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Grand Rapids Then and Now


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  • 1 month later...

On 2/8/2021 at 3:03 PM, walker said:

....It says the Michigan Street Armory was torn down in 1959 for the expressway. 

The article says the building was 'vacated' in 1959.  In 64 and 65 we'd pile into somebody's car every Saturday night and head to the Michigan Street Armory for teen dances.  After the dance we'd stop at Betty Trill's Texaco and take an 'offering' for enough gas money to get back to Wyoming.  The dances were relocated to the new 44th Street Armory when it opened in 65.  

Edited by civitas
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There are so many building in that photo that I'd like to see more photos (facade/inside). The armory, the building directly to the north of city hall. The building a block north from city hall. So many interesting buildings bulldozed.

EDIT: Found the building 1 block north of City Hall (during demolition):

-7e7897a6b6732cab.thumb.png.c5410710a499271027a2a12edd1f48f1.png

 

Joe

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On 3/22/2021 at 10:32 PM, civitas said:

The article says the building was 'vacated' in 1959.  In 64 and 65 we'd pile into somebody's car every Saturday night and head to the Michigan Street Armory for teen dances.  After the dance we'd stop at Betty Trill's Texaco and take an 'offering' for enough gas money to get back to Wyoming.  The dances were relocated to the new 44th Street Armory when it opened in 65.  

My memory, which admittedly might not be entirely trustworthy, is a little different.  I think that expressway section of what eventually was named I-196 opened in either late 64 or early 65.  So the National Guard Armory would have been gone by then.  I can't find verification of when that section was opened on the interweb though.   Remember, there were two armories on Michigan Street.  Beside the National Guard Armory at Division, there was the Army Reserve Armory just east of Fuller where the Ace Hardware store is now.  What I remember is the teen dances in those years were at the Army Reserve Armory.  I think a radio station sponsored them.  They were kind of a high school thing.  Having graduated in 64, I was slightly out of their demographic so I never went to them, but I do remember giving a couple of girls a ride there once.  Betty Trill's at College and Michigan  would have been right on your way home to Wyoming from the Reserve Armory, especially if you made the requisite drive around the circuit  downtown on your way home.

Betty Trill's Texaco was one of a kind as was Betty herself.  The building was a big white barn like structure.  The station closed  and was torn down some  time in the 70's. 

Edited by walker
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14 hours ago, joeDowntown said:

There are so many building in that photo that I'd like to see more photos (facade/inside). The armory, the building directly to the north of city hall. The building a block north from city hall. So many interesting buildings bulldozed.

EDIT: Found the building 1 block north of City Hall (during demolition):

510310395_policestation.png.814aa1641fad735e8c5e1968dc289f6f.png

Joe

That building is the old police station.  Got my first drivers license there.  The cops used to give the drivers license tests including a road test.

history grand rapids police-headquarters  

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Pretty cool post on Reddit of photos taken in 1995. For all of you that weren't around at that time, Van Andel arena, this was a year before Van Andel arena was open and most of the buildings around the Van Andel were abandoned (minus the section of Ionia North of Weston and South of Fulton. Grandville Ave was a ghost town. Surface parking lots EVERYWHERE. 

https://www.reddit.com/r/grandrapids/comments/mat9rf/my_sister_took_a_bunch_of_photos_of_downtown/

Joe

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On 3/24/2021 at 10:09 AM, joeDowntown said:

Pretty cool post on Reddit of photos taken in 1995. For all of you that weren't around at that time, Van Andel arena, this was a year before Van Andel arena was open and most of the buildings around the Van Andel were abandoned (minus the section of Ionia North of Weston and South of Fulton. Grandville Ave was a ghost town. Surface parking lots EVERYWHERE. 

https://www.reddit.com/r/grandrapids/comments/mat9rf/my_sister_took_a_bunch_of_photos_of_downtown/

Joe

Very cool, although I wish the pictures weren't sepia tone. It's hard to make out details. Heartside was a total afterthought in those days. I remember doing a service project at Mel Trotter in middle school and I somehow ended up on the roof. This was mid-S curve reconstruction, and I was looking out over a mud pit dotted with dilapidated buildings. It is amazing what that area has become today (although now we have our own problems of gentrification and homelessness). 

