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Then & Now: The Arcadia Buildings

The Arcadia Buildings lie on the west side of Rose Street between Water Street and Eleanor, across from the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. The oldest of these buildings, at the corner of Rose and Water Street, was commissioned by William S. Lawrence and Dr. L.C. Chapin for their manufacturing company, Lawrence & Chapin Iron Works.

1915 Photo (Kalamazoo Public Library); 2016 Photo

Designed by local architect L.D. Grosvenor and built by the Bush and Patterson architectural firm between 1870 and 1872, the building was constructed in the Second Empire architectural style featuring a beautiful slate Mansard roof.

The roof design includes gable end dormers with windows and a central large dormer with architectural accents. The attic is accessible by ladder, and the highest point of the roof can be reached via an open staircase within the attic. Inside, the first floor of the building features a 15’ high restored tin ceiling and a wall of windows looking out over Rose Street to the east and a private courtyard to the north. The fluted Eastlake columns hint at a Victorian architectural influence on the designers.

A parking garage constructed in the 1970’s obscures most of the south wall, but you can see the architectural details by looking up between the buildings. A four-story addition was added to the rear of the building in 1906 using post and beam construction. Much of this structure has been exposed on the first floor, ready for refinishing for the next user of the space.

In 1928, Michigan United Railways moved their interurban station from Portage Road to Rose Street. The tracks were along the north side of the building, where the courtyard is now, and ran from there to Grand Rapids. The building continued as a train station until 1928, when both the Grand Rapids and Battle Creek Urban Railway lines were abandoned.

The building became the original home of Vermeulen’s Furniture, a Kalamazoo mainstay, where they would remain until the 1990’s. At that time, the buildings were again expanded, this time to become administrative offices for First of America Bank as part of the larger Arcadia Commons development project. This redevelopment effort saw a number of significant initiatives: the relocation and expansion of the Museum; a new downtown campus for Kalamazoo Valley Community College; the opening of Arcadia Creek to create a water feature and remove the flood plain status in the area; and the addition of a parking deck to serve the various uses.

Today, the original Lawrence-Chapin building is part of a 115,000-square foot office complex that encompasses both sides of the Arcadia Creek, spanning the entire block from Water Street to Eleanor. The most recent additions, both built in the early 1990’s, are connected via a raised, covered walkway that passes over the creek. The new buildings were carefully designed to fit in with the 100+ year-old architectural style, using brick and high ceiling heights to capture some of the grandeur that was once common, even for a lowly iron works building.