Kalamazoo is a city in the southwest region of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is the county seat of Kalamazoo County. Kalamazoo is located geographically in Western and Southern Michigan. As of the 2010 census, Kalamazoo had a total population of 74,262. Kalamazoo is the major city of the Kalamazoo-Portage Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 326,589 as of 2010.
Kalamazoo is home to Western Michigan University, a large public university, and Kalamazoo College, a liberal arts school. Kalamazoo is home to major players in the pharmaceutical and medical science industries. Kalamazoo is also known for its importance in the world of music as it was the original home to Gibson guitars. Kalamazoo has also built a reputation as a major player in the American craft beer movement.
Kalamazoo finds itself located equidistant from major American cities Chicago and Detroit, both less than 150 miles from Kalamazoo.
The area on which the modern city of Kalamazoo stands was once home to Native Americans of the Hopewell culture, who migrated into the area sometime before the first millennium. Evidence of their early residency remains in the form of a small mound in downtown's Bronson Park. The Hopewell civilization began to decline after the 8th century and was replaced by other groups. The Potawatomi culture lived in the area when the first European explorers arrived.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, passed just southeast of the present city of Kalamazoo in late March 1680. The first Europeans to reside in the area were itinerant fur traders in the late 18th and early 19th century. There are records of several traders wintering in the area, and by the 1820s at least one trading post had been established.
During the War of 1812, the British established a smithy and a prison camp in the area.
The 1821 Treaty of Chicago ceded the territory south of the Grand River to the United States federal government. However, the area around present-day Kalamazoo was reserved as the village of Potawatomi Chief Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish. Six years later, as a result of the 1827 Treaty of St. Joseph, the tract that became the city of Kalamazoo was also ceded.
In 1829, Titus Bronson, originally from Connecticut, became the first white settler to build a cabin within the present city limits of Kalamazoo. He platted the town in 1831 and named it the village of Bronson—not to be confused with the much smaller Bronson, Michigan, about fifty miles (80 km) to the south-southeast of Kalamazoo.
Bronson, frequently described as "eccentric" and argumentative, was later run out of town. The village was renamed Kalamazoo in 1836, due in part to Bronson's being fined for stealing a cherry tree. Today, a hospital and a downtown park, among other things, are named for Bronson. Kalamazoo was legally incorporated as a village in 1838 and as a city in 1883.
The fertile farmlands attracted prosperous Yankee farmers who settled the surrounding area, and sent their sons to Kalamazoo to become businessmen, professionals and entrpreneurs who started numerous factories.
On August 27, 1856, Illinois politician Abraham Lincoln spoke at a rally in Bronson Park, promoting the presidential candidacy of John C. Fremont, who was running on the ticket of the new Republican Party. It was Lincoln's only public speech during his only visit to Michigan.
In 1959, the city created the Kalamazoo Mall, the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States, by closing part of Burdick Street to auto traffic. The Mall was designed by Victor Gruen, who also designed the country's first enclosed shopping mall, which had opened three years earlier. Two of the mall's four blocks were reopened to auto traffic in 1999 after much debate.
An F3 tornado struck downtown Kalamazoo on May 13, 1980, killing five and injuring 79.