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Chapter XXXIII.

Public Buildings.

The Government Building.

Up to November, 1879, the Grand Rapids Postoffice was a moveable institution. In the beginning the fur traders and missionaries here depended mostly upon Indian scouts for their communication by correspondence with the civilized world. The first post office was at the mission station the west bank of the river, established in 1832. It stood a few rods south of Bridge street, and a Postmaster was appointed in December of that year. After settlers began to come in and the inconvenience of bringing letters across the river in canoes began to be felt, Joel Guild acted as deputy or clerk, and in 1834 the reception and delivery of mail matter was conducted at his house, where the National City Bank is. In his books of that year appear numerous accounts with settlers here and up and down the river; such as charges of postage on letters at rates from 12 1/2 to 25 cents, and quarterly postage on newspapers, from 12 1/2 to 18 3/4 cents. The quarter beginning July 1, 1834, shows a list of thirteen newspapers taken by residents of the valley. Of course there were all eastern papers, as none were then published in this part of Michigan. In 1836 the office was removed to the east side of the river, and was kept at the house of the Postmaster, Darius Winsor, at the corner of Ottawa and Fountain streets, where now is the New Aldrich Block. The contents of the mail bag were not then very extensive, scarcely more than could be accommodated in Mr. Winsor’s capacious waistcoat pocket, which the people sometimes facetiously called his postoffice. He soon removed the office to a point on Monroe street nearly opposite Waterloo. The next move was in 1838, to a little building on the west side of Prospect Hill at Lyon street. A rough wagon road wound its way nearly up to the office from the west, while the approach from the east was by a foot path over the top of the hill. Its subsequent moves were: In 1841 to Canal Street, just south of Lyon; in 1844, to the south side of Monroe street above Waterloo; in 1846, to the east corner of Canal and Pearl streets, where now is the Lovett block; in 1849, from the corner a little north on the east side of Canal street; in 1853, two doors further north; in 1857, to Exchange Place or alley (Arcade), midway between Pearl and Lyon street; in 1861, to the McReynolds Block, corner of Lyon and the Arcade; in 1868 to the Eagle Building, north side of Lyon, between Canal and Kent; and thence, November 15, 1879, to the new Government Building, where it now is. From the small sack carried by the Indian scout or his pony in 1833 to the wagon loads of pouches and bags now coming and going almost hourly, the grown of the postal business here has only kept even pace with that of the community and its lively social and business interests.

The names of Postmasters, here, and the dates of their appointment, as shown by the Bond Division of the Postoffice Department, are as follows: Grand Rapids, Leonard Slater, appointed, December 22, 1832. Name of the office changed to Kent, September 1, 1836, and Darius Winsor appointed. Alfred D. Rathbone (at Kent), July 11, 1838. James M. Nelson (at Kent), September 4, 1841. February 6, 1844, name of the office changed back to Grand Rapids, and James M. Nelson continued as Postmaster. Truman H. Lyon, April 9, 1845. Ralph W. Cole, March 26, 1849. Truman H. Lyon, March 25, 1853, and re-appointed February 21, 1856. Harvey P. Yale, September 29, 1857. Noyes L. Avery, March 27, 1861. Charles H. Taylor, August 24, 1866. Solomon O. Kingsbury, March 11, 1867. Aaron B. Turner, April 9, 1868. Peter R. L. Peirce, March 19, 1877. (Mr. Peirce died November 12, 1878, and Martin L. Sweet, one of his sureties, took charge of the office till his successor was appointed.) James Gallup, December 18, 1878. Heman N. Moore, December 20, 1882. James Blair, September 29, 1885. George G. Briggs, April 2, 1890. The office became "Presidential" (appointment subject to the President and Senate) February 21, 1856, with salary at $1,000 per annum. Prior to that, appointments were made by the Postmaster General.

Very soon after the close of the War of the Rebellion the Senators and Representatives in Congress from this part of Michigan, began efforts to secure the establishment and construction of a Government Building in Grand Rapids. It was not until about 1872 that they succeeded in giving a s tart to the work. Early in 1873 a commission was appointed on the selection of a site. It was composed of nine persons, to-wit: S. L. Withey, C. C. Comstock, T. D. Gilbert, and Henry Fralick of Kent County, L. V. Townsend of Ionia, Hezekiah G. Wells of Kalamazoo, I. V. Harris of Ottawa, A. P. Alexander of Van Buren and L. G. Mason of Muskegon. These Commissioners advertised for proposals for a site, and received ten, which were opened May 2, 1873. As a matter of comparison, a statement of several of these proposals, with prices, is of interest. They were as follows: The Catholic Church property, 132 feet square, south corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, $55,000. Corner of Ottawa and Crescent avenue, 100 by 108 feet, part of the present County Court House site, $15,000. The Shepard property, corner of Fountain and Ionia, where Hartman Hall now is, 132 by 180 feet, $27,700. Parcel 132 by 170, corner of Pearl and Ottawa streets, fronting west and south, 130 by 190 feet, $39,250. Corner of the same streets, 100 by 167, fronting east and south, $27,000. A piece 126 by 135 (the Dr. Platt property), fronting east and north at the corner of Division and East Fulton streets, $25,000. The other three proposals were of property some distance from the center of the city, and at merely prices.

After examination of the several premises, the Commissioners made report of their preference for three, without recommending any, in the following order: First, that fronting east and south at the corner of Pearl and Ottawa; second, that fronting west and south at the corner of Lyon and Ottawa; third, that where the Hartman Hall now stands. The Treasury Department rejected them all, and having caused some further examination by the Supervising Architect, the Secretary of the Treasury issued an order January 12, 1874, for the condemnation of three parcels from which the Government would choose. These three were: First, the block bounded by Lyon, North Division, Pearl and Ionia streets; second, parcel 124 feet deep east of Ottawa street between Pearl and Lyon, where the Houseman Building now is; third, eight lots where the City Hall now stands. Jurors were drawn, and appraisals made as follows: For the first, $68,064.85; for the second, $76,020; for the third, $50,501. The Treasury Department in April selected the first of these, where the Government Building now stands, and Congress, before adjournment in June, appropriated $70,000 for the site.

Preparations were then made for the building. Excavations for the foundations were finished in the spring of 1876. A little more than three years then elapsed before the completion of the building. John R. Steward was the Superintendent of Construction. The mason work of the walls was done by John S. Farr & Co.; the plumbing and roofing by Shriver, Weatherly & Co., and the painting by A. H. Fowle. Nelson, Matter & Co. furnished the curtains. The joiner work was done by parties in Baltimore. The tile flooring was procured from Cincinnati, and the door trimmings and gas fixtures from Philadelphia. Smith & Co., of Chicago, were the plasterers. The grounds were subsequently handsomely graded, which required a great deal of filling, the site being partially in a ravine, sunken and swampy, where was formerly the outflow from a mudhole pond that existed between there and Fountain street. The entire block was encircled by a handsome pavement of imported stone, with inside beveled stone coping, on which was placed an iron fence. The total cost of, or aggregate of appropriations made by Congress for, this structure up to the fall of 1878, including that made for the site, was $212,000.

The Postoffice Building was finished, and occupied by the Internal Revenue and United States Court officers, September 1, 1879, and the first court session there was help October 7. The Postoffice was moved there on the 15th of November following. The dimensions of the structure are 126 feet north and south by 63 feet east and west. It stands 60 feet equidistant from Pearl and Lyon streets, 38 feet from Ionia, and 86 feet from North Division. In the basement is the apparatus for heating, by a combination of the hot air flue and radiator systems; from which the large smoke pipe of cast iron is carried up through the building and enters the chimney in the attic. In the basement, also, are the fuel rooms, with capacity for eighteen car loads of coal; closets and lavatory for the public, and rooms for the occupants of the building. Above, the entire first floor is occupied by the Postoffice. On the second floor are the offices of the principal Government officials stationed here, including Collector of Internal Revenue, United States Marshal and United States District Attorney. On the third floor are the Court and Jury Rooms of the United States Circuit and District Courts for the Western District of Michigan. The interior finish is fine and substantial, comporting with the style and character of so massive a building. Several varieties of American woods are represented in the casings and doors, butternut mouldings being a prominent feature. Desks, tables, chairs, and other furniture are largely of black walnut and oak. The tile flooring is of tasty pattern. The door trimmings are of solid bronze, and the gas fixtures of handsome and ornamental designs in burnished copper and nickel. In architectural design the building is similar to many others of its kinds erected by the Government throughout the country. The surrounding grounds are well kept, and at current prices of real estate are probably now worth more than the superstructure.