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On 3/22/2021 at 3:22 PM, walker said:

Found this photo on the GR Library site.  It looks like the photo a couple of posts ago was cropped from this photo that covers a wider area that also includes the old city hall, and county building, and police station:

2055975072_GRAerialview1950.jpg.749531668f1214dda3c582eed38e0aea.jpg

grpl digital collection

My favorite the fox delux brewery but another underrated area with blown opportunity recently is crescent street with the park and dense apartment buildings was very unique for GR and VA Inst kind of turned its back on that street and torn down buildings for their loading dock and surface parking lot 

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On 3/25/2021 at 1:46 PM, GR8scott said:

My favorite the fox delux brewery but another underrated area with blown opportunity recently is crescent street with the park and dense apartment buildings was very unique for GR and VA Inst kind of turned its back on that street and torn down buildings for their loading dock and surface parking lot 

What is that building across from Fox Brewery? It looks like an auditorium or something? On the Northwest corner of North Division and Michigan St? 

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2 hours ago, GRDadof3 said:

What is that building across from Fox Brewery? It looks like an auditorium or something? On the Northwest corner of North Division and Michigan St? 

National Guard Armory.  IIRC, it was one of the last buildings removed for the freeway east f the river.  I was roaming on my bike from the EBL to the river often in the summer during construction of I-196

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  • 2 months later...
4 hours ago, GR_Urbanist said:

This may have been posted, but I couldn't find it via a search, it is an upload of a GRTV-aired presentation called "Under the Freeways - Historical Slideshow of the West Side of Grand Rapids (2001). If you've haven't seen it, it will make for an interesting 90mins of local history.

 

 

There's been a few changes in the past decade as well.  

 

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  • 3 months later...

When I was searching around for the Wikipedia entry for the Trust Building the other day, I ran across this listing of all the National Register of Historic Places in Kent County.  Some are pretty obscure including two separate small bridges over Plaster Creek (one of which was torn down and replaced and no one apparently cared.)  You can click on any entry and bring up its history:

 WIKIPEDIA: National Register of Historic Places listings in Kent County

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5 hours ago, walker said:

When I was searching around for the Wikipedia entry for the Trust Building the other day, I ran across this listing of all the National Register of Historic Places in Kent County.  Some are pretty obscure including two separate small bridges over Plaster Creek (one of which was torn down and replaced and no one apparently cared.)  You can click on any entry and bring up its history:

 WIKIPEDIA: National Register of Historic Places listings in Kent County

The Grand Rapids Cycle Company Building looks ominous as the photo shows it in full 4 alarm fire mode. Still bummed that the building was SO close to being restored. Ugh.

Joe

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5 hours ago, walker said:

When I was searching around for the Wikipedia entry for the Trust Building the other day, I ran across this listing of all the National Register of Historic Places in Kent County.  Some are pretty obscure including two separate small bridges over Plaster Creek (one of which was torn down and replaced and no one apparently cared.)  You can click on any entry and bring up its history:

 WIKIPEDIA: National Register of Historic Places listings in Kent County

I was really fascinated learning more about the Trust Building in your post on the other thread - I did not know it was one of the first steel-framed skyscrapers before.  At the time it was built, it was the second tallest building in the state after the Hammond Building in Detroit.  Since they tore down the Hammond Building in 1956,  the Trust Building, as GR's oldest standing skyscraper, is actually older than Detroit's oldest standing skyscraper.

10 minutes ago, Cookin_peacocks said:

What was the building right by 131 that looked old as F? It was just south of Fulton near the old gas station?

Are you talking about the old A&P warehouse that they tore down to make way for GVSU's new building?

image.png.2f7e5144eecaf57053443190681f520a.png

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45 minutes ago, RegalTDP said:

I was really fascinated learning more about the Trust Building in your post on the other thread - I did not know it was one of the first steel-framed skyscrapers before.  At the time it was built, it was the second tallest building in the state after the Hammond Building in Detroit.  Since they tore down the Hammond Building in 1956,  the Trust Building, as GR's oldest standing skyscraper, is actually older than Detroit's oldest standing skyscraper.

Are you talking about the old A&P warehouse that they tore down to make way for GVSU's new building?

image.png.2f7e5144eecaf57053443190681f520a.png

That's the one!

