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Grand Rapids Then and Now


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9 hours ago, GRDadof3 said:

The big question is, who is Allan and where is he these days?

Don't know the man but it took me less than a minute to track him down and I didn't do anything covert or have help from the Russians.  Since for all I know he might want to be anonymous, I'll only say that he is an architect in the Detroit area and he was a student when he posted all those original posts.  

Edited by walker
deleted a sentence because giving away too much info.
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  • 3 months later...

I was in middle school in the mid-90s, and grew up in a near-DT neighborhood on the SE side. But I remember only a handful of times from childhood actually going downtown for anything (including one time to City Center [Mackie's World predecessor]); there simply wasn't a lot to do there. So, at least for me, downtown developments (especially pre-arena) aren't very prominent in my memory.

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That's funny, because I have a bunch of downtown memories from that era - eating at Ole Tacos and riding the train in the basement of City Center/Mackie's World, eating at Zack's Diner on Monroe Center, ice skating at the Monroe Amphitheater, going to the old Public Museum and the new Van Andel Museum,  the old layout of the Ford Museum where everyone went through the exhibit backwards, Hoops games at Welsh Auditorium, fancy dinners at the Pen Club, and shows at DeVos Hall or Civic Theater or St. Cecilias.  I also have vivid memories of broken windows on streets running south from Fulton, and thinking "Ransom" and "LaGrave" were scary names for streets, which fit because there were scary buildings in that area.

But I have big gaps. I have no recollection of anything west of City Center on Fulton, for instance, which is why I'm curious what the arena site was like pre-arena.  And I don't remember the pedestrian mall, even though I must have experienced it. 

 

Edited by Khorasaurus1
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12 minutes ago, HavingAhoot said:

Where was the Rapid bus station then?

There wasn't a station, it was a big parking lot full of bus shelters. It's still a parking lot, just North of the apartments at Lyon/Ionia/Division.

The Towers Medical building and its ugly sister parking ramp is still there on Medical Mile. So is the Butterworth nurses dormitory where VARI is now? 

No River House, no Devos Place. The old Hall of Justice is still there.

What is that one story structure on Ionia by where Hopcat is now? 

 

1 hour ago, Khorasaurus1 said:

That's funny, because I have a bunch of downtown memories from that era - eating at Ole Tacos and riding the train in the basement of City Center/Mackie's World, eating at Zack's Diner on Monroe Center, ice skating at the Monroe Amphitheater, going to the old Public Museum and the new Van Andel Museum,  the old layout of the Ford Museum where everyone went through the exhibit backwards, Hoops games at Welsh Auditorium, fancy dinners at the Pen Club, and shows at DeVos Hall or Civic Theater or St. Cecilias.  I also have vivid memories of broken windows on streets running south from Fulton, and thinking "Ransom" and "LaGrave" were scary names for streets, which fit because there were scary buildings in that area.

But I have big gaps. I have no recollection of anything west of City Center on Fulton, for instance, which is why I'm curious what the arena site was like pre-arena.  And I don't remember the pedestrian mall, even though I must have experienced it. 

 

It was one giant set of parking lots, some of them dirt I believe, that stretched from Fulton to the s-curve. There were some pictures shared by @joeDowntown on there a while ago. 

It'd be cool to see this side-by-side with one from today, or from when Studio Park gets finished and the Residence Inn is up. 

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6 minutes ago, GRDadof3 said:

What is that one story structure on Ionia by where Hopcat is now? 

 

Looks like construction trailers for the arena?

7 minutes ago, GRDadof3 said:

It was one giant set of parking lots, some of them dirt I believe, that stretched from Fulton to the s-curve. There were some pictures shared by @joeDowntown on there a while ago. 

It'd be cool to see this side-by-side with one from today, or from when Studio Park gets finished and the Residence Inn is up. 

Ah, so like West Foxtown in Detroit, except without sporting events to fill the parking spaces a few times per year. So you could stand at Ottawa and Louis and see the S-Curve??

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18 minutes ago, Khorasaurus1 said:

Looks like construction trailers for the arena?

Ah, so like West Foxtown in Detroit, except without sporting events to fill the parking spaces a few times per year. So you could stand at Ottawa and Louis and see the S-Curve??

Yes, from what I remember, very much like West Foxtown and areas North of downtown Detroit.  We moved here just as they were beginning to do footings for the arena. I don't recall them having to tear down any buildings to build the arena. 

This picture shows nothing on the lot at Fulton between Ionia and Ottawa, and the train garage stopping at Weston (when it must have gone through back then). I don't remember train garages at all when we moved here or when I visited here while in college in the early 90's. 

aeriel-highway-grand-rapids-downtown-his

 

Here's one looking at one of the train sheds looking South I believe, probably from that Weston area.

a4875eb843e07d87d61a3297c73abdd5--grand-

I definitely don't remember anything like that being around in the early 90's. 

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43 minutes ago, GRDadof3 said:

Yes, from what I remember, very much like West Foxtown and areas North of downtown Detroit.  We moved here just as they were beginning to do footings for the arena. I don't recall them having to tear down any buildings to build the arena. 

This picture shows nothing on the lot at Fulton between Ionia and Ottawa, and the train garage stopping at Weston (when it must have gone through back then). I don't remember train garages at all when we moved here or when I visited here while in college in the early 90's. 

aeriel-highway-grand-rapids-downtown-his

 

Here's one looking at one of the train sheds looking South I believe, probably from that Weston area.

a4875eb843e07d87d61a3297c73abdd5--grand-

I definitely don't remember anything like that being around in the early 90's. 

