PHOTOS: The Flooded Streets Of Kalamazoo In 1908
I have a huge love for any serious vintage proof of what Kalamazoo was like in the early days. Recently, I came across photos of photo postcards of Kalamazoo streets flooded in 1908, which were salvaged by Keith Howard of Kalamazoo at the Kalamazoo Postcard Show & Sale last weekend. Both were mailed from Kalamazoo to Scotts, Michigan in 1908; one was postmarked April 8, the other April 10. As Keith said: "It’s especially interesting when you can take an otherwise nondescript artifact and connect a story with it."
So a quick search of the Gazette around that time revealed that heavy rains in early March flooded low-lying areas near the Kalamazoo River between Harrison and Seminary streets (Riverview Drive). The area south of the river near Grace (now Gibson) Street was especially hard hit. These two images were most likely taken somewhere around that area. The river crested at nearly 9 feet causing a dozen factories in the area to close, including paper mills, Lull Carriage, and the Kalamazoo Stove Company. There was fear that rising waters and large chunks of ice would take out the Mills Street and Gull Road bridges (which were old wooden structures at that time), but those evidently survived. Families in the area were evacuated using rowboats requisitioned from Oakwood Park, while others were compelled to move into the upper levels of their homes until the waters receded. “The man with the camera as well as women, boys and girls likewise with cameras, were on the spot at all times,” wrote the Gazette on March 11, “and the high waters were “took” from every conceivable vantage point.” Indeed, here’s proof, thanks to Walter Jung (Postcard Wally)! “So remember, every picture tells a story."