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Grand Rapids Then and Now

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It was three floors so that three different levels of the parking garage would connect to three different floors of the mall. Because the floors didn't quite line up, there were stairs within the skywalk.

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On 3/30/2019 at 9:48 AM, Khorasaurus1 said:

1 Ionia and the Blodgett Building don't look that different than they look today. The San Chez building is red, but also looks to be well cared for. 

I guess I had it in my head that they looked like the BOB or Arena Station did back then. Not sure why.

Ionia was dubbed “Newtown” and the building that GRBC is in, Gardella’s (2nd floor, first floor was abandoned) and the Blodgett building had been rehabbed. The Hopcat building was abandoned  

Sam Cummings (of CWD) bought the buildings on Ionia (Macro Properties) and started work on the “Tannery Row” building soon after. 

This was one of the only places you could go and see rehabbed buildings / get an idea of the potential for downtown. Almost everything else was abandoned or underutilized. 

Joe

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Huh, that's interesting. Cummings' foresight is a big part of why Van Andel Arena is one of the only sports/entertainment venues in the country that actually created sustainable redevelopment in the surrounding area.

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6 minutes ago, BLUESCRUBS said:

Check out the Population Density Map from  1950. Almost no-one living south of Burton at the time.

xiwh9p0wjsx21.jpg

It's crazy just how much the metro area has grown in half of a century. Grandville was just starting to spread south of its former limits with the development around Big Spring Lake. Wyoming was little more than small densely populated neighborhoods with farms to the south. Kentwood barely even existed. Was it still Paris Township at this time?

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5 minutes ago, BLUESCRUBS said:

I always enjoy seeing these old maps. Love that fact that the old airport's runway went though I think 44th street?

76d5fea613aafdf45c623ccf3820bee3.jpg

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37 minutes ago, GRLaker said:

It's crazy just how much the metro area has grown in half of a century. Grandville was just starting to spread south of its former limits with the development around Big Spring Lake. Wyoming was little more than small densely populated neighborhoods with farms to the south. Kentwood barely even existed. Was it still Paris Township at this time?

Lots of open lots on Reeds Lake. If I only had a time machine.

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The photo is pre 1952. That's when the runway pavement  was extended past 44th Street.  Check out the old airport on this site . You can see the end is cross hatched  IE a safety zone.   http://www.airfields-freeman.com/MI/Airfields_MI_SW.htm#kentco  

Wyoming Township became a City in 1959, Paris Twp became Kentwood in 1967.   The  current airport started construction in 1961 and opened in Nov.  of 1963. 

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On 5/13/2019 at 10:37 AM, Raildude's dad said:

The photo is pre 1952. That's when the runway pavement  was extended past 44th Street.  Check out the old airport on this site . You can see the end is cross hatched  IE a safety zone.   http://www.airfields-freeman.com/MI/Airfields_MI_SW.htm#kentco  

Wyoming Township became a City in 1959, Paris Twp became Kentwood in 1967.   The  current airport started construction in 1961 and opened in Nov.  of 1963. 

The terminal at the old airport was at the corner of Madison and 32nd street right at the end of Madison.  This area was fairly residential especially between Jefferson and Division and they had all the telephone poles in the area painted orange with many of them topped with red tower lights for the safety of low flying aircraft.

When I was in sixth grade our teacher, Mr. Lane, who was an aviation enthusiast, arranged a class trip to the airport where we got to board and visit the cockpit of a Lake Central Airlines DC 3 that had an exceptionally long layover.  As we boarded the plane the stewardess (this was back way before they were called flight attendants) handed each of us chewing gum, because that’s what they did when real passengers boarded.  Chewing gum was supposed to help lessen the effects of your ears popping back when airplanes were not pressurized.

 Lake Central was a small airline based out of Indianapolis.  Supposedly they were entirely employee owned and often the stewardesses were the wives of the pilots.   Their flights from Grand Rapids flew to Indianapolis with intermediate stops in Kalamazoo and South Bend.  Grand Rapids was as far north as they flew.  Lake Central sometime in the sixties merged with Allegheny Airlines which became USAir which in turn merged fairly recently with American Airlines.  There were two other airlines that served the old airport.  North Central which became Republic when it combined with two other airlines which in turn merged with Northwest which after bankruptcy merged with Delta.  The third carrier and only major carrier at the time at the airport was Capital Airlines which merged with United in 1961.        
 

598841683_LakeCentralDC3.jpg.022ac362c6bdf7697022d65887b9bf40.jpg

Edited by walker
added photo of a Lake Central DC 3
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2 hours ago, Raildude's dad said:

The photo is pre 1952. That's when the runway pavement  was extended past 44th Street.  Check out the old airport on this site . You can see the end is cross hatched  IE a safety zone.   http://www.airfields-freeman.com/MI/Airfields_MI_SW.htm#kentco  

Wyoming Township became a City in 1959, Paris Twp became Kentwood in 1967.   The  current airport started construction in 1961 and opened in Nov.  of 1963. 

Within the link that Raildude’s Dad provided, there is another link to the airfield that used to be just off North Park Street by the river and south of Fifth/third Park.  This had been the West Michigan State Fairgrounds and later the Spreedrome auto race track.  The airfield was an early and unsuccessful business run be Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos.  It probably helps explain their families continued interest in aircraft.  I’m not sure why they failed but I can remember my father telling me (way before Amway was around) that the planes bothered the residents of what we called back then the old soldier’s home.  Many residents then were WW I veterans and likely suffered from PTSD (although it was called shell-shock back then.)