For several years and up to 1837 the only regular mail into Grand Rapids came from the direction of Detroit, and that was rather irregular in the route traveled and time required for its passage. It was brought at first by scouts or runners, sometimes on foot, sometimes with a horse or pony, and very seldom in a carriage of any kind. The average frequency of mail arrivals was less than one week. A little later mails were brought on horseback by way of Gull Prairie or Kalamazoo as often as once a week. There was little occasion at that time for mails from any other direction than south and east. In 1837 contracts were made for bringing the mail from Battle Creek by stage twice a week; the stipulated time being twelve hours, with a provision allowing for delays by stress of weather, under which it not infrequently amounted to thirty-six hours. The stage of the period was usually the old fashioned, cumbrous, lumber wagon, generally carrying passengers as well as mail. It was not until August, 1846, that a daily mail from the east by way of Battle Creek was established, and this for two or three years was sometimes nearly two days in getting through. In 1841, mail arrivals here were once a week from Kalamazoo, Howell, Grand Haven and Austerlitz (the latter place being in Plainfield Township, this county), and once in two weeks from Jackson. In the fall of that year mail service from Kalamazoo twice a week was established. In 1842, routes were established from Grand Rapids via Lake Alone (Green Lake) to Middleville, and by Allen’s Corners, Lake Alone and Barnes’ Mill to Kalamazoo, and also from Grandville to Port Sheldon. In 1843 there were three stages a week from Battle Creek, but the newspaper complained that there were only two mails a week. In 1844 the route between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven was changed from the south to the north side of the river. In 1846 there were lettings for mail service once a week to Lyons, to Ionia, to Grand Haven (two routes, one on each side of the river), to Kalamazoo, to Paw Paw, to Muskegon Mills in Newaygo county, to Lincoln’s Mills in Montcalm county, and three times a week to Battle Creek. New postal routes were established in September, 1850, to Lyons, to Ionia, to Muskegon and to Mackinac. From this time forward forward mail service was established on new routes nearly every year, in various directions from the city, until the advent of railroads. There were daily mails during the summer season both up and down the river, and throughout the year several from the southward. The railroads as fast as they came in furnished new and increased facilities, each of them bringing nails at least twice a day.

From the pocket office of Postmaster Winsor to the present palatial one in this city, the growth of our postal accommodation is worthy of study. It was said that his vest pocket would hold the entire letter contents of any incoming mail, and it is not recorded that there was about his clothes a single single-box or drawer, or even a case of pigeon-holes. Now, these appliances fill the largest apartment in the Government Building, at one door of which comes and goes a steady file of mail bags, and at the other an equally constant procession of citizen customers, while the business gives employment to a small of checks and carriers. In the first quarter of 1868 the delivery of letters averaged about 1,200 daily, and in the office, which was then in the Eagle Building, were 2,134 boxes and 530 drawers, of which about two-thirds were in use. At the end of 1872 the proportions were changed. There were then 1,896 pigeon holes and 2,880 drawers. The introduction of the carrier system greatly decreased the demand for office boxes. In the present building there are 580 call boxes, 180 lock boxes and 44 unused drawers.


The free delivery system by carriers was established September 1, 1873, with the following force: John Sonke, Raymond McGowan, C. W. Bignell, C. L. Shattuck and J. F. Lamoreaux. The salary of the letter carriers at the time was $600, to be increased $100 at the end of the first year and $150 at the end of the second year. The present pay is $600 the first year, and after that $850. They work eight hours a day. Carriers in 1888: James De Young, Edward Riordan, H. M. Patterson, George F. Blickle, Paul Blickle, Samuel Harting, Julius Caesar, Alex. McDonald, Charles W. Dolan, J. Wesley Jones, Christ McNally, James Cronin, Willard S. Berry, F. P. Whitman, Wm. J. Heyboer, Daniel F. Clark, Ernest J. Sigler, Harry S. Wilson, Herman Warrell, John M. Hendricks, John A Risedorph, Alvin Z. Holmes, John Redmond, Asa H. Wells, Dennis T. Berry, Frank J. Fisher, Michael J. Concannan, John Sonke.

As clerk or assistant in the Postoffice, Charles Mosely had a long experience, beginning in 1849 and subsequently serving with several different postmasters. Since 1876 Martin R. Melis has been Assistant Postmaster.

The growth of business at the Grand Rapids Postoffice is illustrated in some measure by the following figures: In 1872 the money order footings as published in the daily papers showed, orders issued, $67,961.04; orders paid, $125,338.72. In 1888--orders issued, $149,204.98; orders paid, $393,370.25. General business--In1872, receipts, $32,871.06; expenses, $11,993.35. In 1888, receipts, $98,083.27; expenses, $35,697.89. For the five years from 1885 to 1889, inclusive, the Postoffice Department reports from this postoffice show:

Year Ended - Receipts - Expenditures

June 30, 1885 - $71,479.30 - $27,828.60

June 30, 1886 - $29,028.14 - $29,730.28

June 30, 1887 - $86,593.77 - $33,089.31

June 30, 1888 - $98,083.27 - $35,697.89

June 30, 1889 - $112,795.51 - $40,105.13

Totals - $147,979.99 - $166,451.21


The Internal Revenue service in this Fourth Collection District of Michigan was organized in the fall and winter of 1862-63. Its headquarters have been continuously in this city. It had several removals, and on the completion of the Government Building was permanently located here. The work of organizing was done by the first Collector or under his supervision. The Colllectors and their terms of office have been: Sept. 2, 1862, to Oct. 1, 1866, Aaron B. Turner. Oct. 1, 1866, to March 4, 1867, Robert P. Sinclair. March 4, 1867, to April, 1, 1867, Thompson Sinclair (Acting). April 1, 1867 to Sept. 1, 1882, Sluman S. Bailey. Sept. 1, 1882, to June 27, 1885, Charles W. Watkins. June 27, 1885 to July 12, 1889, George N. Davis. July 12, 1889, John Steketee was appointed Collector.

Assessors--August 5, 1862, to Sept. 21, 1866, Alonzo Sessions. Sept. 21, 1866, to March 4, 1867, George S. Cooper. March 4, 1867 to March 20, 1867, John B. Hutchins (Acting). March 20, 1867, to June 2, 1873, Westbrook Divine. At the last named date the office of Assessor was abolished.


An agency for the payment of pensions was located at Grand Rapids in 1866. The Pension Agents have been: From March 1866, to April 21, 1869, George W. Allen, from April 21, 1869, to July 1, 1877, Thaddeus Foote. By an Executive Order dated May 7, 1877, the Grand Rapids Agency was abolished and its pensioners transferred to the rolls of the Detroit agency from and after July 1 of that year. The Agents at Detroit since then have been: Samuel Post, appointed March 15, 1873, and served till Nov. 7, 1885; and Robert McKinstry, appointed Nov. 7, 1885.

George W. Allen was born at Enfield, Conn., Sept. 13, 1813, and came to this city in 1853; was a merchant for upward of a dozen years; was the first Pension Agent for this part of Michigan, appointed in 1866, and has served in other public offices. As a business man he has been connected also with banks and with manufacturing.


Agitation for several years on the subject of erecting by the State of Michigan a refuge for disabled, decrepit, aged and indigent soldiers, culminated in the passage of Act. No. 152, Session Laws of 1885, approved by June 5, 1885, which provided for the "establishment of a home for disabled soldiers, sailors and marines, within the State of Michigan." Under the provisions of this Act the Governor appointed as the Board of Managers, A. T. Bliss, of Saginaw, and Samuel Wells, of Buchanan, for six years; Byron R. Pierce, of Grand Rapids, and Charles A. Remick, of Detroit, for four years; and Michael Brown, of Big Rapids and Charles Y. Osburn, of Marquette, for two years. By virtue of his office, Governor Russell A. Alger was Chairman of this first Board. By the same Act, an appropriation of $50,000 was made for maintaining the Home for the years 1885 and 1886. The first work before the Board was the selection of a site. They had before them sixteen propositions from as many different points in the State. After careful examination the Board selected Grand Rapids as the locality for the Home. This was August 22, 1885. The proposition from Grand Rapids included an offer of several different pieces of land for the building site. At a subsequent meeting the Board determine to build upon the "Burchard Farm," near Reeds Lake, if the city would construct and maintain proper sewerage. This proving impracticable, that farm was abandoned and a new site selected on the "Nelson Farm," three miles north of the business center of the city. The tract, comprising 132 acres, was purchased by citizens of Grand Rapids at a cost of $16,500 and deeded to the State. The amount was made up, chiefly in small subscriptions, by upward of 450 persons.

Plans and specifications were advertised for, a premium of $1,000 for the best and $800 for the second best being offered. A number were received. That of F. W. Hollister, an architect of Saginaw, was accepted and adopted, and the first premium award to him. Proposals for the construction of the building were then solicited, in response to which eight bids were received. January 27, 1886, the bids were opened and the contract was awarded to Charles Tiedke, of Saginaw, at $99,667.57, he being the lowest responsible bidder. March 15, 1886, ground was broken for the excavation for the building. April 13 the first stone was laid. June 3, the corner-stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies, but without special public demonstration. In it was placed a sealed box containing: Michigan Manual, 1885 and 1886; official report of the Nineteenth Annual Encampment, Grand Army of the Republic, held in Portland, Maine; report of the Sixth Annual Reunion of Soldiers and Sailors of Southern Michigan; roster of the G.A.R., 1885-86, Department of Michigan; copies of current local railway time tables and reports; Charter of the city of Big Rapids; memorial by Pennoyer Post, G.A.R., Saginaw; "Michigan, My Michigan," poem by Major J. W. Long; memorial lines by Colonel Samuel Wells, Manager of the Home; copy of Governor Alger’s first message; copy of the law authorizing the establishment of the Soldiers’ Home; copy of Daily Eagle of November 30, 1885, with list of contributors for the purchase of the site; copies of the Democrat and Telegram-Herald, and the following sentiment penned by Major and Justice of the Supreme Court A. B. Morse: "This day the corner-stone of Michigan’s best and latest testimonial to the worth and services of her sons in the war for the suppression of the Rebellion and the re-establishment of a United Government will be laid; a Home for the disabled and enfeebled veterans who lost their health and energies in defense of our homes. May it stand forever!"

