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Grand Rapids Then and Now


6th Gen local

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22 hours ago, RegalTDP said:

Back in the 1830s, Louis Campau platted the streets south of Pearl, and Lucious Lyons platted north of Pearl.  Their rivalry created that mess of where Pearl & Monroe were supposed to meet.  MLive had a great historical article about it a few years ago: https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2012/12/feud_between_grand_rapids_foun.html

Frankly, I like the fact that the streets in the central core are "a mess."   It gives downtown more character.    

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On 11/25/2020 at 1:08 PM, Cookin_peacocks said:

Hey, not sure this is the right place to ask, but I remember an article that was about 20 proposed projects that never got built. I can not for the life of me find it. Does anyone know where I can see those old projects and that article? My boss and I who is a lurker here, wanna see it. Thanks!

This?
https://www.mlive.com/knapescorner/2009/11/rendering_graveyard_devos_plac.html 

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On 11/27/2020 at 9:47 PM, Cookin_peacocks said:

On the right path! I remember it showed a building where the JW is now and a triangular highrise on the Crescent plot. 

It was the proposed Watermark Place. I can’t find any images of it anymore, but here is the article.

https://www.mlive.com/knapescorner/2007/11/rendering_graveyard_watermark.html

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1 hour ago, WMrapids said:

It was the proposed Watermark Place. I can’t find any images of it anymore, but here is the article.

https://www.mlive.com/knapescorner/2007/11/rendering_graveyard_watermark.html

Thank you! I remember a series about a whole lot of cancelled projects. That must be it. Last time I saw it, it still had pictures.

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2 hours ago, Cookin_peacocks said:

Thank you! I remember a series about a whole lot of cancelled projects. That must be it. Last time I saw it, it still had pictures.

Yeah, I remember it as well. It would have been past Chris’ time at the press (with the crescent street development which was a concept, not a tutus development). I can remember the article, but don’t remember where it appeared. 
 

Joe

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On 5/13/2019 at 12:32 PM, walker said:

. . . 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

Interesting Mlive article today of a postcard recently found that depicts a 100 mile indy car type race at the West Michigan Fairgrounds in Comstock Park  back in 1916.  As noted in the article, these race cars carried two people.  Along with the driver was the car's mechanic.

 MLIVE: grand-rapids-picker-finds-rare-auto-racing-photograph

1315374073_OldRacePhoto.thumb.jpeg.0bdd23577a98e45113ec39e13513931f.jpeg

Edited by walker
added photo from article
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On 1/27/2021 at 9:31 AM, walker said:

 

Interesting Mlive article today of a postcard recently found that depicts a 100 mile indy car type race at the West Michigan Fairgrounds in Comstock Park  back in 1916.  As noted in the article, these race cars carried two people.  Along with the driver was the car's mechanic.

 MLIVE: grand-rapids-picker-finds-rare-auto-racing-photograph

1315374073_OldRacePhoto.thumb.jpeg.0bdd23577a98e45113ec39e13513931f.jpeg

where were the old fairgrounds?

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On 2/5/2021 at 3:30 PM, Floyd_Z said:

where were the old fairgrounds?

 The West Michigan Fairgrounds was located on North Park St. between the North Park Bridge and West River Dr. NW in Comstock Park, MI, a suburb of Grand Rapids, MI. It was a one-mile dirt track with the first race held on September 26, 1903. The track had long straightaways with turns slightly banked and the backstretch of the track was only ten feet from the Grand River.

link to an article about old fairground

Can't find a photo of the old fairgrounds from 1916 but below is a photo of the area from about 1960  before the expressway cut through it and when the track was only a half-mile long rather than a mile as it was in its early days.  The second photo is roughly the same area today. 

 

before-after.png.75223a3a4fdf1500aeda38df96d9ee74.png

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10 hours ago, walker said:

 The West Michigan Fairgrounds was located on North Park St. between the North Park Bridge and West river Dr. NW in Comstock Park, MI, a suburb of Grand Rapids, MI. It was a one-mile dirt track with the first race held on September 26, 1903. The track had long straightaways with turns slightly banked and the backstretch of the track was only ten feet from the Grand River.

link to an article about old fairground

Can't find a photo of the old fairgrounds from 1916 but below is a photo of the area from about 1960  before the expressway cut through it and when the track was only a half-mile long rather than a mile as it was in its early days.  The second photo is roughly the same area today. 

 

before-after.png.75223a3a4fdf1500aeda38df96d9ee74.png

An airstrip predates the track!