EDIT: checking what I wrote afterwards rather than before, I don't think Van Andel and DeVos ran the airfield but rather ran some kind of flight training school.  When you get old it's a good idea to check your facts before writing but I usually don't.   

http://www.airfields-freeman.com/MI/Airfields_MI_SW.htm#grandriver

That property has its richer history as a race track rather than as an airport though.  In the early 1900’s, Barney Oldfield and Louis Chevrolet raced there.  After WW II, a couple of early NASCAR races ran there.  The later Speedrome was mostly local racers but several became well known such as Gordon Johncock who won the Indianapolis 500 twice.  The last race held there when it was closed because of the extension of the 131 expressway, was won by Johnny Benson Sr.  

If you’re interested, scroll down the comments in this link for a longer more detailed history of racing there by Dick Lee, who is the track historian, :

http://waterwinterwonderland.com/autoracing.aspx?id=1706&LocTypeID=9

Edited by walker
for clarity and to fix link and to correct history
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On 5/13/2019 at 9:15 AM, elcelc said:

This site always has some choice aerials through the years.  The two airports are pretty interesting.

https://www.historicaerials.com/viewer

 

If you go back to the earliest map (1955) you can see the real estate market in Paris Township really heating up.  Sparsely populated, but lots of land being cleared for subdivisions.  GR was still in its 1927 boundaries.  The annexation wars that would spawn three new suburban cities (Wyoming, Walker, and finally Kentwood) would start around 1958.

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On 5/13/2019 at 9:39 AM, GRLaker said:

76d5fea613aafdf45c623ccf3820bee3.jpg

One of the coolest things I learned about this is they turned the runway into the parkway (the name escapes me. Chafee?)

Also, if you look at a Google maps of the area south of 32nd, you can see next to some industrial  plants, some of the original runway still exists. Kinda neat. 

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2 hours ago, ironyisadeadscene said:

One of the coolest things I learned about this is they turned the runway into the parkway (the name escapes me. Chafee?)

HISTORIC NOTE: Maybe everyone already knows this but then again maybe not, it was a long time ago before many of you were born.  The street is named after Roger Chaffee, the Grand Rapids native and Apollo I astronaut who died along with Gus Grissom and Edward White in a fire during a test on the launchpad.  He never did make it into space.  Some say, including the more famous astronaut James Lovell in his book about Apollo 13, that Chaffee was chosen for the Apollo program as a reward for having flown the U2 spy plane over Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis and that he was the one that took the photos that provided JFK with the evidence that proved there were Russian missiles in Cuba.  There is no official released documentation that he was the pilot or took the photos but then again it was a secret spy mission.  

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1 hour ago, walker said:

HISTORIC NOTE: Maybe everyone already knows this but then again maybe not, it was a long time ago before many of you were born.  The street is named after Roger Chaffee, the Grand Rapids native and Apollo I astronaut who died along with Gus Grissom and Edward White in a fire during a test on the launchpad.  He never did make it into space.  Some say, including the more famous astronaut James Lovell in his book about Apollo 13, that Chaffee was chosen for the Apollo program as a reward for having flown the U2 spy plane over Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis and that he was the one that took the photos that provided JFK with the evidence that proved there were Russian missiles in Cuba.  There is no official released documentation that he was the pilot or took the photos but then again it was a secret spy mission.  

I wasn't aware of that. I knew one the astronauts was from here, didn't connect the name.

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3 hours ago, walker said:

HISTORIC NOTE: Maybe everyone already knows this but then again maybe not, it was a long time ago before many of you were born.  The street is named after Roger Chaffee, the Grand Rapids native and Apollo I astronaut who died along with Gus Grissom and Edward White in a fire during a test on the launchpad.  He never did make it into space.  Some say, including the more famous astronaut James Lovell in his book about Apollo 13, that Chaffee was chosen for the Apollo program as a reward for having flown the U2 spy plane over Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis and that he was the one that took the photos that provided JFK with the evidence that proved there were Russian missiles in Cuba.  There is no official released documentation that he was the pilot or took the photos but then again it was a secret spy mission.  

Grand Rapids native and Purdue graduate. And that is where the similarities between him and I end...

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There's a nice video about his life that plays before every show at the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium at the Public Museum.  

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2 hours ago, joeDowntown said:

A cool then and now gallery someone posted on reddit:

https://m.imgur.com/gallery/B8v6rqb

Joe

Interesting but the then and now pairs aren't all taken from the same block.  The photo of the Anderson Art Supply store I believe is at the corner of Fulton and Louis, while the paired current photo is a block northwest at Ionia and Louis.  The old civil war monument photo is facing westerly while the current photo is facing easterly.  The monument itself has been moved once and maybe twice between the times of the two photos.  The two shots of St. Marks are both facing the same way but the current photo was taken about two blocks further east.   

But if I was his Dad, I'd thank him and not nitpick. 

Edited by walker
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Google uses a different lense so it's hard to say, but if the awning over the door is essentially the same then here's what it looks like now:

844646346_WestonandCommerce.png.1722607fc48939c924ad118f81a9a54d.png

But if the awning in the old photo was on the next building down that's now a parking lot then this might be closer to the same spot:

1827758649_WestonandCommerce2.png.ea91212d4e839d9e20537460afe13077.png

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