Pending the construction of the building, temporary arrangements were made as provided by law for the care of the indigent soldiers, and applications for admission began to come in at once, the first admitted being John Wright, Fourteenth Michigan Infantry, Sept. 11, 1885. Colonel Samuel Wells, Manager, was selected to have charge of the temporary Home. The office was first opened in Lansing, with Major J. W. Long as clerk and book-keeper, but August 31, 1885, was removed to Grand Rapids, and remained in the city until the completion of the Home, and on January 1, 1887, was again moved to the new building. During the interval, before occupying the new Home, 454 were admitted. The conditions of admission were: A declaration from the applicant, stating that he served as a soldier or sailor in the Union army or navy during the late civil war, and, that if he did not serve in a Michigan regiment, that he was, on the first day of June, 1884, an actual resident of the State of Michigan; also, a statement of his military service, number of enlistments, age nativity, occupation, married or single, and name and address of nearest living relative. This was followed by a declaration of his disability; a statement as to the amount of his pension, the affidavit closing with an obligation to obey and abide by the rules and regulations of the Home. Following this was a certificate of identification to determine citizenship, and condition as far as ability to take care of himself was concerned. A surgeon’s certificate followed this, stating the physical condition of the applicant. Arrangements for the keeping and care of inmates were first made with the Board of Managers of the St. Mark’s Home, at $3 a week per man. Soon there came many requiring hospital treatment, and for these $2 a week additional was allowed. St. Mark’s Home was soon filled, and others were established--U.B.A. Home, Clinton Home, American Home, Wilson Home, Smith Home and Nelsonwood Home. The latter was a building on the Soldiers’ Home grounds, which had been owned and used by James M. Nelson in his lifetime for a summer residence. At the American Home, a building formerly used as a hotel, on Canal street north of Bridge, a general hospital was established and dispensary opened, and Dr. R. Humphrey Stevens placed in charge as Acting Surgeon.

The dedication of the Home at its completion, December 30, 1886, was an affair of unusual public interest. The building was filled. Thousands of people were in attendance. The ceremonies were opened with prayer by the Rev. Washington Gardner. Charles Tiedke, the builder, presented the structure to Fred. W. Hollister, the architect, who accepted it and in turn delivered it to Governor Alger. Next in order was the presentation of the Home by the Governor to John Northwood, Department Commander, G. A. R., for dedication. Then followed the ritualistic dedication conducted by Commander Northwood, a dedicatory address by Governor Alger, and addresses by the Hon. Bryon M. Cutcheon, by Governor-elect Cyrus G. Luce, by ex-Governor Austin P. Blair, by ex-Senator Thomas W. Ferry, and other invited guests. Between the speeches the exercises were enlivened by spirited patriotic songs and military music.

The Soldiers' Home Building is 258 feet in length, the central portion 98 feet deep, and the wings at the ends each 120 feet deep; with a basement, three stories and attics. It is admirably constructed for purposes intended. It stands fronting the river, is finely located, 38 feet above the river level, and in appearance is among the handsomest public building in the state. The foundation is of stone, the walls are of brick with cut stone trimmings, and it is surmounted by a slate roof with galvanized iron cornices. The stone masonry and brick work, and furnishing of the interior, also the plumbing and gas fixtures, were done mainly by Grand Rapids mechanics and manufacturers. The building is heated by steam and lighted by gasoline gas. It has an abundant supply of excellent water and an effective system of sewerage.

The State Legislature, at the session of 1889, appropriated for improvements at the Soldiers' Home: For a hospital $20,000, for a dormitory $12,000, for a receiving vault $475, and for a root house $725—in all $33,200—and those additions are in course of erection. The hospital is 140 feet north and 110 feet back from the main building; 116 feet front by 90 feet deep; two stories and basement. The dormitory is 60 feet south and 30 feet to the rear of the main structure, 100 feet front by 40 feet deep; two stories and basement; with an "L" at rear for laundry and bakery, 100 feet deep and one story high. Excellent provision is made for warming and ventilating these buildings.

The supervision and government of the Home is vested in a Board of Managers consisting of the Governor, who is Chairman ex-officio, and six members appointed by the Governor for a term of six years. The members (March, 1889) are: Capt. Royal A. Remick and Gen. Russell A. Alger of Detroit (terms expire June 12, 18890; Col. Aaron T. Bliss of Saginaw and Col. Samuel Wells of Grand Rapids (terms expire June 12, 1891); James A. Crozier of Menominee and Michael Brown of Big Rapids (terms expire June 12, 1893). Officers of the Board: A. T. Bliss, Treasurer; Michael Brown, Clerk. Officers of the Home: Byron R. Pierce, Manager; James W. Long, Clerk and Adjutant; Dr. R. H. Stevens, Acting Surgeon; Chester B. Hinsdill, Commissary; E. P. Everett, Chief Engineer.

In April, 1886, the Board of Managers located a Soldiers' Home Cemetery. The site comprises five acres near the northwest corner of the grounds, on which is an oak grove. The plat of the cemetery is in the form of a maltese cross, on each of four sections of which are laid out spaces for 262 graves; in all room for 1,048 interments. There have been (August, 1889) upward of a hundred and thirty deaths at the institution, of whom about three-fourths were buried at the Home Cemetery.

Deaths of Inmates of the Soldiers' Home (Baxter 1891)
Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan

