Local History and Genealogy

News, comments, resources, and more.

The State Hospital Water Tower

What is more familiar and yet more mysterious to Kalamazoo residents than the medieval looking water tower on the grounds of the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital? KPL recently solved the mystery of the Water Tower with a program in the “This Old Building” series.

Sharon Ferraro, the city’s historic preservation coordinator, was the presenter. She discussed the history of the tower, what has been happening with it recently, and its possible future. The audience was particularly thrilled with the slide show which took them on a virtual tour around, inside, and on top of the tower.


An interview with Sharon Ferraro, followed by the complete presentation.


State Hospital Water Tower
Beth T

Once Upon an Isle

Do you ever wonder what it would have been like to live on Isle Royale when the fishing industry thrived?  My new favorite local history book is Once Upon an Isle, written and illustrated by Howard Sivertson, a former resident of Isle Royale.  The book feels like a children’s picture book with its many beautiful illustrations but it contains very detailed sketches of life in a fishing village on Isle Royale.  Sivertson’s book tells of winters spent in Minnesota with his family studying his schoolwork, helping to mend fishing nets and making other preparations for the annual migration back to Isle Royale in the spring.  He also recalls laundry day, the Fourth of July celebration and other aspects of daily life spent on the island.  Can you imagine having to pack up everything you own, including all of your appliances, for the twice a year journey across the water between Minnesota and Isle Royale?  It certainly was a different way of life than the ones most of us live now.

If you enjoy reading books of this nature describing life in communities such as Beaver Island, North Manitou Island and others which are no longer in existence, come take a look at what the history room offers!


Once Upon an Isle

During Black History Month Check Out

February traditionally is Black History month and always a good opportunity to highlight some of the resources out there that provide information about local African-American history. One such source, found on the shelf in the Local History Room is titled, Negroes in Michigan History although its real title is Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress (325.26 F 85g).  

In the summer of 1915, a celebration was held in Chicago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 13th amendment which abolished slavery. The State of Michigan dedicated $5,000 for an exhibit during the festivities in Chicago which would highlight contributions African-Americans in Michigan had made in several different fields including science, art and manufacturing.

A statewide committee, composed of fifty-seven people, also put together a manual which covered the history and contributions of African-American residents in Michigan. This book, reprinted in 1968, contains a variety of information including brief biographical sketches of individuals and organizations in the state, a list of soldiers who fought in the Civil War, and even home and property owners. The book also is peppered with many black and white photographs, a name index and a list of materials that were in Michigan’s exhibit.


Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress
Lynn H

Check out the “New Kids on the Block”

No we are not referring to the singing group but rather the new items that have been added to the Local History Collection. As you enter the room, walk past the desk, staffed by one of our helpful staff members, the four computers and then stop at the shelves, turning to your left. There you will find several shelves of bright new books and even media, like DVDs. There are some really exciting titles out there so enjoy!


The Official Guide to Ancestry.com

Lynn H