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GRCentro

Heritage Hill Photos

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Heritage Hill is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country. It consists of about 1300 homes that represent nearly 60 architectural styles. Once home to the city's wealthy families, it began to fall into disrepair. In the 60's and 70's, the entire area was nearly razed by 'urban renewal' developers. Thanks to efforts by local activists (including former mayor John Logie), Heritage Hill was saved and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Since then, many of the homes have been beautifully restored and area property values have been steadily rising.

It seems only fitting that some attention is given to GR's historic homes. Feel free to post your photos!

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The Fuller Home was built in 1860. It was acquired by the Heritage Hill Foundation in 1977 after nearly being demolished for a parking lot.

h1.jpg

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Great thread GRCentro. This is one area that needs to be shown off. The houses in the hill are fantastic. I'll try to get some good pictures one of these days.

Joe

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I'm sure I've got some pics of the neighborhood too. It may be a couple of weeks (might need to pick them up next time I'm home) but I'll get them up here.

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My aunt rents out a HH home near College, Michigan Hill area. She was telling me that owners of these homes have a strict guidline as to what they can do to the homes. One example, choosing fixtures that belong with the era the building was built... I remember staying at her apartment on HH and the paint was still lead based and fixtures were original, crazy stuff... this was back in about 1990 or so, but inside the foyer or whatever the carpet was shag, looked like in the 70s someone didnt want to conform with tradition... :-)

"Heritage Hill is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country."

I believe its THE largest urban historic district, my mouth droped when I read that in some book at the Downtown Library....

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It indeed is, unless someone has expanded its boundaries. Plus there are four historic districts that share boundaries: Heritage Hill, Cherry Hill, Wealthy Street Theatre District and Fairmount Square. Together it is a pretty impressive concentration of historic districts.

Joe

"Heritage Hill is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country."

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I always thought that Marshall, MI had the largest historic district in the nation. Pretty much the entire city proper is historic homes.

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The Gilbert House, built in 1878 by Thomas S. Gilbert, one of the founding organizers of what became Blodgett Hospital:

P1010006.jpg

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"I always thought that Marshall, MI had the largest historic district in the nation. Pretty much the entire city proper is historic homes. "

I guess the Districts on the hill in Grand Rapids must be bihher then the city proper of Marshall...

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According to Tom Logan's book on Heritage Hill (which consistently refers to it as "ONE OF the nation's largest historic districts," never "THE nation's largest historic district"), HH covers 28 square blocks and features over 500 architecturally significant structures. So it's not the largest in the country, but it's pretty big just the same.

Heritage Hill's claim to fame nationally is really that it was the first district to use federal historic preservation laws to stop local efforts at "urban renewal." The folks who worked to protect HH also brought about the passage of the state's first historic preservation statute, which made it possible to protect Heartside, Fairmount Square and Cherry Hill, as well as districts in Marshall and throughout Michigan.

It really is a fascinating story. Imagine what HH would look like today if the same visonaries that came up with our financial and government center redesigned the neighborhood in the 1970s ... it's scary to think about what would have been lost.

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I'd much rather look at 19th centruy architecture than endless 70s boxes and other concogtions...

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I saw an example once of what would have happened had people like former mayor John Logie not stepped in. A perfect example is the WOODTV-8 building. That whole block was filled with mansions on the scale or grander than "The Castle" or Voigt House. Unfortunately they were anihilated back in the 30's and 40's (true pioneers in Urban Renewal). The site of Davenport University also had some awesome houses. They kept a few and mixed them into the campus but knocked down many...

Joe

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The plans for Heritage Hill in the early 60s consisted of...

- Major university. Essentially GVSU was slated to be based on a large portion of it. It was not GVSU, but this was proposed when the concept of making a university in GR was started.

- Something like twenty apratment buildings and mid sized towers.

- CC

- Nee Central and City High buildings

- Semi downown development

Honestly. If they hade demoed the entire area GR would be totally different. Downtown would have a large university, many more small and mid sized condo towers (probably a few large ones), etc... In other words, we would be a lot like other cities.

