inevitably requires a lot of electricity. New York’s main utility company, ConEd, estimates that it takes at least 161 Megawatts at any given time to keep Times Square and the surrounding theater district glowing. A large chunk of that power goes to the signs themselves. That’s enough juice to light 161,000 American homes, and twice the amount of electricity required to power all of the casinos in Las Vegas.
While the Earth Hour event makes the majority of the signs in Times Square go dark, there’s always a light on somewhere in New York City.
You almost never see Times Square go dark, and when it does, it’s quite a spectacle. It’s also a great way to make a statement about our bad energy habits. Earlier this year, (most of) the square went dark from 8:30pm to 9:30pm in observance of Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness about energy use and conservation. One Times Square has participated in the protest (of sorts) for five years now, and Jamestown, the company that manages the building, has vowed to reduceits carbon footprint by 20 percent before 2020. Others have made similar efforts, and one of the signs in Times Square is even powered completely by solar panels.
The Crossroads of the World
Times Square is obviously a busy place, and again, it’s an impossibly complex piece of technology in its own right. But before bright lights and the stores and the stupid naked cowboy, it was a gathering spot, not just for Americans but for people from all over the world. That’s why people call it the Crossroads of the World.
Some call this bombastic little spot, America’s Town Square. There’s even stadium seating.
While the signs don’t tell the whole story, they exist as living proof that Times Square is evolving machine, always on and always adapting to whatever the future brings. Companies like D3 make up a multimillion dollar industry that revolves simply around these ever-changing displays, a business so curiously impactful that some tourists come to New York City just to see the signs.
Perhaps most profoundly, however, is the fact that the signs stand as tribute to the unabashed glory that is American ingenuity. A hundred years ago, Times Square was just a little piece of real estate halfway into the relative countryside that was Uptown back then. A visionary newspaper owner, careful urban planning, even more careful urban renewal efforts, millions of visitors, and of course, some pretty awesome signs have now helped Times Square become one of the most iconic places on Earth.
And if you really think about it, without all those signs, Times Square would be just another messy Manhattan intersection.
Top image by Jim Cooke, photo via stockelements / Shutterstock.com
Photos by Michael Hession / Wikipedia / AP
BEATNIK HIWAY – KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN
AND TO SET THE MOOD “I’VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO” BY GLENN MILLER
The History of Kalamazoo MI
THE NAMING OF KALAMAZOO
“Kalamazoo” was originally a Native American name although its exact origin hasn’t been pinpointed. Some say it means “the mirage of reflecting river,” while others say it means bubbling or boiling water. Intrigued by the name, many poets, authors and songwriters have penned Kalamazoo into their works, the most notable of which may be Glenn Miller’s I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo. In the early 1900s, three ships were also christened Kalamazoo. Historically, the city has been referred to by many names. It’s been called “The Paper City,” for its many paper and cardboard mills; “The Celery City,” after the crop once grown in the muck fields north, south, and east of town; and “The Mall City,” after construction of the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States in 1959. The fertile soil on which Kalamazoo is built has led the area to most recently be called the “Bedding Plant Capital of the World,” as the county is home to the largest bedding plant cooperative in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of plants, many varieties of which are displayed throughout the county’s parks and boulevards, are sold each year to home gardeners and landscapers nationwide. Kalamazoo was once the manufacturing domain for Checker cabs, Gibson guitars, Kalamazoo stoves, Shakespeare fishing rods and reels, and the Roamer automobile. Parchment paper, made from vegetable byproducts, gave the city of Parchment in Kalamazoo County its name.
The earliest residents of the area were the “Moundbuilders,” an early race of Native Americans that subsisted on farming. A number of earthen mounds attributed to these people still exist in the area; the most prominent one can be found in downtown Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park. The park’s notable features include an Indian mound on its south side; a fountain designed by Alfonso Iannelli. “The Children May Safely Play” by Kirk Newman, in the west reflecting pool. The park lost many tall, old trees when it was ravaged by a 1980 killer tornado that swept through downtown Kalamazoo.(Video)
Experts feel that other Native Americans who later traveled down from the north probably exterminated the Moundbuilders. The earliest written records tell of the Sioux frequently occupying the region followed by the Mascoutin and the Miami. But by the time the white settlers arrived in the area that was to become Kalamazoo County, the land was occupied by the Potawatomi Tribe, a branch of the greaterAlgonquin people.