Last Name, First Name, Co., Regiment, Date of Death, Year
Ackley, John, D, 8th Michigan Cavalry, February 25, 1889
Adams, Benjamin, C, 31st Ohio Infantry, Mary 25, 1889
Alderman, William, B, 16th New York Artillery, March 18, 1889
Ameron, James, I, 57th Illinois Infantry, May 25, 1889
Anderson, Alexander, C, 12th Illinois Infantry, May 3, 1886
Armstrong, Thomas, F, 2d Pennsylvania Cavalry, December 21, 1888
Baker, Eli, B, 10th Michigan Infantry, March 9, 1887
Bartell, Nicholas, E, 1st Michigan Cavalry, January 26, 1889
Bebee, Geurdon, C, 8th Vetern Reserve Corps, June 15, 1889
Bills, Albert, K, 1st U. S. Sharp Shooters, March 31, 1889
Black, John S., J, 8th Michigan Cavalry, March 10, 1887
Bolin, Cairo, B, 102d U. S. Colored Troops, May 11, 1887
Briggs, Jason, J, 29th Ohio Volunteers, August 9, 1887
Brown, George, E, 8th Michigan Infantry, May 30, 1887
Bruno, William, , 20th U. S. Colored Troops, June 19, 1888
Bunker, Mortimer, D, 8th Michigan Infantry,  April 28, 1887
Carroll, Charles, , Not an inmate, August 15, 1886
Cassidy, Barney, D, 3d Michigan Cavalry, October 13, 1886
Champagne, Pierre, K, 147th Illinois Infantry, February 24, 1888
Coleman, James L., , 77th Pennsylvania Infantry,  February 23, 1887
Coleman, John C., F, 10th Michigan Cavalry, December 29, 1885
Collins, Michael, A, 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters, December 5, 1885
Cooke, Gabriel, F, 12th Michigan Infantry, September 1, 1886
Cooper, Wesley, C, 137th New York Infantry, November 14, 1888
Corbin, Nathaniel, K, 9th New York Artillery, January 19, 1888
Craig, Vernon, G, 6th Iowa Cavalry, February 26, 1888
Crandall, Charles H., F, 11th Michigan Infantry, April 15, 1886
Crawford, Alonzo P., A,  Battalion U. S. Engineers, January 9, 1889
Cushing, Alonzo, I, 9th Michigan Infantry, September 2, 1886
Daniels, Francis, , Lieutenant 7th Michigan Infantry, December 27, 1887
Decker, John, H, 10th Michigan Infantry, August 19, 1887
Demont, Noah, L, 1st Michigan Engineers and Mech's, December  4, 1886
Densler, John L., D, 29th Michigan Infantry, May 1, 1887
Derby, Leonard, D, 30th Michigan Infantry, February 10, 1889
Drew, James, K, 19th Wisconsin Infantry, January 4, 1889
Elliott, William D., I, 29th Ohio Infantry, September 13, 1888
Emmett, Dagobert, D, 28th Michigan Infantry, January  28, 1888
Estes, Jerome, D, 61st Massachusetts Infantry, March 31, 1889
Fenton, George W., G, 6th Michigan Infantry, October 4, 1885
Fox, Daniel, A, 2d Maine Cavalry, January 22, 1888
Frost, David, F, 15th Michigan Infantry, January 25, 1886
Gaines, Oscar O., H, 1st Michigan Infantry, September 11, 1887
Gereaux, Louis, F, 11th U.S. Infantry, November 10, 1888
Gibson, Asa, E, 4th Michigan Cavalry, December 10, 1888
Gillett, William B., I, 10th Michigan Infantry, July 23, 1886
Gordonier, John W., I, 2d New York Mounted Rifles, October 28, 1887
Gregory, Tuthill R., E, 3d Michigan Cavalry, December 7, 1888
Hall, Othniel, E, 4th Michigan Cavalry, November 23, 1886
Hayes, Sanford E., I, 65th Illinois Infantry, December 25, 1888
Heptner, Paul, , 9th Michigan Cavalry, December 25, 1888
Hibbard, Charles W., K, 4th Maine Infantry,
Higgins, Peter, C, 5th  Michigan Infantry, September 29, 1886
Higgins, W. S., A, 20th Michigan Infantry, September 20, 1887
Hudson, Hezekiah, E, 46th Ohio Infantry, June 7, 1889
Hull, John, , U. S. S. Keystone State, June  13, 1888
James, Silas, D, 13th Michigan Infantry, June 29, 1887
Johnson, Bradley, F, 10th Michigan Infantry, December 22, 1888
Kieley, Michael, B, 14th Michigan Infantry, November 18, 1887
Kilmer, Nelson, C, 21st Michigan Infantry, January 3, 1886
Kimball, Lovell, I, 50th New York Engineers, November 26, 1888
Knowles, George, I, 29th Michigan Infantry, April 17, 1887
Lambert, Samuel, E, 9th Michigan Infantry, April 22, 1888
Lang, Rheinhold, A, 16th Michigan Infantry, December 13, 1886
Leavitt, Lester W., C, 29th Ohio Volunteers, March 24, 1886
Lindsley, Charles, F, 6th Michigan Inf'ry (Heavy Artillery), July 12, 1889
Long, John R., A, 16th Michigan Infantry, October 8, 1886
McDonald, Angus, K, 1st Colorado Cavalry, January 21, 1888
McDonald, Hugh, F, 1st Michigan Engineers and Mech's, October 22, 1887
McMaster, Marcus, E, 129th Indiana Infantry, July 18, 1889
McNamara, Dennis, I, 1st Michigan Engineers and Mech's, October 29, 1888
McWilliams, William G., B, 106th New York Infantry, February 20, 1887
Maule, Uriah,  C, 10th Michigan Cavalry, December 20, 1887
Mawby, William H., G, 52nd New York Infantry, May 23, 1887
Mapes, Samuel, B, 21st Michigan Infantry, July 18, 1889
Markham, Bradley, L, 1st Michigan Light Artillery, June  22, 1889
Merrick, James C., B, 23rd Michigan Infantry,  June 21, 1886
Millard, George I., K, 2d Michigan Cavalry, January 30, 1889
Monch, William, L, N.Y.S.M., February 7, 1887
Moore, John, B, 90th New York Volunteers, June 1, 1886
Morrill, Andrew J., B, U.S. Engineer Corps, April 6, 1886
Morris, Monroe, , Steamer Cairo, U.S. Navy, December 24, 1887
Newcomb, Arrian, C, 10th Veteran Reserve Corps, May 4, 1887
Nichols, William, A, 11th Veteran Reserve Corps, April 23, 1886
Nixon, Sanford B., M, 1st New York Light Artillery, February 25, 1889
Northrop, James B., F, 2d Ohio Infantry, March 13, 1889
O'Day, Andrew, A, 17th Kentucky Cavalry, April 17, 1886
Olin, Oliver B., F, 105th New York Volunteers, March 11, 1886
Osborne, George, C, 9th Michigan Cavalry, April 17, 1886
Pfifer, Antoine, G, 16th Michigan Infantry, December 31, 1887
Pine, Daniel W., E, 122d New York Infantry, April 8, 1889
Praigg, Samuel, H, 11th Michigan Infantry, September 14, 1887
Presley, Francis M., E, 10th New York Artillery, November 28, 1888
Purdy, Heman, K, 4th Michigan Cavalry, December 20
Quackenbush, Eben, B, 1st Michigan Cavalry, December 20, 1886
Reiner, Christian, B, 1st Michigan Light Artillery, March 18, 1887
Robinson, Dewitt C., A, 8th Michigan Cavalry, October 25, 1887
Rosencrans, Jay, B, 29th Michigan Infantry, June 4, 1887
Sanford, Timothy R., K, 19th Ohio Volunteers, March 16, 1886
Schun, Leonard, H, 155th Indiana Infantry, May 10, 1887
Scott, George, G, 15th Michigan Infantry, March 13, 1888
Scribner, Jacob H., I, 105th Indiana Infantry, April 15, 1889
Shadil, Charles F., D, 82d Ohio Infantry, March 24, 1887
Sharples, Joseph, K, 91st Indiana Infantry, March 24, 1887
Shed, Charles, F, 1st Michigan Engineers and Mech's, November 3, 1887
Shintler, Levi, , 14th Battery Mich., Light Artillery, October 19, 1887
Simson, Vinson, L, 3d Michigan Cavalry, June 24, 1889
Smith, Eugene A., B, 8th Michigan Cavalry, March 11, 1888
Smith, Robert K., D, 5th Michigan Infantry, August 29, 1886
Spencer, Abner J., D, 22d Michigan Infantry, January 26, 1888
Spencer, Sylvester, H, 24th New York Volunteers, February 6, 1886
Sprague, Charles, D, 28th Michigan Infantry, September 2, 1887
Stebbins, Harding, C, 9th Michigan Cavalry, August 28, 1886
Strong, Henry N., , 4th Michigan Infantry, August 6, 1886
Studelman, Franz, B, 29th Michigan Infantry, June 15, 1887
Thayer, John, A, 10th New Nork Heavy Artillery, June 27, 1889
Thompson, Morgan, H, 19th Wisconsin Infantry, March 28, 1889
Tooker, George W., J, 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, April 27, 1889
Tucker, George, F, 102d U.S. Colored Troops, June 19, 1886
Underwood, John, H, 1st Michigan Engineers and Mech's, November 15, 1887
Van Kuren, Abraham, H, 11st Michigan Infantry, March 12, 1886
Wadsworth, Daniel B., C, 6th New York Cavalry, April 23, 1889
Weitz, Adam, K, 16th Michigan Infantry, May 26, 1889
Wendover, Henry, F, 2d Michigan Cavalry, June 8, 1889
Wheeler, Edwin, B, 12th Michigan Infantry, June 4, 1889
Wickham, Christopher, K, 5th Michigan Infantry, April 4, 1886
Wilson, Hiram A., F, 228th Ohio Infantry, February 26, 1889
Wilson, Mortimer, B, 1st U.S. Cavalry, April 2, 1886
Woodard, Myron C., B, 10th Michigan Infantry, April 2, 1887
Wright, Henry, G, 188th Ohio Infantry, March 11, 1887
Young, William, I, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers, November 28, 1887
Zeass, Lewis, A, 4th Michigan Infantry, November 19, 1887


From the beginning up to the present time, fifty-five years, the Kent County offices have been a wandering and much divided family. November 8, 1833, James Kingsley, S. V. R. Trowbridge and Charles Lanman, Commissioners appointed by the Governor of the Territory, came here to designate the place of the Seat of Justice of the County of Kent. The place selected was on what is now known as the Public Square or Fulton Street Park, and they set a stake very near the center of that ground. This was done in pursuance of an act of the Territorial Legislature passed July 31, 1830. In 1838 the county built a Court House there, in which were held the courts and county municipal meetings. A portion was used for a jail, and the Sheriff's residence was in the building. It was a two-story frame, about 30 by 40 feet in size, fronting east and west, with a hallway through the center. It had a cupola, over which was a gilt ball. It was built by Sylvester Granger and William I. Blakely; contract price, $3,000. It was destroyed by fire July 12, 1844, and was replaced by a smaller, one-story building, with a single room and entrance hall, somewhat in the fashion of a country school house. This was used for County Court purposes and meetings of the Board of Supervisors for about six years. Its cost was only $300. It was also used for school purposes by the Grand Rapids Academy; was the place of the annual Indian payment one or two years, and of the annual fairs of the Kent County Agricultural Society in 1849 and 1850. The annual elections, local and general, were held there for some years during the village days. The offices of the County Clerk, Register and Treasurer were never kept in either of those buildings. In 1845 the Supervisors invited proposals for the erection of a stone or brick building, but nothing tangible seems to have resulted from that.

