Historic walking tours show a new side to Kalamazoo neighborhoods

Contact: Sara Volmering


Lynn Houghton leads a historic walking tour in the Oakwood neighborhood in Kalamazoo in June 2022. Photo courtesy of Keith Howard

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Get outdoors this summer and learn about the Kalamazoo community by attending a historic walking tour hosted by Lynn Houghton, regional history curator for Western Michigan University Libraries.

For the past 20 years, Houghton has led walking tours and shared the history of our community—from the architecture to street names to how the iconic sites around the city came to be. After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, Houghton is back with ten tours, including two new stops. Each tour lasts between 60 and 90 minutes and travels approximately 1.5 miles.

The tours originally started as a pilot with Gazelle Sports to get people more active during their lunch breaks but quickly became an attraction for the entire community.

"I thought this would be a one-hit wonder," Houghton says. "If I sit back and look at the entirety, I think, where's the time gone. It's been a lot of fun. It's fun to have the flexibility to enhance and expand it."

And there's no shortage of intriguing facts about Kalamazoo's neighborhoods. For example, in the Milwood Neighborhood, Houghton will often point out examples of Lustron houses, which were prefabricated, all-metal houses.

"These houses were quick and inexpensive to build after World War II when there was a great housing need," Houghton says, adding a tour of  the Milwood Neighborhood tour is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 5.

Houghton also invites neighborhood organizations to share what's currently happening in their community. Sharing current and historical information in tandem provides additional context and connects people with their community, she says.

"I like connecting with people working in the community now and getting people involved and aware," Houghton says.

These tours align perfectly with Houghton's expertise as the regional history curator at the Zhang Legacy Collections Center on Oakland Drive. Community members interested in learning more about Kalamazoo or southwest Michigan are encouraged to set up a research appointment or drop by the Zhang. 

"I am very fortunate to work at the Zhang, where I get to meet with so many individuals, whether they be students, researchers, genealogists or those just trying to answer random questions, and link them to the resources we have here or giving them direction on where they can go," Houghton says.

All tours are free, and no advanced registration is required. Attendees should meet at the location on the designated day and time.

Summer 2022 Tour Schedule

Thursday tours start at 6:30 p.m.

 Friday tours start at 8 a.m.

These historic walking tours are supported by Discover Kalamazoo, Gazelle Sports, Western Michigan University Libraries.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.