In 1680, the first white men journeyed through southern Michigan passing through Prairie Ronde and Climax. Traders occasionally did business in the county more than a century later in 1795. The Treaty of 1795 opened the Northwest Territory for settlement also setting aside a large portion of what was to be Kalamazoo County for a Reservation known as “Match-e-be-nash-e-wish.” This may have been the chief gathering place of the Pottawatomi Indians. The Treaty of 1821, known as the “Chicago Treaty” opened this plot of land to white settlers and became the basis for many of the county’s land titles. In 1827 the Indian reservation was consolidated in the southern end of Kalamazoo County and the northern part of St. Joseph County. Another treaty with the Native Americans in 1833 arranged the exchange of five million acres of their land for $40,000 in trinkets and trappings. The enforcement of the treaty in 1840 required the relocation of Kalamazoo’s Native Americans across the Mississippi River.
According to Dr. Willis Dunbar’s “Kalamazoo and How it Grew”, the first white resident of the area was probably a British fur trader named Burrell who in 1795 spent the winter at his trading post near what is now Riverside Cemetery. A Frenchman named Numaiville erected the first permanent trading post in 1823. Rix Robinson took over the post and operated it until 1837. The first white settler of the county was a man named Bazel Harrison, cousin of U.S. President William Henry Harrison. Harrison traveled to Kalamazoo County in late 1828 and built his home on the shores of a small lake 3 miles northwest of what is now Schoolcraft. (Harrison is said to be the person James Fennimore Cooper had in mind when he created the character Ben Boden in his famous novel, “The Oak Opening”). Other settlers followed quickly and by 1830 over 100 families had settled in the Prairie Ronde area. Within a year, all of the county’s eight prairies had been settled.
In 1829 Titus Bronson built the first cabin within the modern city limits on Arcadia Creek, west of the present Westnedge Avenue. A year later he replaced it with a permanent cabin on the present site of Bronson Park. The county itself was organized by an act of the territorial legislature and approved by the governor on July 3, 1830. The town of Bronson was officially designated the county seat on May 1, 1831. Five years later an influential group of men in town, dismayed by the apparent eccentricities of Titus Bronson, (he was accused, tried, and convicted of stealing a cherry tree) had the name of the town changed to “Kalamazoo.”
Lucius Lyon, a land speculator, who later became one of Michigan’s first U.S. Senators at statehood, founded the village of Schoolcraft. In 1830, John Vickers built the county’s first gristmill in the Prairie Ronde area. Within the same year he sold it and built another 20 miles away. The village that grew around the newest mill came to be called Vicksburg.
In 1800 the waterways and the Indian trails were the only routes a traveler in the county could follow. Settlers constructed the first primitive roads after 1830, the main one being the Territorial Road. This ran from Detroit to St. Joseph and bisected the county. The first plank roads were built around 1845 with the most important one stretching from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids. Although these roads aided transportation, travel on them could be slow and sometimes treacherous. The railroads soon became a faster and safer means of transportation. The Michigan Central line first spanned the territory between Detroit and Kalamazoo in 1846 and its link to Chicago was completed in 1852. By 1905 at least six railroads connected Kalamazoo with the rest of the continent. By that time, however, the importance of the railways began to fade. The short-lived interurban systems were attracting short distance passengers and freight shippers.
In the first quarter of the twentieth century, the development of gasoline powered vehicles and hard-surfaced roads offered the residents of the county improved transportation possibilities. Presently two major roads in the county are Interstate 94 and U.S. 131, both of them limited access expressways. The county also has four airlines serving its needs.
Since the early days of white settlement, Kalamazoo County has always supported a strong farming economy. Industry has also been a strong force in the county’s economic development. As early as 1850 an iron furnace to smelt bog ore was founded in the county. After the Civil War, paper manufacturers began setting up shop in the Kalamazoo River Valley and in 1885, a physician from Hastings, Michigan, invented a pill making machine and developed the first readily dissolvable pill. William Erastus Upjohn moved to Kalamazoo to seek his business future and started the Upjohn Pill and Granule Company (later Pharmacia & Upjohn and now Pfizer), one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical firms, was founded. The many other new and diversified industries attracted more workers and families to Kalamazoo County.
