UP FRONT ENCORE
Holding on to History
Park Club initiates campaign to renovate its iconic building
The Lawrence Mansion, which houses the Park Club in downtown
Kalamazoo, stands as a testament to the city’s iconic turn-ofthe-20th-century architecture, and club members are hoping the community appreciates this historic building. The Park Club Historic Foundation, a nonprofit associated with the club, is spearheading a campaign to raise the funds necessary to “maintain the building as a landmark and bring the building into the 21st century,” says Michael Schlack, the foundation’s president. The mansion’s Queen Anne architectural style has become a landmark of downtown Kalamazoo, he says. The building, located at 219 W. South St., began its life in 1889 as the private residence of William S. Lawrence, owner of the Lawrence and Chapin Foundry. In 1911 it became a private men’s club, and in 1926 the Park Club, a private dining and social club established in 1904, moved in. The city block on which the Park Club sits used to be the site of many mansions overlooking Bronson Park. The Park Club building is
10 | ENCORE APRIL 2015
Many of the rooms inside the Park Club, like the side porch above, haven’t been renovated in 30 years. The inset shows the mansion housing the Park Club as it was in the early 1900s.
now the only structure that remains of those original homes, according to the foundation. The Park Club features several large dining rooms, from casual to formal, a reading room, a ballroom and a dining porch. The mansion is beautiful, Schlack says, but members are noticing the sagging turret roofs and front steps, an outdated, facade-obscuring fire escape and cracks in the plastered ceilings. Many of the interior rooms haven’t been updated since the building’s centennial celebration in the late 1980s. Aside from the cosmetic and structural issues, there’s something else the building needs. “We need to reconfigure the use of the spaces within the building to match the new, growing membership,” Schlack says. “Clubs live and die with their membership — ours is aging. We need more casual-use spaces, Wi-Fi compatibility and something to offer new members too.”
Southwest Michigan's Magazine is ready to roll with the best of local biking and stories highlighting the areas's lifestyle, arts and more!