Our History

The David Lilienfeld House became known as The Kalamazoo House in tribute to the city's first hotel

David and Amelia Lilienfeld built the lovely Victorian home, now known as The Kalamazoo House, in 1878, the namesake of the original hotel and focal point of the city’s early days. The Lilienfeld’s home was filled with warmth, love, and charity. David and Amelia’s had 2-well-behaved young children, Hattie and Edward, which added to the love of liveliness, not to mention William, David’s brother, and business partner.

William would continue to reside in the new house for its first few years until moving to expand their business in the Chicago market in 1880. David, a wealthy German immigrant, with his brother, William, owned the D. Lilienfeld & Brothers Cigar Company. Years later they added, to their successful cigar business, a wholesale liquor and imports of beers. 

House Specifics

  • Built – 1878
  • Guest Rooms – 10
  • Sq. Ft. – 8,700
  • Rooms – 29
  • Bathrooms – 13
  • Porches – 2
  • President in 1878
    Rutherford B. Hayes
  • States in the U.S.  
    38

Near the end of the nineteenth century, they operated an upscale drinking establishment at the factory level called The Brunswick. The David Lilienfeld House became known as The Kalamazoo House in tribute to the city’s first hotel. 

The Kalamazoo House is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture with Italianate and Eastlake influences. Yet, the architectural beauty is just the start of the magic and history of this nationally-registered treasure. In 1908, the Kalamazoo Gazette said of the Lilienfeld’s that they had “built the residence at 447 West South Street, and before the death of Mr. Lilienfeld, it was a social center for Kalamazoo society people.”

When the building was slated for destruction in 1985, to make room for a proposed parking facility, it was saved by prominent local restorers Lou and Annette Conti, and they turned into a luxury hotel named “The Kalamazoo House”—after the city’s impressive first hotel from a century before.

With the exception of a few years when it sat idle, the inn has welcomed travelers to Kalamazoo ever since, and any long-time Kalamazoo residents will remember dining at Lilie’s Restaurant at the Kalamazoo House at the end of the millennium.

Without question, the home holds a special place in Kalamazoo history, and we like to think it still holds a special place in the hearts of many who regularly find enjoyment, retreat, relaxation, adventure, inspiration, love, and productivity inspired within them by being here.

Kalamazoo house | our history 1

THE KALAMAZOO HOUSE (DAVID LILIENFELD HOUSE) IS PICTURED ABOVE, WITH THE CIGAR FACTORY THAT BUILT IT IN THE MIDDLE TWO PHOTOS, AND THE STORE OWNED BY DAVID’S MENTOR AND FRIEND FOR WHOM HE CLERKED BELOW. (COURTESY OF THE KALAMAZOO PUBLIC LIBRARY.)

Kalamazoo house | our history 2

Original to the home, pewter and crystal chandelier located in the parlor.

New Book about the Lilienfelds and The Kalamazoo House

For those who would like to know more about the story of David Lilienfeld: his family, the large cigar manufacturing firm he built here in Kalamazoo, their connection to the spirit and beer history of the city, and what ties to the empire remain today—we invite you to read the short book called “The History and Legacy of The David Lilienfeld House.” It was put together by Steve Gibson in 2017 to explain and preserve the details of this fascinating Kalamazoo family and story.

A PDF is FREE for you to download here

From the opening:

Although documents may say otherwise, we view our role not so much as owners of this home, but as stewards and caretakers thereof. At the same time we also attempt to curate a contemporary experience for our guests as well, one that is chocked full of comforts, is casual in style, and embraces modern innovations—in a way that the Lilienfelds would surely have pioneered if they could, and we guess would certainly have celebrated for you. 

It’s our sincere hope that you enjoy this mix of old and new as much as we do. Whether you came to The Kalamazoo House for work, a couple’s retreat, or simply to enjoy easy walking access to great breweries, art, culture, museums, or cuisine—by all means enjoy the house! Smell the proverbial roses, dance like nobody is watching, and live life. We won’t get in the way with formal tours, group events, or such barriers to your effort to make your stay exactly as you wish it to be. That said, we would wager that from time to time you will feel a twinge, or pull, from an intriguing connection to this dwelling—built by the region’s earliest purveyors and importers of great ales and spirits, owners of a patent on the modern keg tap, creators of a world-class cigar manufacturing business whose successors exist to this day, and community-minded citizens who were true pillars of the community, and integral forces behind a thriving American city.  

On the other hand, if the rich history brought you here, or pulls you in, we welcome you to join us through this document and/or your questions, in getting to know both the dwelling and the Lilienfelds a bit more intimately. 

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