For further information on the history of Kalamazoo County and its communities, the book “Kalamazoo and How it Grew” by Willis F. Dunbar, Western Michigan University, 1959, is very helpful.
Most of the county’s early white settlers were fur traders from England or New York. The remainder came from Pennsylvania and Maryland. After 1845 the number of foreign immigrants increased rapidly especially with the coming of the Hollanders in 1850. The growth rate of the county’s population reached its height between 1845 and 1860 when almost 8,000 newcomers settled here. That growth rate was not exceeded for 50 years when between 1904 and 1920 the population grew to 214,000, quite an increase over the 1860 figure. Increased immigration, better transportation, and the appearance of diversified industries all played a role in Kalamazoo County’s growth.
CULTURE & EDUCATION
As the size of Kalamazoo County grew, so did the variety of social and cultural activities. The Kalamazoo Gazette, the county’s earliest newspaper, is one of the state’s oldest. Many other papers were published here in the early years, including the Kalamazoo Telegraph (1844-1916).
The county’s educational facilities have always been a source of pride for residents. The first public high school was built in 1859 and in April 1833, the territorial governor signed legislation authorizing a charter for the Michigan and Huron Institute. Its first building was erected in 1836 on Cedar Street between Park and Westnedge and over the years, the Institute evolved into the well-respected Kalamazoo College. At present the county boasts four institutions of higher learning – Kalamazoo College, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Davenport University. Branches of other colleges are now also present in the Kalamazoo area.
The area’s cities, Kalamazoo and Marshall in particular have many areas designated as historic districts. Notable examples of Gothic, Italianate, Greek Revival, Sullivanesque, Queen Anne, Art Deco and other architectural styles accent their stately old avenues, providing a glimpse of restored grandeur from the previous century. Frank Lloyd Wright also found Kalamazoo quite right for his “Usonian”style of homes, built here during the late 1940s. Many of his designs are found in and around Kalamazoo.
Historic and Interesting places in or near Kalamazoo
- Kalamazoo Mall — the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States was begun with the closing of Burdick Street to auto traffic in 1959. The four block long mall, stretching from Lovell Street on the South to Eleanor Street on the north, has been restyled to match the attributes of the Arcadia Commons development, where the new Kalamazoo Public Museum anchors the north end of the mall. In 1999, however, two blocks of the mall were modified to accommodate auto traffic after a period of political debates on the issue.
- Bronson Park — Kalamazoo’s traditional downtown centerpiece is Bronson Park, named for the community’s founder, Titus Bronson. The park’s notable features include
- an Indian mound on its south side believed to be a remnant of the mound-building Hopewell Indians, who lived in this area centuries ago,
- a fountain built with WPA funds designed and supervised by Alfonso Iannelli,
- and a sculpture “The Children May Safely Play” by Kirk Newman, in the west reflecting pool.
The park lost many tall, old trees when it was ravaged by a 1980 killer tornado that swept through downtown Kalamazoo. Abraham Lincoln made his only public speech in Michigan here; a historic marker honors the event.
- Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital Water Tower — Off Oakland Drive north of Howard Street is the 175-foot tall landmark on the hilltop campus of the Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital. The water tanks in the 1895 Queen Anne style tower are no longer in use.
- Stuart Avenue, South Street and Vine Historic Districts — Stately old houses line the grand streets of these neighborhoods, giving passerby a glimpse of restored grandeur from the previous century. The South Street district is west of South Westnedge Avenue; the Stuart Avenue district is in the area of the West Kalamazoo Avenue and Stuart Avenue intersection.
- Frank Lloyd Wright homes — Parkwyn Village, at Taliesin Drive and Parkwyn drive in southwest Kalamazoo, and the 11000 block of Hawthorne south of Galesburg. Designed as a cooperative neighborhood by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1940s, Parkwyn Village contains examples of Wright;s Usonian style of home. More Wright homes are found in a rural setting south of the city of Galesburg.
- Kalamazoo City Hall — An acclaimed 1931 example of Art Deco style, City Hall at 241 W. South Street has a three story, skylit atrium. Visitors are welcome.
