Kalamazoo, MI (KAL)
Completed in 1887, the red brick and sandstone Richardsonian Romanesque style depot serves as the focal point of the modern Kalamazoo Transportation Center.
459 North Burdick Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 110,662
- Facility Ownership: City of Kalamazoo
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Kalamazoo
- Platform Ownership: City of Kalamazoo
- Track Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The Amtrak station in Kalamazoo was designed by Cyrus Eidlitz for the Michigan Central Railroad and completed in 1887, a replacement for an 1873 structure. This red brick and sandstone station is in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, with a red-tiled hipped roof. Originally, it consisted of three separate buildings connected with a covered walkway instead of completed corridors as we see today. The main building, 73 feet by 40 feet, held separate men’s and women’s waiting rooms, a ladies’ restroom, ticket office and a conductors’ room on the second floor. A port cochere covered the street entrance. The west building contained the men’s restroom and battery storage room and the east building contained the telegraph and baggage rooms. Today, after renovation and adaptation, the depot serves as a focal piece of the Kalamazoo Transportation Center, and is Michigan’s second-busiest Amtrak station.
In the early 1970s the city of Kalamazoo bought the depot from Penn Central, and in 1975 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. For decades, the city had relied upon a separate transit center for their non-rail transportation needs. However, the congestion around the Metro Transit Hub prompted planning for a cutting-edge intermodal structure, and the city completed two studies on the issue in the 1990s. A local bank owned property adjacent to the depot and offered to sell it to the city, so that purchase and that of an adjacent parcel made possible a transit transfer center extending from the existing station onto the new land, creating a true intermodal hub. With Congressman Fred Upton’s support, Kalamazoo’s Metro Transit secured the land with a $3.8 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
The federal grant was matched by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) monies, which allowed the project to enter the design stages. In 2004, the city called upon the services of two architectural firms: Wendal Duchsuherer, a New York firm specializing in public transportation markets and Kingscott Associates, a local agency that had worked on this depot’s renovations previously. Restoring the historical elements of the building needed to parallel integrating new functions and accessibility, so the architects studied historical photographs and worked with historians and community representatives to ensure preservation of the building’s historical integrity. The product was a 1.7 acre design which carried the Richardsonian Romanesque style throughout.
The budget for the project was $13 million, financed entirely through grants from FTA and MDOT. The contractor, Miller-Davis, broke ground in May 2005, completing the center by July 2006. The final structure combines modern needs with the classic style. The refurbished depot is accessible for passengers with disabilities and includes ticketing, administration offices, storage, and passenger amenities such as restrooms and vending machines. A sundry and snack shop also occupies the western end of the building today. Twenty bus slips support both Metro Transit buses as well as 16 Indian Trails and Greyhound intercity buses.
Historical elements were maintained, such as the repair of the original terrazzo lobby floor with the addition of radiant floor heating. The depot’s four 1920s Art Deco lobby benches inspired new custom benches made to match. The depot’s original fireplaces were uncovered and refurbished, and steel girders and cathedral ceilings were designed to capture the atmosphere of an old European train station. Outside, 27,000 square feet of bus canopies were adapted to a historic design, contributing to an attractive open pedestrian plaza.
Upon completion, the building was honored with several awards. The Southwest Michigan American Institute of Architects awarded William Schomisch, Kalamazoo’s Transportation Director, with the Owner’s Award for his dedication to the importance of architecture in the community, and Kingscott received the 2007 Honor Award for the exceptional design of the Transportation Center. The project was also recognized by the Kalamazoo Preservation Commission for outstanding rehabilitation and preservation of a historical site.
The area in a bend of the Kalamazoo River, though long occupied by native peoples—the Hopewell mound builders and later the Potawatomi—was first visited by European fur traders in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. By 1827, the land had been ceded to the Americans by treaty. The first American settler to build a cabin within the present city limits was Titus Bronson, who arrived in 1830 from Tallmadge, Ohio, with his family. He and his brother-in-law entered the plat for the village of Bronson at the county register’s office on March 12, 1831. The village’s founder left in 1836 following several disagreements, and when the village was incorporated in 1838 it was as Kalamazoo. The city was incorporated in 1883.
Kalamazoo was historically known for its production of windmills, mandolins, buggies, automobiles, cigars, stoves, paper and paper products. Agriculturally it was known for celery and bedding plants. The A.M. Todd Company, one of the leading producers of peppermint oil and other flavorings, is headquartered in Kalamazoo. At one point, Todd supplied 90 percent of the world’s peppermint oil, and mint plantations were common in the county. Other flavoring and spice companies in the city are also owned by the Todd family today.
Founded in the city in 1902, the Gibson Mandolin – Guitar Company was headquartered in Kalamazoo until 1980, when it gradually moved from Kalamazoo to Nashville, leaving behind the Heritage Guitar Company. Craftsman Orville Gibson produced some of the finest mandolins ever made, and this craft extended to the making of world-famous guitars sought after by professional musicians and collectors alike.
Kalamazoo was also headquarters for the Checker Motors Company—now closed—the former manufacturer of the Checker Cab, once ubiquitous on city streets across the nation. The Upjohn Company, a major U. S. pharmaceutical company, was founded in Kalamazoo in 1886. Most of the original facilities remain, some renovated and others reconstructed. Today Upjohn is a part of the Pfizer Corporation, one of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Kalamazoo is also home to many other pharmaceutical and biological companies.
Additionally, the city is home to Western Michigan University (WMU), with four campuses in Kalamazoo. This school is on of the 50 largest universities in the nation, and one of its top 100 public universities. WMU is also home to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, held each year in May. This event brings 3,000 professors and students from around the globe to present and discuss topics related to the Middle Ages.
The Blue Water and Wolverine Service are financed primarily through funds made available by the Michigan State Department of Transportation. Amtrak provides both ticketing and help with baggage services at the Kalamazoo station, which is served by eight daily trains.
- 30 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift