Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Paper Mill #1

Also known as: Crown Vantage Paper Mill #1
South of Hercules Avenue

Large paper mill complex composed of white brick buildings.



Photo taken by Nathan Holth in March 2009



Street View 


The City of Parchment owes its name and indeed its very existence to the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company which built the buildings in the Mill 1 complex and soon after the larger Mill 2 complex. The buildings have been altered over their history by the addition of modern windows in sections, bricking up of windows in other places, and some modern sections added on, as well as the modernization of some areas. The greatest damage was done in the early 2000s when the current owner of the mills, Crown Vantage, went out of business, the buildings were abandoned, and the machinery was auctioned off and removed from the buildings by breaking out portions of the walls in some buildings.

Despite these alterations and damages, the vast majority of the core structures of both Mill 1 and Mill 2 remain intact, and many of the buildings retain great adaptive reuse potential. The vast interiors include attractive arched windows and complex riveted roof trusses. The buildings also contain massive concrete support columns that are both functional and attractive. Many of the buildings could be salvaged and restored and would be great for a number of possible reuses.

The buildings have an extremely high level of local historic significance. They are among the oldest structures in Parchment, and they housed the company that created the city, and gave the city its name. The City of Parchment and the associated paper mill buildings together form a uniquely intact image of a true company town (similar to Gary, Indiana) and few towns today retain this clear demonstration of a company town. This is evident in the nearby proximity of Parchment municipal buildings in relation to where the mills are located. The large park across the street from Mill 1 is named Kindleberger Park, since the founder of the company, Jacob Kindleberger, donated the land for Parchment to use.

Despite the potential reuses for the buildings as well as the local importance of the buildings, the entire Mill 1 and Mill 2 complexes are slated for demolition. Plans are to rebuild the area with a combination of residential and commercial buildings. These new buildings, which will not really be distinctive or unique in any way, will serve businesses and residents that might have been able to occupy restored paper mill buildings. Without the unique attraction that a restored and adaptively reused paper mill complex might have offered, it is unclear how successful this planned redevelopment will be, particularly considering that Parchment is located in a region of the Kalamazoo Area that has not seen much in the way of growth of any kind.

Mill 1 was built less than 10 years before Mill 2 was built, however the architectural styles of the two are quite different. Mill 1 is located a short distance south of Mill 2 and is much smaller in size, yet still is a fairly large complex. In the 2000s, after the mill was abandoned, a very small portion of the southern end of the mill was demolished to make way for the expansion of the First Community Federal Credit Union. This is ironic because the First Community Federal Credit Union was founded in 1938 for the benefit of paper mill workers, and was historically located within the paper mill itself. The website for the credit union even goes as far as to say the credit union would not have survived without the help and support of the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company's management. Sadly, despite the success of the credit union today, they have no interest in returning the favor and helping to save the paper mill buildings.

Update Log 

  • July 2, 2010: Added by Nathan Holth