The following material is from the 1973 Initial Inventory of Historic Sites and Buildings in Kalamazoo and was made available for use here by the Historic Preservation Coordinator of the City of Kalamazoo. See Introduction to an Initial Inventory for details about how the survey was conducted.
Laurence Van deWalker came to Kalamazoo when the Land Office moved from White Pigeon in the Mid-1830's. He received the great land rush that hit the region in the following years. He also served as sheriff from 1836 to 1838, took the Census in 1840, and later involved himself in real estate development in the area south of what is now Bronson Hospital. In 1852 he married the daughter of another early settler; and, in 1860, the Census-taker found him in his fifties, a moderately successful citizen (personal worth of $5500). He died not many years later and his widow continued to live in the family home on the VandeWalker and Rice addition near Jane Street. By the 1870's, she held a secure place in the financial circles of Kalamazoo with the help of commercial property in the downtown area.
In her middle fifties, Jan VandeWalker decided to build on fashionable South Street in 1875. The Italian manner was still in vogue in the 1870's, and Mrs. VandeWalker's builders provided a pleasant example of that style in brick and stone. The arched stone lintels over the front and side windows declared the intentions of the style, as did the dignified double-doorway. Elaborate tracery at the gable end added a rather unusual touch which set the new house off from many of the more traditional Greek Revival homes nearby.
Life passed comfortably for Mrs. Van deWalker and her daughter, Mary, who continued to live at home. The Gazette did record excitement in November of 1883 when, during a rash of burglaries attributed to a traveling gang, thieves broke into the home one night, "making themselves thoroughly at home, drinking some champagne which they found, and evidently being in no hurry to leave comfortable quarters". The police reported "contents strewn all over the premises, but nothing that seemed of sufficient value in the eyes of the thieves was found to carry off". Mrs. Van deWalker passed away in 1903 at the age of eighty-one. Her daughter continued to occupy the house for some time afterward.
1873 - blank lot
1883 - Hse. shows
Kalamazoo County Tax Rolls:
||N 1/2 of lot D, sec. 16
||Mrs. Jane Van Dewalker
||NW 1/2 lot D
Kalamazoo City Directory:
1876 Mrs. Lawrence VandeWalker, 79 South, widow
1883 Jane Vande Walker, widow, 733 West South Street
U. S. Population Census Rolls:
1860 Lawrence Van Dewalker (sic), 53, $5,000 real, $500 Pers., b. NY
1870 Jane Van Dewalker, 44, keeping house; $6,000 real, $400 pers., b. VT.; Kittie, 15.
1880 Jane Vandewalker, 56, b. Vt.; Mary E., 27, daughter, at home; Charles Stevens, 13, grandson, at school; Mary Stafford, servant
History of Kalamazoo County, 1892: pp. 11, 113, 214-217
Lawrence Vande Walker came to Bronson in 1834, was a receiver of the U.S. Land Office after it removed from White Pigeon. (Kalamazoo Weekly Telegraph, May 1, 1867), served as sheriff 1836-38; census taker in 1840; owned part of Rice & Vande Walker plat in 1853 (s. of Lovell at Portage, Jasper, Jane, and Edgar Streets)
Kalamazoo Gazette: August 7, 1846; June 16, 1927
*Jane VandeWalker House - would be the correct naming protocol for this house, since Jane VandeWalker built the house after her husband had passed away. The married name title is based on the National Park Service naming protocol used in 1973 when the survey was completed.
This report was converted from a typewritten document to a digital text document in September 2004. Other than punctuation and spelling corrections, and the addition of BOLD type site address and names, no changes were made. Minor formatting changes were made for use on this website, but the text was not altered. Original survey dated 1973.