 

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

Edited by Cookin_peacocks
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12 hours ago, Cookin_peacocks said:

The airport came after the fairgrounds and its track but before the later race track.  The old fairgrounds shut down during the depression in the late thirties.  The airport operated a year or two in the late forties after WWII.  The same guy that operated the airport also developed and operated the Speedrome race track starting about 1950.  The grandstand along with an attached fairground building was all that was left from the old fairground that carried over to the later track.  I grew up a couple of miles away, an easy bike ride away.  I remember in the fifties, the operator of the race track kept his own personal airplane in the attached building which he used as a hanger.  Presumably he still used the runway.  I personally only remember one runway, not the three shown in the hand drawn map in the link.  Maybe they never had three or the other two were long gone by the time I was around.  For a while in the fifties the National Guard also stored their military vehicles in the same hanger building.  This was before the current armory was built on 44th Street.  The National Guard didn’t have much garage space on site at their old armory at Michigan and Division.

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On 2/6/2021 at 10:53 PM, walker said:

 Michigan and Division.

Slight threadjack - when was Michigan and Division grade-separated? When 196 was built? Or before that?  When was the stretch of North Division that runs at the base of Belknap Hill built? It's fairly clearly not part of the original plat of Monroe North. Anyone have that background?

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3 hours ago, Khorasaurus1 said:

Slight threadjack - when was Michigan and Division grade-separated? When 196 was built? Or before that?  When was the stretch of North Division that runs at the base of Belknap Hill built? It's fairly clearly not part of the original plat of Monroe North. Anyone have that background?

To piggyback a little myself, I would like to know what was on the land that 196 runs through from roughly north of that intersection, and straight east to Fuller. It obviously must have been some physical natural space, businesses or homes that connected the two areas that are now separated by the highway. It's really just the buildings on the north side of Michigan, east of Monroe, that you only ever see identified.

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11 hours ago, Khorasaurus1 said:

Slight threadjack - when was Michigan and Division grade-separated? When 196 was built? Or before that?  

I can remember before it was seperated, I think it was when 196 was built.  Here's a link to an article about the history of the new and old armory.  It says the Michigan Street Armory was torn down in 1959 for the expressway.  In the photo below, you can still see Michigan and Division at the same grade.

the-grand-valley-armory-50-years

760619460_MichiganStreetArmory.jpg.bae9caf08fab4702f165016393f7860e.jpg

 

11 hours ago, Khorasaurus1 said:

. . .   When was the stretch of North Division that runs at the base of Belknap Hill built? It's fairly clearly not part of the original plat of Monroe North. Anyone have that background?

Before my time but I think it might have been a local WPA type project during the depression.  Not 100% sure though. 

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16 minutes ago, GR_Urbanist said:

To piggyback a little myself, I would like to know what was on the land that 196 runs through from roughly north of that intersection, and straight east to Fuller. It obviously must have been some physical natural space, businesses or homes that connected the two areas that are now separated by the highway. It's really just the buildings on the north side of Michigan, east of Monroe, that you only ever see identified.

I did a little research here and found some answers for us: https://www.historicaerials.com/viewer

Looks like in the 1947 aerial, Division and Michigan intersected at-grade. The Arsenal was on the northwest corner. Division did extend north at the base of the hill, up to where it turns into Plainfield. I still think that extension cannot have been "original" to the Monroe North area...but anyone got any evidence of when it was put in? As for the 196 corridor, it looks like it was mostly houses, which is a little surprising because I always think of that area as having a really severe slope. But maybe that's because of the freeway canyon. 

1955 looks pretty similar to 1947. 

By 1965, 196 is in, as is the grade separation for Division. Division has also been re-routed. It used to run straight from Crescent to Michigan, probably using the same route as the current "ramp" to Michigan, and then curved west north of the intersection, into its alignment close to Ionia. But when the grade separation was put in, the westward shift was moved south.  Most of the streets north of Michigan that were truncated by 196 appear to still have houses on them. Those were eliminated over time, for parking/medical buildings/apartment buildings. Many of those streets have been vacated, too. 

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24 minutes ago, walker said:

 

I can remember before it was seperated, I think it was when 196 was built.  Here's a link to an article about the history of the new and old armory.  It says the Michigan Street Armory was torn down in 1959 for the expressway.  In the photo below, you can still see Michigan and Division at the same grade.

the-grand-valley-armory-50-years

760619460_MichiganStreetArmory.jpg.bae9caf08fab4702f165016393f7860e.jpg

 

Before my time but I think it might have been a local WPA type project during the depression.  Not a 100% sure though. 

Super cool picture.  Definitely answers my question about the grade separation. Very, very little in that picture still remains today. Immanuel Lutheran and ...?

As for Division, the Boulevard of the Allies in Pittsburgh was completed in 1922. The Division extension would have been a much less ambitious/complex version of a similar idea (use a hillside to create a thoroughfare and take traffic out of a neighborhood). So 1920s-30s would make sense as a time frame. 

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