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 10/28/2021 at 9:29 PM, walker said:

Someone posted this map of GR from 1853 in reddit.  I thought it was pretty interesting.

After you pull-up the link, you can greatly expand the map to make it readable by clicking on it:

 1853_Grand_Rapids

 

 

 

Something I've always wondered about is how some of the more uniquely named streets got made so boring. Holland became Winter, Thomas became Summer, and Van Buren, Ann, Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jonathan became 7th through 11th. Why remove their character?

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54 minutes ago, ZAP! said:

Something I've always wondered about is how some of the more uniquely named streets got made so boring. Holland became Winter, Thomas became Summer, and Van Buren, Ann, Elizabeth, Caroline, and Jonathan became 7th through 11th. Why remove their character?

I don't know.  One of the things that I noticed  on the map is that several streets on the west side of the river have the same names as streets on the east side such as Washington.   In those cases maybe the names were changed in order to eliminate any confusion.  I found a link that explains the origin of some of the names.  Many are not what you would think, for instance Bridge Street was named after someone named Bridge and not because of the bridge on Bridge Street.  The most interesting is Veto Street which was named Veto because the Common Council vetoed all the other proposed names.

origins of some GR street names

This next link lists all the street name changes in alphabetical order and when they happened but not necessarily why:

GR street name changes

Edited by walker
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Here is an odd memory I have that someone could clear up. I recall reading that back when the west side and the rest of GR were REALLY very different places in terms of character, culture, politics, and the like, that there was an effort to actually break the west side off and create what would be called "West Grand Rapids"?

 

I cant for the life of me remember where I read this, or if it was ever remotely serious, but I'm sure local history folks would know!

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  • 8 months later...

My younger brother, to help fill his time now that he is a retired old person, has been researching a golf course that I never knew existed, even though it had been not far from where we grew up.  It was the Sligh Municipal Golf Course.  It was just west of Plainfield between Sligh Blvd. and what is now Three Mile Road.  Here is a map of it from 1925 that was published in the Sunday Grand Rapids Herald:

2038824579_SLIGHGOLFCOURSERENDERING.thumb.jpg.2f5b4263a1225d00763b9243ef1ca229.jpg 

It's hard to read the street names.  The straight road at an angle at the far right is Plainfield.  The parallel road to its left is Foster.  The curvy road at the bottom of the course is Sligh Blvd.  Interestingly the road that runs across the top is labeled Northwood although it is what now is Three Mile.  The current Northwood starts at Three Mile where the jog is in the map and continues east of Plainfield parallel to the current Three Mile.  When I was in early elementary school in the early fifties I would go over and watch them build that part of Northwood.  There are several roads shown to dead-end at the course that now go though,  That makes me think that maybe they had been platted but then Mr. Sligh decided he wanted a golf course.   

It's rough but my brother overlaid the golf course map on top of the Google map of the current area:

738399107_SlighGolfCourseOverlay.png.b26510b8cb37f26f95993cf099bffd82.png 

Edited by walker
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Here's an old photo of the Sligh mansion that stood at the southwest corner of Plainfield and Sligh Blvd.  Seeing how desolate it looks and that it is from the Pitsch (wrecking) collection, I think this was taken just before it was torn down:

461876391_2417PlainfieldAveNEoldSlighMansion.png.af83ac4a4c18d9254903d0dddb8f055d.png

And here is a photo of Plainfield looking north at Beechwood from what I think is also the thirties.  This is just north of Sligh Blvd.  Beechwood is the street just north of the Fat Boy restaurant.  The house on the right is still there..  Also note the sign on the left, it says Sligh Law Office:

1355628558_plainfieldandbeechwood1830s.jpg.f7e1a09b7fb9e325528f71c7ffbd610b.jpg

Here is the current Google view of the same spot:

Plainfield-Beechwood.png.18e432bb8d95f6d54c312457f6b59d7a.png

 

Edited by walker
added Google view
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The entire Ottawa Hills neighborhood used to be a golf course as well.  There was a streetcar that went down Franklin that you could take to get there.  I wonder how long it will be until Ken Country Club FINALLY sells to a developer.  That property has so much potential and an awesome location.

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