The county ceased to use the site about 1852, and from that time until 1860 rented rooms in various quarters of the city for the Clerk's, Register's and Treasurer's offices and Court and Supervisors' rooms. Charles H. Taylor, who was elected Clerk in 1838, and held the position eight years, one testified that he kept the office wherever his place of business was, using a little desk with about twenty-five pigeonholes. The office was moved several times during that period, and in 1845 was in the Rathbone building, at the junction of Monroe and Ottawa streets, opposite the foot of Fountain street. Under Mr. Taylor's successor, in 1847, it was kept in Irving Hall, and about this time the County rented offices in the Rathbone Building for Clerk, Register and Treasurer, which were occupied several years. When the old Court House site was abandoned, the Court and Board of Supervisors moved to the west side of the river and used for some time a building erected for church and lecture-room purposes, near the end of the Bridge street bridge. A hall in Commercial Block was also used for a time. In January, 1852, the county offices were removed to the three-story frame building known as Public Hall, or Sons of Temperance Hall, on the east side of Canal street midway between Lyon and Crescent avenue. Some six years afterward the County rented apartments in the Taylor & Barns Block, where the McReynolds now is, which were used until that building was burned in January, 1860, when the records were destroyed. After that fire the County found temporary quarters in Collins Hall, in Luce's Block, the Withy Block, and other places. In that year was purchased for $1,000, on ten years' credit at 7 per cent., ground at the corner of Lyon and Kent streets, and a building placed thereon, in which have since been kept the offices of Clerk, Register, Treasurer, and for a portion of the time of the Judge of Probate and the Superintendents of the Poor. (That site had been offered free to the county in February, 1854, by its then proprietors, together with a donation of $800 toward the erection of a county building, which proposition was rejected by the Board of Supervisors.) Provision was also made for the erection of the building, by a loan of $1,000 at a rate of interest not to exceed ten per cent. In the meantime, for the use of the Courts and the Board of Supervisors, other quarters have been rented.

From 1850 until 1887 there was almost a continuous strife in the Board of Supervisors, over questions as to the permanent location of a site for the County Buildings. Counter claims arose touching the title to the so-called Court House Square, and there were divisions as to whether the site should be on the east or west side of the river. In October, 1851, the Supervisors passed a resolution selecting the west side. In 1852 the county contracted for grounds a little south of Bridge, between Front and Court streets, and proceeded to erect thereon buildings for a jail and Sheriff's residence, and occupied the same until 1872. In 1860 this question of east and west side was submitted to vote at the April election, and the west side won it, but the decision was not final. Votes, either upon questions of location or upon propositions to raise money to erect buildings, came almost as regularly as the return of election day. At the April election in 1874 was submitted a proposition for raising $150,000 by loan to erect County Buildings on the Public Square. There was a small majority for it in the city, but in the county it was defeated by 4,305 negative against 3,130 affirmative votes. January 24, 1876, the county rented of William Leppig court room and offices at $800 per annum, "for three years with the privilege of five years." The title of the county to the Public Square ground being in dispute, proceedings in chancery were instituted to test the matter, and in the summer of 1883 testimony was taken in the case. In these proceedings county and city alike took an interest, inasmuch as the city had received from Louis Campau, the original owner, a quit-claim of one-half the Square. The issue finally went to the Supreme Court of the State, where the decision was adverse to the county, but favorable to the city.

Finally, at the October session in 1887, the Board of Supervisors purchased, for the sum of $32,500, the property 220 feet front on Crescent Avenue, and extending south there from between Kent and Ottawa streets to include lots 122, 123, 116, 117, 108, 109, and the north half of lots 102 and 103 of the Kent Plat; and determined that this be "designated and fixed upon as a site upon which to erect and maintain a Court House." At the January session, 1888, the Supervisors submitted to the people a proposition to raise by loan, on the bonds of the county, $150,000 to build a Court House. The vote at the April election following of the electors of the county, was almost unanimous in favor of the loan. October 25, 1888, a contract was made for the erection of the building, with the Western Construction Company, of Detroit, for the sum of $160,000; according to plans and specifications made by Architect Sidney J. Osgood. Work was immediately commenced on the foundations. The time set for the completion of the building is January 1, 1891. The bonds, amounting to $150,000, bearing five per cent interest, have been disposed of for a premium of $7,727, to be deducted from the interest. The bonds are for $1,000 each, and payable $10,000 on the even numbered years and $20,000 on the odd, the last of them maturing January 15, 1899.

The cornerstone was laid July 4, 1889, with formal ceremonies, and the work of building is in progress. The structure has a frontage of 159 feet on Crescent avenue, and 124 feet each on Ottawa and Kent streets. From the grade line to the finial of the central tower it is to be 174 feet high. Of the builders, two of the contracting parties live outside the State, namely: Goodall Brothers, Peru, Indiana, stone work, and Streeter & Company, Chicago, iron work. The others are Grand Rapids men, to-wit: J.D. Boland, brick work; H.E. Doran, carpenter work, and Weatherly & Pulte, plumbing and steaming heating. Building Committee: R.B. Loomis, Chairman; W.D. Frost, Secretary; J.W. Walker, James Hill, John T. Gould.

JOSEPH D. BOLAND, mason, contractor and builder, was born in Ottawa, Province of Ontario, Canada, June 16, 1850. His educational privileges were those of the common school, during the winter months, until at the age of fifteen years he left it to enter upon active work, and began to learn the trade of a mason in 1866. November 14, 1870, he came to Grand Rapids. Here he labored industriously as a journeyman for some time, and being a good workman and of steady, economical habits, laid the foundation for a wider sphere of activity and responsibility. In 1873 he entered the field as a contractor and building, which ever since has been his profession, and he has followed it with more than an ordinary degree of success; having been in that capacity interested in the construction of the following named public and private buildings: The Soldiers' Home; Kent County Court House; Plainfield Avenue, West Leonard Street and Center Street public school houses; St. James' school house (Catholic); St. Andrew's Cathedral; Presbyterian Church, corner of Lagrave and Island streets; Grace Church (Episcopal), corner of Lafayette and Cherry; Blodgett's block on South Ionia; Redmond's Opera House; Leonard block, Fulton and Spring streets, the residences of E. F. Uhl, R. B. Woodcock, John Caulfield, M. J. Smiley, and W. R. Shelby, in this city; also the Club House and L.G. Mason's block at Muskegon. The structures are all testimonials to his skill and capabilities as a master builder. The Kent County Court House is not completed at this writing, but already shows the evidences of good taste, judgment, expertness and handsome and durable workmanship. Strong and muscular in build, in the full vigor of robust manhood; of easy, engaging frankness in speech and in business; with an established credit for honorable dealing and promptness in the execution of whatever he undertakes, Mr. Boland is recognized as a representative man and citizen, who has earned the respect and esteem of his fellow-men in this city of his adoption. Mr. Boland's parents were born in the county of Mayo, Ireland; his mother has passed away; his father is yet living, aged 67 years. He married in Grand Rapids, November 6, 1876, Mary Grady, youngest daughter of Henry P. Grady, a pioneer of Grand Rapids who died at the age of 84 years. Her mother, now living, is 80 years of age. Mr. and Mrs. Boland have a family of four children--two boys and two girls. Mr. Boland has kept aloof from official life and has held no public positions.


The first Kent County jail was in one corner of the Court House on the Public Square, that was built in 1838. Under an act of the Legislature, March 28, 1838, it was provided that prisoners apprehended in Ionia and Ottawa counties should be placed in the Kent County jail. After that building burned in 1844, until 1854, the county was dependent upon rented quarters for a jail. For some years the cellar under a building which stood on the east side of Canal street, between Lyon and Pearl, was used for jail purposes. During the ten years after the original jail was burned, the county was to considerable expense for the keeping of its prisoners in Barry and Ottawa counties. In May, 1847, the Supervisors advertised for proposals to build a county jail, and also for the building of one, and in May of the same year the County Clerk invited proposals for the building of a jail and Sheriff's residence. This resulted in the procurement of a site a few rods south of Bridge street, west of Front street, and the building thereon of a two-story frame residence for the Sheriff, with a jail at the rear, of heavy oak plank, sheathed on the inside with sheet iron. This was not a remarkably secure place of confinement, and there were several escapes therefrom. It was occupied and used, hoewver, from the beginning of 1855 until March, 1872. The growth of criminal business at that period of our history is illustrated by an official reporter made in 1858, from which it appears that between January 1, 1857, and October 13, 1858, there were 185 imprisonments in the building, under county and State authority, besides 215 city commitments for petty offenses against the ordinances.

At the January session in 1869, the Board of Supervisors decided to purchase for a jail site Block No. 1 of the Island addition, paying therefore the sum of $4,500, in five annual payments without interest. This property is situated on what was originally Island No. 2 in the river, which was, in 1841, purchased of the Government by Louis Campau. The jail lot now appears upon the man as bounded by Louis, Campau and Pike streets and the river. At the April election in 1870 the electors of the county voted affirmatively upon a proposition to raise $40,000 to build a jail there. In June following the Board appointed a committee of five to procure plans and specifications and report at the October session. In October plans and specifications presented by J. B. Dibble were accepted and adopted, and a building committee appointed, consisting of Isaac Haynes, Arthur Wood, Foster Tucker, Ezra A. Hebard and Robert Hunter Jr. The contract for the building was awarded to Davidson, Farr & Co., at $35,000. It was completed and accepted in March, 1872; the entire cost, including grading, sewerage and other necessary work and the cost of the site, being nearly $50,000. The county took immediate possession; the old buildings on the west side were sold and the title to the old site there reverted to its original owners.

