Founded on Excellence
If our walls could talk, this is what they’d say—the building you’re reading about, it’s founded on generations of excellence. (So by all means, we encourage you to continue, as long as you do so with pure, unadulterated excellence. No pressure.)
With roots dating back to 1872, The Foundry was once home to the Kalamazoo Foundry & Machine Company. Formed by Thomas Buckley, a blacksmith by trade, and a local machinist named Thomas Wilson, Kalamazoo Foundry & Machine Co. (KFM) was a grey-iron foundry and steel fabrication facility. Simply put, it was a place where people melted, shaped and sold metal.
While that might not sound revolutionary, foundries remain vital to industrial development and our way of life today. Foundries produce metal products for engine, railroads and pipe components, and form essential parts for the machines required to make many of the consumer goods we use and love.
Now you (sort of, hopefully) understand why foundries matter. So without further ado, here’s an overview of KFM’s history:
- 1842: Birth of Thomas Buckley, KFM founder, in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England. (Thomas’ father was also a blacksmith who made forged fittings for looms of woolen mills and the water wheels powering those mills.)
- 1872: Thomas Buckley forms loose partnership with another important Tom: Thomas Wilson, machinist. Designing a power hammer for Thomas Clarage & Company is one of their first jobs.
- 1874: Moulder Ambrose Nicholson joins partnership of Thomas Buckley & Company, and an official foundry is born. Cast-iron struts, forged rods and end fittings for wooden beams … forged rods and fittings for wooden trusses … cast-iron bases and caps for wooden columns—the fledgling foundry manufactures the stuff that ensures buildings and structures stand the test of time.
- 1888: Thomas Buckley & Company becomes Kalamazoo Foundry & Machine Compa-ny, a corporation.
- 1892: Thomas Buckley passes away, and his son Frederick takes over his interests. A graduate of Rose Polytechnic Institute in Indiana, Fred worked for Westinghouse Elec-tric Company in Pennsylvania before being called back to Kalamazoo.
- 1898: First rolled beams used. (Round cast-iron columns with machined ends, bases and caps made until the mid-1920s.)
- 1906-1907: KFM moves from its original location on south side of Eleanor Street (be-tween Rose and Church) to 600 East Michigan Avenue.
- 1922: Wide flange beams and columns introduced.
- 1926: KFM’s builds first electric welding machine.
- 1930-1933: Fred’s sons, James and Edwin, join KFM. Both are graduates of the School of Engineering at the University of Michigan.
- 1938: KFM discontinues forging. (At this time, the company had three main divisions: foundry, machine shop and steel fabricating shop.)
- 1939-1945: During World War II, KFM works closely with the Ingersoll Company de-veloping and manufacturing landing barges, and remains active in other war-related projects.
- 1950: Fred Buckley dies. KFM’s presidency assumed by eldest son, James.
- 1958-1961: James’ son-in-law, T. P. Emerson, a graduate of University of Michigan’s School of Engineering, joins KFM. James’ son, Frederick II, another U of M School of Engineering grad, also begins working at the company.
- 1960: Foundry operation discontinued, ending longstanding customer relationship with Armstrong Machine Works in Three Rivers, MI.
- 1965: Edwin leaves company. Throughout the 60s, KFM expands structural shop, and adds crane ways to more efficiently handle steel trusses and beams.
- 1972: KFM Steel Structures division forms, becoming the Armco Metal Building dealer for four-county area that includes Kalamazoo.
- 1972-1979: Company continues work in several states. Notable local/Michigan-based projects include Imperial Coating Division of Allied Paper Company, Portage Central High School Gymnasium, Chenery Auditorium, Masonic Temple, Ravine Road bridge (over U.S. 131), Albion High School Gym, and fabrication of steel frame for bridge over Rose Street connecting Kalamazoo Center with parking structure.
- 1980s-1999: KFM operates as full-line steel fabrication shop specializing in building frames and weldments at 600 East Michigan Avenue until 1999. Before closing, KFM goes on to employ five generations of the Buckley family.
Forging a Living Office Space
One part inspiration, two parts innovation, and an ample helping of collaboration—these are the building blocks supporting today’s Foundry, the vibrant living office space that once housed the Kalamazoo Foundry & Machine Company.
The $10 million project involved:
- Demolition of most of the interior of a two-level, 6,000-square-foot brick building dating back to 1907 (location of 600 Kitchen & Bar)
- Interior demolition and reinvigoration of an attached 47,000-square-foot, one-level for-mer warehouse dating back to the 1950s
- Bulldozing 30,000 square feet at the rear of the former warehouse building
- Installation of a new traffic signal at East Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street
- Significant investment in environmental activities associated with brownfield redevel-opment
Bob Brown of Treystar, a southwest Michigan-based developer of more than 570,000 square feet of retail and office properties, spearheaded The Foundry’s rebirth and over-sees its management. CSM Group served as the general contractor and also became the building’s first tenant. Because teamwork and creativity are critical to how both companies do business, their partnership to bring The Foundry to life was a no-brainer.
The outcome is an unparalleled working environment. A nod to the site’s former purpose, the project’s name represents both its resiliency and history, as well as its capacity to be molded into a reinvigorated space with a variety of viable and exciting uses. The Foundry now features:
- New exterior façade with outdoor terrace (overseeing Portage Creek)
- Aesthetic characteristics, including clerestory windows, high ceilings, exposed girders and spiral ductwork
- Full-service restaurant at west end of building
- Artful meeting and breakout areas
- Free onsite parking
- Access to walking/jogging paths