However...

WE WERE SMART. Heritage Hill pays dividends. Personally, I count the people that live there are residents of downtown. I lived there for years and living there was the same as living downtown. It is an amazing district, and unique. When looking back - it was one of the best moves we made in terms of urban development - even though it really has reduced the overall development of real CBD residential growht by a few dacades. the base is already there, that is why CBD residential will suceed in GR. 25,000 people already technically live downtown - or in the old city if you want to be more specific.

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The plans for Heritage Hill in the early 60s consisted of...

- Major university. Essentially GVSU was slated to be based on a large portion of it. It was not GVSU, but this was proposed when the concept of making a university in GR was started.

- Something like twenty apratment buildings and mid sized towers.

- CC

- Nee Central and City High buildings

- Semi downown development

A family friend works in historical renovation/construction. He was telling me about some small MI towns (I don't recall the names) that are still full of gorgeous historic architecture simply becuase they didn't have the resources to match the federal urban renewal funds. So, while all the larger cities were happily making plans to demolish their history, the smaller ones retained their historic structures.

Thank goodness GR didn't lose everything. Later I'll post some pictures of the few tragedies that they did get away with - like Joe mentioned.

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The Booth house as built in 1873. The garage (partially seen lower left) was built in 1894, the first in GR intended specifically for the automobile.

sdghj.jpg

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It seems only fitting that some attention is given to GR's historic homes.  Feel free to post your photos!

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www.heritagehillweb.org has pictures of almost every house from the 60's and today.

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www.heritagehillweb.org has pictures of almost every house from the 60's and today.

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Thanks for these great pictures. I had the pleasure of living in Heritage Hill in the 1970s, and know many of these homes. It is a fantastic area, and GR people should be proud of it. Believe me, folks in LA would kill to have the Victorians that are almost common in GR.

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The Perkins House, built in 1872.

P1010011.jpg

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No way was that house built in 1872. I would guess about 1902.

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No way was that house built in 1872.  I would guess about 1902.

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You're right. Somehow my photos got out of the order in which I took them :blush: and I just posted that without thinking. I don't remember the address, but I'll correct it as soon as I get it all sorted out.

-Michael

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You're right.  Somehow my photos got out of the order in which I took them    :blush:    and I just posted that without thinking.  I don't remember the address, but I'll correct it as soon as I get it all sorted out.

-Michael

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No, you were right. It was renovated in the 20's, but it was built in the late 1870's early 1880s... check here:

http://www.heritagehillweb.org/Search/building.asp?id=365

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Thanks for these great pictures.  I had the pleasure of living in Heritage Hill in the 1970s, and know many of these homes.  It is a fantastic area, and GR people should be proud of it.  Believe me, folks in LA would kill to have the Victorians that are almost common in GR.

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yeah but 90% of LA was built during the 60's and 70's practically :P

I must admit having all these old buildings is kinda nice

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yeah but 90% of LA was built during the 60's and 70's practically :P

I must admit having all these old buildings is kinda nice

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Sorry, but the Perkins House is not the one pictured. No house built in the 1870's could be renovated enough to look like that. If you look at the website, you will see an entirely different building than the one pictured.

You know, there are a lot of older buildings in LA. Downtown LA in particular is a treasure trove of buildings built from the 1890s through the 1920s and into the early 1930s. Ironically, the development of downtown LA along the Bunker Hill/Flower Street axis, away from the historic Spring Street axis, meant that the older buildings were not demolished but remain today. Unlike in GR, where the entire downtown north of Lyon Street was demo'd in the 60's. I know. I lived through it.

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the Perkins House is not the one pictured.  No house built in the 1870's could be renovated enough to look like that.  If you look at the website, you will see an entirely different building than the one pictured. 

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Ah.. I didn't even look. Good call. Anyone know the address of that house?

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Ah.. I didn't even look.  Good call.  Anyone know the address of that house?

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I'll probably be going back to HH in a day or two, so I'll get our mystery house cleared up ;)

The first of the two Shelby houses, built in 1873:

71laf.jpg

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