The jail is a substantial brick structure upon a stone basement. The interior of the walls is sheathed with heavy boiler iron, where necessary for the safekeeping of prisoners. The cells are strongly built, mostly of iron; between these prison apartments and the corridors and halls are partitions of heavy iron lattice or picket work, and it is provided with the latest and most approved appliances, bars and locks. The residence and office of the Sheriff are in the building and neatly and substantially finished and furnished. Outwardly it is one among the prettiest blocks in the city, and the jail is the handsomest edifice now owned by the county (the Court House being yet unfinished).

There have been some escapes of prisoners from this jail. In the last week of July, 1875, six prisoners made their exit through a hole which they had dug in the wall. August 23, 1878, four others escaped in a similar manner and by sawing off and breaking several bars of iron. The lining of the walls with boiler iron was done subsequently, in 1884, by Adolph Leitelt. There was a curious escape in the night of September 29, 1886, of a prisoner who was confined there while awaiting trial in the United States Court, charged with burglary of the postoffice at Hart. This person bore the names of Conklin, Morgan, and several other aliases. He walked out of the jail and went through a window in the residence part, but by what means the locks and doors were opened for him was a secret not divulged if anybody knew. He certainly left no hole in the wall other than the ordinary openings. He was afterward arrested at Alpena, Michigan, upon a charge of murder, and tried, convicted and hanged, August 3, 1888, in Ohio. Almost without exception, prisoners escaping from this jail have been recaptured through the vigilance of the officers.

The following summary of the jail business for the twelve months from July 1, 1888, to June 30, 1889, inclusive, is extracted from the Sheriff's report to the Secretary of State:

Number of prisoners in the jail July 1, 1888: 19.

Received within the year: 950.

Days prisoners confined during year: 5,985.

Males committed to jail during year: 875.

Females committed to jail during year: 75.

Males under 18 committed to jail during year: 94.

Females under 18 committed to jail during year: 18.

Males committed charged with high crimes: 340.

Females committed charged with high crimes: 19.

Under 18 years of age committed charged with high crimes: 39.

Males committed charged with minor offenses: 470.

Females committed charged with minor offenses: 46.

Under 18 years of age committed charged with minor offenses: 73.

Witness detained in jail: 23.

Debtors detained in jail within year: 12.

Insane confined in jail within year: 40.

Prisoners sent from jail to State prison: 9.

Prisoners sent from jail to State House of Correction: 35.
Prisoners sent from jail to Detroit House of Correction: 7.

Prisoners sent to the reform school: 17.

Prisoners sent from jail to Industrial Home for girls: 4.

Remaining in jail June 30, 1889: 39.

Received during year who could not read: 43.

Received during year who could not write: 54.

Birthplace of males, exclusive of blacks: United States, 572; England, 41; Ireland, 66; Scotland, 8; Germany, 47; Holland, 40; Sweden, 1; Canada, 13.

Birthplace of females, exclusive of blacks: United States, 30; Germany 5, British America, 7; England, 4; Ireland, 10; Holland, 2.

Number of blacks received: Males, 49; females, 9--58.

Number of mulattoes received: Males, 30; females, 6--36.

Number of Indians received: Males, 3; females, 2--5.

Whites born in United States of foreign born fathers and mothers: 390; number with foreign-born mothers and native fathers: 271; number with foreign-born fathers and native mothers: 205.

Total received by Sheriff for board and keeping of prisoners, including attending courts, and locks and unlocks, $4,690.40.

Paid for medical attendance: $125.

Paid for clothing: $60.

Paid for all other necessary supplies: $287.

Total cost of maintaining jail during year: $5,152.40.

Amount of traveling and other expenses incurred in arresting and taking prisoners to jail: $2,370.85.

Amount expended taking prisoners to State Prison and Houses of Correction: $750.


In the township and village days the local legislative body had no steady abiding place, and the offices were seldom or never all under the same roof where its sessions were held. The first town meeting was at the pioneer dwelling house, and the first Town Clerk's office was at the house of E. H. Turner. Executive meetings of the Town Board were held sometimes at the Town Clerk's office; but usually wherever was most convenient. After the incorporation of the Village in 1838, the Board of Trustees constituted the Council or legislative body. The Clerk's office till 1846 was at the bookstore of the Clerk, John W. Peirce. In 1847-48 it was in Irving Hall Block; in 1849 in the Rathbone Building. So also the office of the Village Treasurer was usually kept by that officer at his private office or place of business, and was moved no less than nine times during the village days. The Board of Trustees held their meetings most frequently at the Clerk's office, but often at other convenient places, such as the National Hotel, Dr. Shepard's office, or the drug store, and once, it is related, on the steps in front of the Mansion House. The Trustee meetings were rather irregularly held, an interval of several weeks or even months sometimes occurring in which there would be no meeting or no quorum or no business transacted.

The city it was hoped, after its incorporation in 1850, would be able to concentrate its offices for public business, and establish with some degree of permanency a place for holding the meetings of the Council. It is so far succeeded in this as to keep them within the limits of the vicinity of Canal and Monroe streets, between Bridge and Division, with perhaps an occasional astray of the office of Controller, Marshal or Surveyor. But it was never able to gather them all under one roof until the completion of the City Hall Building in 1888, and it still lacks rooms for its Police Court.

The Common Council Room has probably been as erratic in its wanderings as any of the offices. In 1850 (the first Council) it was on the south side of Monroe, a little above Waterloo street; in 1851 at the same place a portion of the time, and at the Mayor's office; in 1852, April 13, at James Miller's office; April 20 and after at the office of Recorder Bement; in the Taylor building, foot of Monroe, 1853-55; in Commercial Block, 1856; on Lyon street, east of Arcade, in 1858; in the postoffice building, Arcade, 1859; in the McReynolds Block, 1862; in Commercial Block, 1863, and it had two or three temporary abiding places. Afterward, in 1872-73, it was in Randall Block, foot of Lyon street; then for a year or two in Powers' Opera House; in 1876 moved to Morey's Block, Pearl street where it remained until the City Hall was completed. The entrance to the Council Room when it was in the old Taylor Building, was up a narrow stairway from the sidewalk through the floor of the balcony. On one occasion of a large crowd in front of it, this balcony was overloaded with people and broke down, carrying with it the stairs. The Council was to meet the following evening, and the Clerk, Peter R. L. Peirce, was on hand early, as was his habit. Taking in the situation he procured a light ladder and mounted through the window into the Council Room. When the Alderman appeared he stood peering complacently through his gold-bowed spectacles, and blandly invited them in; having thoughtfully pulled the ladder in after him. There was a scene of much merriment, the City Fathers seeming to be impressed with the urgency of their duties as never before. They were equal to the occasion, procured another ladder and entered, followed by many other citizens, so that there was an unusually full meeting that night. Until the city began to rent rooms for the other offices, in connection with the Council Room, they were more or less migratory; that of the Clerk being unusually kept where was most convenient for his private business, but generally in or near the business center of the town. The Treasurer in the early years generally made use of the safe of some business house for keeping the funds, or later deposited them in the banks. There has never been a case of very serious defalcation or malfeasance in a Grand Rapids city office.

The effort for the acquirement of a City Hall was a long and laborious one, slow in its progress toward success. It began as early as 1854, when the first real estate purchase was made by the city for an Engine House, the Council having in contemplation the use of the second story for its meeting or for city offices. The ground was a parcel near the corner of Monroe and Spring streets, where the St. Denis block now stands, and was purchased of Jonathan F. Chubb for $450. This in 1868 was traded to Thomas D. and Francis B. Gilbert for $500 ad the east half of lot 9, section 8, Campau Plat. In 1872 the latter was sold to William B. Ledyard for $9,000, and at the same time the city bought of William Haldane part of lot 1, section 9, Campau Plat, paying $11,000 therefore. In June, 1873, the city purchased from Charles Shepard for $2,500 a strip ten feet wide adjoining this lot on the south. This site, at the southeast corner of Ottawa and Pearl streets, was sold to Daniel H. Waters, July 5, 1883, for $15,000, and on the same day the city used that money in the purchase of lots 59, 68 and the south half of lot 73, Kent Plat, at the corner of Ottawa and Lyon streets, being 100 by 125 feet of the site where the City Hall now stands. Subsequently the city purchased parcels on the north and east of this last mentioned property, as follows: September 15, 1883, from S. A. Winchester, 50 by 100 feet, being part of lots of 82 and 73, for the sum of $5,500. March 1, 1884, from John Bertsch, 50 by 150 feet, being parts of lots 82 and 73, for the sum of $7,500. July 3, 1884, from John Bertsch, 50 by 150 feet, being the east half of lots 58, 69 and 72, for the sum of $14,000; this purchase included a brick dwelling that originally cost several thousand dollars. May 6, 1885, from Anthony Bodelack, 25 by 100 feet of lot 83, for which the city paid $3,000. Thus was secured the site for the City Hall, with a depth of 175 feet and a frontage on Lyon from Ottawa to Ionia of 220 feet.