- Underground Railway Home — On Cass Street east of U.S. 131 in Schoolcraft. Built in 1835 by the county’s first doctor, Nathan Thomas, this house once was a link in the network of safe houses that hid former slaves. It’s open for tours by appointment only. Call the Schoolcraft Historical Society at (269) 679-4689 for more information.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know?
Kalamazoo County was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Dr. Nathan Thomas’ Underground Railroad House in Schoolcraft was in operation for twenty years. 1,000 to 1,500 escaping slaves were given food, shelter and medical aid.
10 Stereotypes About Kalamazoo That Are Completely Accurate
Seriously–it is. The day Bell’s Brewery releases Oberon is the biggest “party” day in Kalamazoo. How everyone celebrates ranges from people heading to Bell’s as soon as they open all the way to people grabbing a six pack and hanging out on their porch. To many, the annual release of Oberon means something more than just a new ale to drink–it means summer is almost here.
2. Kalamazooans Like To Get Weird
The Do-Dah Parade is an annual celebration and decades-old tradition full of wacky satire and spoofs. People here kick off summer in the best way possible–dressed in silly costumes parading through town. Have you ever gotten candy thrown at you by a zombie? I have.
Kalamazoo also likes to get eccentric once a year at Bell’s annual eccentric night, a celebration of your alter ego and an excuse to dress as ridiculously as you possibly can.
3. There Are A Bunch Of Liberal Hippy Farmers In Kalamazoo
From community gardens (they’ve got about 25) to the large focus on local, Kalamazoo is pretty liberal. The farmer’s market is the place to be on a Saturday and the food co-op was so well supported they were able to expand. While they may not be rocking tie-dye and flowers in their hair, the hippie spirit is alive and well.
4. All The Hipsters Are Members Of The Moped Army
Being a university town comes with what some may call a price–hipsters. While in Kalamazoo the hipster focus is a bit more centered on the local culture, hipster is as hipster does. And in Kalamazoo, some of those hipsters join the Moped Army. I mean, Kalamazoo is the birthplace of the Moped Army, which has grown to include branches throughout the U.S. Talk about being hip.
5. Kalamazooans Only Use Four Roads To Give Directions
Do you want directions? If you’re in Kalamazoo then you better know where Stadium Drive, Main Street, Westnedge, and Kalamazoo Avenue are. These are the four main roads that everyone and anyone there bases directions off of, that is, when they’re not using landmarks.
6. And They’re Serious About Late Night Donut Runs
To be a youth in Kalamazoo means you have participated in at least one late night donut run to Sweetwater’s Donuts on Stadium. A 24-hour donut shop, especially one as good as Sweetwater’s, is not something to take lightly. Rather, it’s something to take advantage of. One thing is for sure—a late night run is not necessary to appreciate Sweetwater’s.
7. Everyone Knows Someone In The Healthcare Industry
From Bronson to Borgess to Pfizer to contract agencies to Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, it’s harder tonot know someone in the healthcare field in Kalamazoo.
8. Running Is A Profession Here
From the Kalamazoo Area Runners to the surplus of marathons and running events, it’s safe to say that Kalamazoo is full of dedicated runners. New running events are consistently added to the already packed roster, so there’s a bit of running fun for everyone.
Seriously–with events like the Run or Dye to the Kalamazoo Mud Run to the Borgess Marathon, you don’t have to be a champion to have fun on the run.
9. Artists Are Swarming Around Kalamazoo Like It’s A Hive Made Out Of Coffee Houses
From the much attended ArtHop on the first Friday of every month to the community theaters to concerts in the parks, Kalamazoo is full of all types of artists. In fact, almost everyone dabbles in art one way or another here. They may not be walking around in paint-stained clothing fulfilling the stereotype in a stereotypical way, but they will be at art-related events supporting their fellow artists and keeping the arts community strong.
10. Beer Is King In Kalamazoo
From Bell’s Brewery to the new Arcadia Ales, Kalamazoo is full of open and soon-to-open microbreweries. If there is one thing almost everyone in Kalamazoo can agree on, it’s having a good time. What helps fuel a good time? Good beer and good food.