Carver Center

People: Norman F. Carver, Jr.

Date: 1958

City: Kalamazoo

Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, photo by Rob Yallop.

The Carver Center is one component of a larger community performing arts facility encompassing most of an entire city block southwest of Kalamazoo's central business district.


The elegant vaulted roof of the Carver Center distinguishes it from the rest of the complex, which includes the Suzanne D. Parish Theater to the north and an annex to the west. The entrance to the Carver Center fronts South Park Street. There is a large open lawn south of the building on the West Cedar Street side of the property. A row of trees in front of the building make it difficult to view the facade. The first floor entrance is set within a glazed curtain wall recessed behind a row of raw concrete columns. The columns extend up the face of the building to support the corresponding roof vaults. The south elevation is decorated with a pattern of small horizontally oriented concrete frames that protrude slightly from the face of the masonry. These frames seem to correlate to several panels on the building facade that contain a pattern of projecting concrete rectangles. The original Carver Center is connected to the annex by a large stair hall enclosed in a transparent bronze curtain wall. The Carver Center annex employs the same design vocabulary as the original structure with exposed concrete columns and beams infilled with panels of tan colored brick.


Architect, photographer, and author Norman Carver Jr. was born in 1929 to Norman F. Carver Sr. and his wife, Louise. Described once as the "father of community theater in Michigan and the United States," Norman Sr., Louise, and the entire Carver family were active supporters of Kalamazoo community theater. Norman Carver Sr. served as business manager for the Kalamazoo Civic Players for thirty-nine years and was succeeded by his son James. Educated as an engineer, Carver Sr., also served as manager of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra for a time and founded and served as the first president of the National Association of Community Theaters. It was for his dedication and commitment to local theater that the Carver CenterÑa symphony hall and theaterÑbears his name.


The Carver Center was designed as an annex to the Civic Auditorium to provide needed shop and storage space as well as a performance space that could be used for experimental productions and as rehearsal space for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. In 1995 a capital campaign was initiated to renovate the Civic Auditorium and construct a new theater facility. The following year ground was broken on the new Suzanne D. Parish Theater built to the north of the Carver Center. In 2005, the Carver Center was expanded to include a new costume shop, rehearsal space and classrooms.