The construction of a City Hall was first declared a necessary public improvement May 10, 1873. The project then was to build on the lot at the corner of Ottawa and Pearl streets. Plans were invited for a building 60 by 90 feet in size and not to exceed a cost of $60,000, and those offered by Charles H. Marsh were adopted by the Board of Public Works, together with estimates, which were submitted to the Council and by that body laid on the table March 7, 1874. There the matter rested until January, 1879, when Mayor Henry S. Smith, in a special message to the Council, recommended the construction of a building on that site, to cost not more than $20,000, and this recommendation was repeated by Mayor Letellier in September of the same year. New plans and estimates were submitted in December, but this project was carried no further. Agitation of the subject was renewed in 1880 and again in 1881, but without practical result after the consummation of the purchase of the present site.

July 12, 1883, the Council again and for the last time declared the erection of a City Hall a necessary public improvement, and the Board of Public Works were instructed to procure plans for a building, to cost from $100,000 to $150,000. The question was again considered by the Common Council March 31, 1884, when a resolution offered Alderman Brenner to submit to a vote of the electors a proposition to raise by loan $100,000 to build a City Hall was, on motion of Alderman Gilbert, amended to read $150,000. Thus amended it was passed, and the proposition was submitted to the electors April 7, 1883, when the loan was authorized; the majority in its favor being 3,278 votes.

The Board of public works thereupon issued an invitation to competing architects for plans, limiting the number to six. Plans were received October 1, 1884, and on October 21 the board unanimously adopted those of E. E. Myers, of Detroit, and made the award to him. When the working drawings of the proposed building were completed, February 4, 1885, the Board advertised for proposals for the erection of the building. Six bids were received, which were opened March 19, 1885, and on the following day rejected and the work readvertised. Bids solicited by the second advertisement were opened April 9. That of W. D. Richardson, of Springfield, Illinois, at $185,641.68, was found lowest, but as that sum exceeded the amount voted, the bids were laid upon the table. The bidding having demonstrated that the building as called for by the plans could not be secured for the sum provided, $150,000, the Board submitted the facts to the Council to determine whether an award should be made, or plans for a less expensive building obtained. A special meeting of the Council was thereupon called for April 10, and an invitation to extend to citizens to be present. There was a large meeting, and those present unanimously voted for the erection of a City Hall after the plans adopted by the Board of Public Works; also that the contract be awarded. Immediately the Board reassembled, and awarded the contract for the erection of a City Hall as called for by the plans of Mr. Myers, to W. D. Richardson, for the sum of $185,641.68. This contract was approved by the Council April 11, 1885. The work was begun in May. The work was begun in may. The first estimate upon the contract was certified by the Board June 13, 1885, and settlement was had and final payment to the contractor August 25, 1888. The total cost of the building and grounds up to the time of its acceptance and dedication by the city, September 26, 1888, is itemized as follows:

Contract price -- $185,641.68

Extra work ordered -- $3,494.12

Architect for plans -- $6,000.00

Tiling floors -- $8,899.96

Heating apparatus and appliances -- $11,909.80

Stone walks and coping -- $10,446.15

Mantels and grates -- $1,888.10

Gas fixtures -- $3,135.21

Elevator and connections -- $3,168.58

Tower clock -- $2,231.61

Bronze work -- $1,163.12

Inspectors of work -- $5,256.00

Painting -- $461.15

Oiling floors -- $364.48

Printing bills -- $292.87

Grading, sodding, sewers, etc. -- $1,332.63

Cost of furniture -- $19,203.15

Value of real estate -- $50,000.00

Total -- $314,888.61

The laying of the corner-stone of the City Hall took place September 9, 1885, with masonic ceremonies. There was a long procession, in which the members of the Board of Public Works and other city officers and board, officers of the courts, military companies, bands, representatives of the Masonic fraternity, the architect and contractor for the Hall, and a large retinue of citizens took part. There was a great concourse of people present. The exercises were with prayer by the rev. Charles Fluhrer. George W. Thayer, President of the board of Public Works, delivered an address. Then followed the formal ceremony of laying the stone, under the auspices and according to the ritual of the Masonic fraternity, conducted by the Grand Officers of the Grand Lodge of Michigan—James H. Farnum, Grand Master. The list of articles placed in a sealed copper box and deposited in the corner-stone included: A copy of the City Charter; a copy of the City Ordinances; reports of the city officers for the previous year; report of the Board of Public Works; report of the City Surveyor on water supply; reports of the Board of Education, and of Fire and Police Commissioners for 1885; City Directory and Michigan Manual for 1885; History of Kent County, copies of the daily newspapers; copies of documents relating to the City Hall; programme of exercises for laying the corner-stone, and a variety of historic papers contributed by the Masonic fraternity in reference to the various branches of that Order in Grand Rapids and the State of Michigan.

At the formal acceptance and dedication of this building, September 26, 1888, it was thronged during the day by thousands of admiring citizens and visitors. Contractor Richardson, with a few remarks, turned the structure over to President Briggs; the latter in turn formally accepted the Hall and declared it opened for public use. Preceding this ceremony was a street procession if city officers, departments, boards and Common Council, and Mayor Weston, delivering a short address in behalf of the city officers, departments, boards and Common Council; ex-officers of the city; officers of the State and United States and of the courts; county officers and Supervisors, and officers of other cities and villages. The Hon. Charles I. Walker, first Treasurer of the village of Grand Rapids in 1838, was present by invitation and delivered an address, giving interesting reminiscences of the early days of the place. Thus at length the city was at home in a building of its own, and relieved of the building of rents for public offices.

The architect, contractors, inspectors and superintendent of the work were: E. E. Myers, Detroit, Michigan, architect; W. D. Richardson, Springfield, Illinois, contractor; Weatherly & Pulte, Grand Rapids, Michigan, mantels, grates and gas fixtures; Detroit Metal and Heating Works, steam heating apparatus and fixtures; E. Ferrand & Co., Detroit, tile work and bronze figures; Alex, Matheson, Grand rapids, stone walks and coping; Howard Watch Co., tower clock; W. E. Hale & Co., Chicago, elevator; Andrews & Co., Chicago, bronze work; A. H. Fowle, Grand Rapids, interior bronze work. The principal sub-contractors were: Interior wood finish, Bennett & Osbun, Grand Rapids; slate roof, Knisley & Miller, Chicago; plaster and stucco work, Dodge & Carey, Grand Rapids; plumbing, Weatherly & Pulte, Grand Rapids; superintendents of work, John S. Farr, and Charles Woodard. The furniture was supplied by the Phoenix Furniture Company, after designs by D. W. Kendall. This work was done under the direction of the Common Council.

The City Hall has a frontage of 160 feet on Lyon street, and is ninety-six feet deep. From the grade line to the finial top of the main tower, it is 163 feet high. The main entrance is at the center of the Lyon street front, and there are also entrances from Ottawa and Ionia streets. In the basement and upon the first and second floors there is a corridor extended through the center of the building from end to end, fifteen feet wide.

