Historic walks showcase the hidden history of Kalamazoo's neighborhoods and districts

Contact: Sara Volmering

Lynn Houghton leads a walk in the Westnedge Hill neighborhood in October 2022.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Discover hidden stories of Kalamazoo's vibrant past at one of 16 historic walks hosted by Lynn Houghton, regional history curator at Western's Zhang Legacy Collections Center, this summer. 

During the past 20 years, Houghton has led walking tours of Kalamazoo, getting people active and engaged in community history, from the architecture to street names to how the city we know came to be.

From June to October, residents and visitors are invited to immerse themselves in the rich heritage and fascinating stories that have shaped Kalamazoo into a remarkable city. Houghton will offer 16 free walks throughout Kalamazoo, including new tours focused on the Vine Historic District and Downtown Historical Markers. Each walk lasts between 60 and 90 minutes and travels approximately 1.5 miles. 

The walks with Gazelle Sports initially started to get people more active before work but quickly became an attraction for the entire community.

"I thought this would be a one-hit wonder," Houghton said. "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."

During the tours, Houghton also invites neighborhood associations and community organizations to share what's happening in their area today. Sharing current and historical information in tandem provides additional context and connects people with their community.

"I like connecting with people working in the community now and getting people involved and aware," Houghton said. "We've had representatives from Loaves and Fishes, Building Blocks, Peace House and Kalamazoo Gospel Mission share with us the work all of them do to make the community special."

Community members interested in learning more about Kalamazoo or Southwest Michigan are encouraged to schedule a research appointment or drop by the Zhang Legacy Collections Center. 

2023 Kalamazoo Historic Walks Schedule

All historic walks are free, and no advanced registration is required. Attendees should meet at the location on the designated day and time. The walks will proceed, rain or shine, unless severe weather is predicted.

Thursday tours start at 6:30 p.m.

 Friday tours start at 8 a.m.

The Kalamazoo Historic Walks are co-sponsored by Discover KalamazooGazelle Sports, and Western Michigan University Libraries' Zhang Legacy Collections Center.

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