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Bronson Park's history is nearly as old as the city. Kalamazoo's founder, Titus Bronson, donated the land to the country in 1831, making an attempt to gain the county seat. Its four blocks were originally divided into space for a jail, a church, and a courthouse. However, by 1857, all of those original intentions had moved else where, and the population of Kalamazoo had already begun to use and landscape the land as a park. Ordinance No. 172 in 1899 made Bronson Park official. Today visitors can explore the historic park and even see the historic Hopewell Indian mound at the heart of the park.

  • Sculpture in Bronson Park in 2005 (photo from Kalamazoo Public Library)
  • Historic picture of Bronson Park in 1908 (picture from Kalamazoo Public Library)
Bronson Park has resided in downtown Kalamazoo almost since its founding. The land first donated in 1831 by Titus Bronson (founder of Kalamazoo), was originally 3.6 acres of jail and university campuses. The jail was founded in 1836, but it was later demolished and replaced with the location at Courthouse Square in 1845. A branch of the University of Michigan opened classes in what is today the park in 1838. The campus later became a Baptist academy and then the first site of Kalamazoo College. However, by 1857, all these educational institutions had likewise moved away, and it was clear the beautiful piece of land was rapidly transitioning into a city park.

In the early 1850s, the town encircled the land with a fence, put gravel down on the walkways, and began planting flowers and shrubs. The city began officially leasing the property from the county in 1854 (and has ever since), with an official ordinance declaring the space Bronson Park in 1899. Many well-known names have met and spoken in the historic park--from Abraham Lincoln to John F. Kennedy.

The Indian Mound in the park is a point of particular interest. Little is known, but it is believed to originate from the Hopewell Indians, who built many other similar mounds centuries ago. The Hopewell Indians built many such mounds, possibly as raised gardening beds, but there has been some debate. Unfortunately, this prehistoric tribe did not leave any written script explaining the purposes of the mounds.