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Newest Inn offers Glimpse into Local History

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Festive West

We're happy to share this article by Gretchen Johnson, owner of WordPlay Marketing Communications.

If they could talk, the walls at 435 Stuart might say "Come experience 100 years of local history."

The historic Mission Revival mansion in Stuart Neighborhood is Kalamazoo's newest B&B. A labor of love for owners Shelly and Fred Edison - pronounced eed'ison - Festive West Bed and BreakFest is also a reflection of everything Kalamazoo represents today. The community's progressive attitudes, philanthropic culture, rich college offerings, plethora of festivals, events and activities, and caring community drew the empty nesters from their longtime home in Castle Rock, Colorado.

"We wanted to do something in the hospitality industry," Shelly explains.
"Visiting our daughter in northern Colorado, I fell in love with the positive, forward-thinking atmosphere and knew we wanted to settle in a college community."

Shelly had worked in corporate finance roles and as Chief Deputy Treasurer in Douglas County, Colorado. Fred, who was born and raised in Lakeview, Michigan, taught junior high social studies and high school history and coached football, basketball, and baseball in Castle Rock. When they discovered three nationally ranked colleges in Kalamazoo - and that 435 Stuart was within walking distance of both Kalamazoo College
and Western Michigan University - they saw it as a sign.

Neglected after a bank foreclosure, 435 Stuart was slated for demolition in 2013. Neighbors say water could be seen cascading down the front windows from burst pipes. That was before Dennis and Tammy Kohler bought it and returned it from a multi-unit rental to a single family home. Today it is expansive, open, and welcoming. The main floor features a warm and inviting living/dining room and grand stair to the second story, which holds three guest rooms. The Kohler's renovation added a dream kitchen to what once housed a living unit, and created an office from the original kitchen. They received a 2014 Award of Merit from the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission.

"We were instantly smitten," says Shelly.

Known as the Loveland-Curtenius House, it was built for paper industry titan William Loveland and his wife Adah in 1909 when Kalamazoo led the world's paper production. High society gathered there for games of Whist and Euchre.

Aimee and Alfred "Fred" Curtenius owned it during the Roaring Twenties. Fred's father was a local Mexican-American war hero, and his brother was a renowned county surveyor. Aimee is regarded as Kalamazoo's matron of music to this day.

Ray and Edith DeLong called 435 Stuart home from the 1930s to the 1960s, its longest inhabitants to date. Ray was a junior high school baseball coach recognized by the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame, an honor usually reserved for high school coaches. Fred relates to Ray's passion for shaping young athletes and is eager to learn more about him. When he's not tending to the needs of guests, Fred is often found in the history stacks of the Kalamazoo Public Library or at the Zhang Legacy Center, which houses Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections. During the 1990s, then owners Bob and Ruthanne Williams added a backyard patio and flower gardens.

Today, FestiveWest is part of an eclectic and diverse neighborhood of single-family homes and vintage rentals. Many residents have lived there for decades. The 400 block includes both empty nesters and couples with young children. It's home to the Mayor of Kalamazoo and a city commissioner. The elementary Woodward School for Technology and Research anchors the northeast corner.

FestiveWest is one of several B&B's near downtown Kalamazoo. The Stuart Avenue Inn is widely recognized for its Victorian charm. Kara's Kottages offers three close-by classic urban lodging options. Atop West Main Hill is Henderson Castle and The Kalamazoo House Bed & Breakfast is on South Street.

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