Kalamazoo church demolished after 140 years

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A landmark building in downtown Kalamazoo is being demolished after 140 years.

Crews began tearing down the walls of the First Reformed Church this week.

The structure, which borders Bronson Park, has been vacant for many years following the church closing in 2003.

The neighboring First Congregational Church purchased the building in 2018 and had looked for ways to keep the structure in place.

First Reformed Church in Kalamazoo is being demolished after 140 years. (Nov. 25, 2020)

According to Senior Pastor Nathan Dannison, the cost to repair the structure was considerably high and the funding was not available to do a project of that scale.

“I know that when we began, it was our hope that we could find a way to save the structure but these buildings, when they are left to sit for any length of time at all, immediately, the costs of restoration become astronomical,” Dannison said. “We were estimating three to five million just to be able to get people back into that building and that was without making any of the necessary accessibility upgrades that we would want to do.”

Crews were able to salvage the stained-glass windows and several other items last week.

First Congregational Church has been working with the Kalamazoo Nature Center to create a children’s playscape. They are seeking input on the design.

Dannison says they wanted to make sure the space would be designated for community use.

“Even though it’s sad to see it come down, something new in its place that’s for the benefit of all of the people of Kalamazoo, especially the kids,” Dannison said. “I think that’s really going to honor the spirit of church square.”

Crews are working at a slower pace with the demolition to avoid damaging other buildings like the historic Kalamazoo Baptist Church, which sits just inches away from the north wall.

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