Oh, it was still around, it just wasn't downtown anymore.  That old train shed was bolted together, not welded.  It was disassembled and then reassembled in two parts and used by a large wholesale lumber yard out on 54th street just east of 131 where the Walmart is now.  Part of it was destroyed by a fire but at one time Robert Grooters had what was left of the other half in pieces with the idea of rebuilding it I thought around where he built that red "Union Station" warehouse along 131.

The large long building in the birds-eye photo is a freight warehouse that was just west of the shed.  It was used by Columbia Storage well into the seventies and  when they moved out of it they moved that railroad train tower in the shed photo to their building on Hall Street where it still stands.      

EDIT: Here's a link with more detail about the train shed with dates, including its later history in the lumber yard:

HISTORY GRAND RAPIDS: grand-rapids-union-station-train shed

 

Edited by walker
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The train garage explains the weird ramp from 131 to Oakes. The present configuration makes a lot more sense, but when it was built, the railyard/station/train garages were still there and the ramp needed to go over and around them. 
Was that exit orginally envisioned to connect into the Ionia/Ottawa one way system?

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4 hours ago, walker said:

It was disassembled and then reassembled in two parts and used by a large wholesale lumber yard out on 54th street just east of 131 where the Walmart is now.

 

Ok, now I remember this place!

My family lived just north of 60th east of S. Division back in the early-mid 80s, and part of my school bus route in elementary took us to the other side of Division on 54th street, and I recall this massive structure with equally massive piles of wood all the way to the street.

 

It's still weird driving by it and not seeing the lumber yard.

Edited by GR_Urbanist
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4 hours ago, walker said:

Oh, it was still around, it just wasn't downtown anymore.  That old train shed was bolted together, not welded.  It was disassembled and then reassembled in two parts and used by a large wholesale lumber yard out on 54th street just east of 131 where the Walmart is now.  Part of it was destroyed by a fire but at one time Robert Grooters had what was left of the other half in pieces with the idea of rebuilding it I thought around where he built that red "Union Station" warehouse along 131.

The large long building in the birds-eye photo is a freight warehouse that was just west of the shed.  It was used by Columbia Storage well into the seventies and  when they moved out of it they moved that railroad train tower in the shed photo to their building on Hall Street where it still stands.      

EDIT: Here's a link with more detail about the train shed with dates, including its later history in the lumber yard:

HISTORY GRAND RAPIDS: grand-rapids-union-station-train shed

 

Yes! I remember the Grooters story. Any idea when they were disassembled and moved from downtown? 

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4 minutes ago, GRDadof3 said:

Yes! I remember the Grooters story. Any idea when they were disassembled and moved from downtown? 

When the freeway was built.  It was relocated to the VKW lumber com-any on 54th. Last I knew the disassembled pieces were in a field on Byron Commerce Center Drive. Looking at google earth shows they have been removed - my guess is to the scrap yard

4 hours ago, Khorasaurus1 said:

The train garage explains the weird ramp from 131 to Oakes. The present configuration makes a lot more sense, but when it was built, the railyard/station/train garages were still there and the ramp needed to go over and around them. 
Was that exit orginally envisioned to connect into the Ionia/Ottawa one way system?

The SB 131 entrance ramp was from Fulton south. The NB exit turned onto Oaks to Division N to Leonard to 131 - BR 131. It was not a train garage. It was a shed over the boading platforms to protec the passengewrs from the rain and snow, just like the white tent on the west side of 131 today.

You can google the Sidwell maps of Kent County / City of GR from the 60's and see what was there at that period. (I'm too lazy to look them up and paste links.)

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18 hours ago, wyoming_mi said:

It would be cool to see the 1996 picture with arrows or shapes showing where something changed. (like Founders, etc) Especially for those who have not lived in GR that long and have no idea. 

Here's a couple of neat photos from this thread a dozen years ago.  I've added some arrows and texts to identify current landmarks in one of the photos in the doctored photo at the bottom.

On 3/29/2006 at 10:52 AM, civitas said:

 

 

 

 

Before US-131

 

119838212_c4784e92a0_b.jpg

 

 

 

US-131 under construction

 

119838211_fd6eca5746_b.jpg

The tags represent what is there now.  What is now Founders was the Interstate Motor Freight terminal.  What is now the Intersection Bar was a truck dealer.  I think I've identified the New Mertens correctly but not 100% sure.  The Intersection is a good marker because it now butts up against the curve in 131.

1365945034_CIVITISPHOTOWITHTAGS.thumb.png.f41b0d55abb93de97f9bae60a699da79.png  

Don't know where the black lines came from, sorry.

 

Edited by walker
for clarity
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1 hour ago, Raildude's dad said:

You can google the Sidwell maps of Kent County / City of GR from the 60's and see what was there at that period. (I'm too lazy to look them up and paste links.)

Looks like pretty geeky stuff unless you are a civil engineer:

Sidwell map aerial view of a relevant section

This is apparently what people looked at before Google Satellite view.

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1 hour ago, john_denver said:

Wow, look at the west side, where the Ford museum and GVSU is now.  Looks all industrial…then look two blocks west further from the river.  Is that just open space?

Well, it was open space after the highway department got to it!

 

Man, I wish there were more photos or film of these outer parts of the central city available online. It seems like we only ever see the same shots from the same vantage points while these edge areas are just as developed, but we have no real idea what they looked like from the ground.

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