I wrote to a friend in Kalamazoo, Michigan, asking for bed-and-breakfast recommendations when we recently decided to drive across the state for a spur-of-the-moment visit.
We booked a couple of nights at The Kalamazoo House based on her advice and had a wonderful stay at this urban oasis within easy walking distance of a downtown pedestrian mall, dozens of restaurants and stores, art galleries, historic sites, and Bronson Park. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is literally steps away from the inn, and guests staying in a couple of the inn's rooms have a spectacular nighttime view of the lighted piece by renown glass artist Dale Chihuly suspended in the museum's lobby.
You should instantly feel at home when you walk into a great B&B, and we instantly felt like cherished friends as innkeeper Laurel Parrott greeted us, showed us to our room, and invited us down to the front porch for the inn's daily social hour.
Elegant antique furnishings and a jewel-tone color palette give the rooms a dignified look without the excessive ruffles and cluttered feeling of some Victorian-era B&Bs. Fully modern features like individual air-conditioning and heating controls in each room and wireless access throughout the house give guests the best of both worlds-vintage and modern.
Plus, starting each day off with a full, cooked-to-order breakfast and ending each evening with a fresh-baked chocolate cookie for a bedtime snack made our stay feel especially homey.
We wandered downstairs after settling into our room to check out the inn's collection of local menus and join Laurel and her husband Terry, along with other inn guests, on the front porch for drinks, snacks, and conversation.
Laurel and Terry asked about our preferences, making dinner suggestions, telling us about the house, the town, and things to do in town. We spent a pleasant hour with everyone before setting out on our own to eat dinner, take some photos, and do a little window shopping downtown.
Both of us are history buffs, so we found the history of the house fascinating. Businessman and cigar maker David Lilienfeld built the Queen Anne/Eastlake-style house 1878. The building, like several others in this historic section of the city, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Israel settled in Kalamazoo in 1843 after falling ill there while working as a traveling salesman. Israel was so impressed with Kalamazoo and opportunities he saw there, that when he returned to Germany to marry, he brought his bride Tilly back to Kalamazoo and persuaded many other young Germans to follow him to southwestern Michigan to seek their own fortunes.
David Lilienfeld and his brother, William, started a cigar store a few years after arriving in America. William moved to Chicago, but David stayed on in Kalamazoo, expanding his shop and becoming a cigar manufacturer.
By the late 1880s, Kalamazoo was one of the country's leading producers of cigars, with nearly 40 firms producing about 150,000 cigars per day. The Lilienfeld Company produced about 2,000,000 cigars per year at this time with 25 employees.
Cigar making in Kalamazoo largely came to an end in 1908 in the wake of worker strikes, and Lilienfeld moved his company to Detroit.
It's easy to imagine the Lilienfelds and their business associates meeting in David's large parlor with its wooden bar and high ceilings. Today the cigar smokers are long gone, but the parlor retains its original opulence.
The parlor is one of the spacious common rooms on The Kalamazoo House's main floor. We found it a nice place to relax and read or watch a bit of television at the end of the day, but the main floor common area is also large enough to book for parties, business meetings or small weddings.
For us, The Kalamazoo House is the perfect place for a relaxing and romantic getaway. We're hoping to return very soon!
I also reviewed this property on Yelp.
Want to learn a bit more about Kalamazoo and its history? Check out Kalamazoo Michigan by David Kohrman, an Arcadia Press book with lots of vintage photos of the city, or Kalamazoo: The Place Behind the Products, an Illustrated History by Peter J. Schmitt, which covers the many of the businesses and people important to Kalamazoo's development (including the Lilienfeld family and Kalamazoo cigar makers).
© Dominique King 2010 All rights reserved