GEORGE WASHINGTON THAYER is one of those men of sturdy energy, strong, practical sense and positive convictions, who represent in their best elements the influence of New England teaching and training, of Yankee character and heredity, in Grand Rapids. Mr. Thayer was born in Burlington, Vermont, September 27, 1827. His father, Nathaniel Thayer, was a native of Massachusetts, and is described as "a man of power physique and great strength of character." His mother was Pamelia, daughter of Asa Lyon, of Shelburne, Vermont. The Lyons were an important family in that State, and representatives of the family who have made Michigan their home, of whom a large number have been among the most respected and useful members of the communities which they were a part in Grand Rapids, Detroit and other portions of the State. She is described as a "woman with a strong sense and equable temperament; and, although quiet and retiring in dispositions, exhibited a lively interest in the temporal and spiritual welfare of her family and friends." Mr. Thayer remained in Vermont until eighteen years of age, and, like most of the youth of his generation, struggled heroically for an education, and made the most of his opportunities in the schools and academy at Johnson and Burlington in the Green Mountain State. He laid the foundation then, in habits of reading and thought, of what has since become a most serviceable education. In May, 1845, at the suggestion of his uncle, the Hon. Lucius Lyon, one of Michigan's earliest and most honored representatives in the United States Senate, then Surveyor-General Northwest of the Ohio for the United States Government, he came to Grand Rapids, remaining till August of that year, when he was called to Detroit to join a party formed by his uncle for the purpose of making some explorations in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then a veritable wilderness, in a portion of which, Dr. Douglass Houghton, the noted geologist, was then making a linear, topographical and geological survey, of that region which has since become so vastly important to the whole country in its mineral and other wealth. The party coasted in an open boat from Sault Ste. Marie to Copper Harbor, at which point Dr. Houghton and party were intercepted, and where, pursuant to a previous understanding, Mr. Thayer left his uncle's party to join that of Dr. Houghton on the public surveys, his purpose at that time being to fit himself, under the instructions of Dr. Houghton, for the profession of Surveyor and Engineer. The untimely death of his patron, by drowning, in October of that year, changed his plans. Though the duties that then devolved on him, and the privations incident to such an undertaking, were arduous in the extreme, he faithfully and creditably acquitted himself of them all, and gained an experience, a self-reliance and a continuity of purpose that have distinguished him in all his subsequent career. He also found that intimate association with so eminent a scientist and so patriotic a man as Dr. Houghton, was a liberal education in itself, and so long as he lives, will he prize the memories of that association; while the knowledge he thus acquired has proved invaluable to him. Upon his receipt to Detroit after the expedition, he accepted a subordinate position in his uncle's office, and by merit won promotion until he was chief clerk in that most important Government office, and had the fullest confidence and esteem, not only of the Surveyor-General and the Interior Department of the Government, but also for the large force of his subordinates in the office. He had become attached to Michigan, and when, in 1856, the office of the Surveyor-General northwest of the Ohio was removed from Detroit to St. Paul, he resigned his position, after three months services to organize the new office, rather than leave the State. He engaged in business in Detroit for a time, but in 1861 came to Grand Rapids to find a permanent home, for his uncle had had great faith in this city, having considerable investments here, and a number of his relatives already lived here. On coming here he engaged in trade, retail and jobbing, as a grocer, and devoted his energies to his business until he retired in 1888 from mercantile life. Though it was never wholly congenial to him, though he never believed that he was specially adapted to his occupation, he acquired a modest competence and achieved a reputation for integrity and perfect fairness in business life of which any merchant might justly be proud. Mr. Thayer, though one of the most modest, unassuming men in the city, though never given to self-seeking, is so honored for his integrity, ability, rare good judgment and judicious energy in whatever devolves upon him, he has been called to serve his community in a variety of public expectations of his friends and compelled the respect and good opinion of such as differed from him on questions of politics or policy. He served the city at one time (in 1864-65), as its Clerk. In the municipal year, 1877-78, he was Mayor of the city. In 1879 he was appointed a member of the Board of Public Works of the city, and served in that most important executive body for nine successive years—longer than any one else ever has—and nearly all that time as President of the Board. He was chosen the first President of the Western Michigan Agricultural and Industrial Society, when that Association was organized in April, 1879, and held the office continuously for five successive years, until he felt constrained to insist that he had given his share of energy and time to the society, and refused a re-election; but after a rest of six years he ahs been compelled to resume his relations with those most important interests, having been again unanimously chosen President in 1890—a sufficient commentary on his great worth to the public in that position. He was for several years Manager of the first Street Railroad enterprise in this city, and proved that good business methods achieve success, and serve the public well in that sort of relation. He is now President of the North Park Street Railway, one of the suburban lines elsewhere described in this volume. In his relations to the municipality, just hinted at above, Mr. Thayer won an enviable distinction, and deserves the last gratitude of his fellows-citizens, for the most faithful, able and conscientious service. His official term as Mayor was so cleanly, creditable and production of so many good results, it was but natural to call him the honorary and onerous position of member of the Board of Public Works, which he entered upon in 1879, the next year after he retired from the Mayoralty. During the nine consecutive years in which he there served the city, many of its most important public works were devised or carried forward. That body has exclusive care of the city water works, of street improvements, of sewers, of the erection of all municipal structures save school houses, and of construction of bridges. The admirable city Hall, one of the finest and best buildings of its character on the Continent, is in no small degree a monument to his influence over his fellow-citizens, to his good taste, to his official zeal and probity, to his watchfulness and care—a reflection in enduring material of his solidity of character, his dignity and worth as a man and an official—for men's constructions are exponents of themselves. The bridges over Grand River are other examples of the work of the Board under his administration as President, and the modern engine houses of the Fire Department tell a similar story. A vast amount of other public work attests the value of his services to that city, and coming years will undoubtedly prove his public papers and utterances of more and more value, viewed in the light of experience. Mr. Thayer's political affiliations have always been with the Democratic party; yet, though he is a man of profound convictions, and adheres to parties and measures only because he believes them more useful and serviceable to humanity, he is not in any narrow or bigoted sense a partisan. Years ago, soon after making his acquaintance, the writer said to him: "Mr. Thayer, what is your religion?" A rare smile lit up his usually grave face as he replied, as a Yankee may, with another question: "How do you know that I have any religion, as you call it?" The answer made as this: "Because you live it. You have never talked about it to me, but it is perfectly apparent that positive religious convictions control your action and life." That was true then, and the many years that have since elapsed have intensified the feeling then expressed. He embraced the religious views expressed in the teachings and doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg while yet a young man, and has devoted his life since to a study of them and an exemplification of his faith. He is one of the strongest and most devoted members of the local New Church. In personal appearance Mr. Thayer is rather above the average height, of full habit and features—it can well be believed that he is the son of a man of "powerful physique." His portrait does not flatter him. He is of a nervous sanguine temperament, and of fair complexion and light eyes. He is grave, almost severe, in repose, reticent in manner and most quiet and domestic in his tastes; but when with friends, or discussing some topic in which he feels a deep interest, he is earnest, genial, persuasive in manner, his enthusiasm lights up his eyes and face, and he is felt to be indeed a rare friend, an honest counselor, a high-minded, truly religious man. October 10, 1849, Mr. Thayer married Anna Grace Cubley, daughter of John Cubley, who came to this country from Derbyshire, England. To them four sons were born, of whom three, grown to man's estate are yet living. Mrs. Thayer died in 1877, and Mr. Thayer afterward, in 1881, married Mrs. Marshall, nee Sherwood, a native of Onondaga county, New York—a daughter of Amos Sherwood, also a native of New York—who with him yet lives to assist in building up good influences and beautifying our city.

CHARLES I. WALKER, one of the earliest citizens of Grand Rapids, was born at Butternuts, Otsego county, New York, April 25, 1814. He comes from an old New England family and has inherited from his ancestors many of the qualities needed to command success amid the obstacles and hardships of a new and growing country. His grandfather, Ephraim Walker, was born in 1735, and married Priscilla Rawson, a lineal descendant of Edward Rawson, who graduated Harvard College in 1653, and for nearly forty years was Secretary of the Colony of Massachusetts, and while holding this office took a bold stand against the usurpation of Governor Dudley. Stephen Walker, the father of C. I. Walker, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1765. In 1790 he married Polly Campbell, who died in 1795, leaving two children. In the year following he married Lydia Gardner, a Quakeress, of Nantucket, who became the mother of eleven children, of whom C. I. Walker was the ninth in order of birth. Stephen Walker was a house-building, and is described in the "Book of Walkers" as a "man of fair abilities, sterling good sense, honest, temperate and remarkably industrious. He labored for the good of his family, and his ambition was to train them in the path of honor, usefulness and piety." His wife "was strong in person and character; a woman of inexhaustible energy and resources, and the care of thirteen children set lightly upon her." In the year 1812 the family removed to Butternuts, where C. I. Walker passed his boyhood. He received his primary education at the district school of his native village, supplemented by a term at a private school at Utica, New York. When sixteen years of age he began to teach school, a few months later he entered a store connected with a cotton mill at Cooperstown, New York. Leaving this employment in 1834, he made his first journey to the west, going as far as St. Joseph, Michigan. Early in 1835 he returned to Cooperstown and there engaged in mercantile business, but sold out the following year to remove to the West. After having visited Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, he finally settled at Grand Rapids, where he became a land and investment agent and built up a good business; but the suspension of specie payment, and the period of financial depression that followed, compelled him to discontinue. In December, 1836, he was elected a member and was chosen Secretary of Territorial Convention to consider the question of the admission of Michigan into the Union. He was subsequently for two years editor and publisher of the Grand River Times, the only newspaper then published in Grand Rapids. He was a member of the first Board of Trustees for the Village of Grand Rapids, elected in 1838, and is the only surviving member of that Board. In the same year he was elected Justice of the Peace, and left journalist life and began the study of law under the direction of the late Chief Justice Martin. In 1840 he was elected a member of the State House of Representative from the district comprising Kent, Ionia and Ottawa counties and the territory to the northward not yet included in any county organization. In the fall of 1841 he removed to Springfield, Massachusetts, in order to complete his law studies. He remained in Springfield until the spring of 1842, and then studied law under the preceptorship of Dorr Bradley, of Brattleboro, Vermont. In the following September he was admitted to the bar and entered into partnership with Mr. Bradley. In 1845 he removed to Rockingham, Vermont, where he succeeded to the business and practice of the Hon. Daniel Kellogg, who has been elected Justice of the Supreme Court. Three years later he went to Bellows Falls, Vermont. Here he obtained a large practice, extending into the adjoining counties, but the West attracted him, and in 1851 he returned to Michigan, settling in Detroit, where he has built up a large and lucrative practice. Soon after his second coming to Michigan, Mr. Walker began to direct his attention to the early history of the adopted State. In 1854 he was elected President of the Young Men's Society, which at that time wielded a strong influence. During 1854 he delivered the opening lecture of the society course, taking for his subject "The Early History of Michigan," in the preparation of which he was assisted by General Cass. In 1857, he took an active part in the organization of the Historical Society of Michigan. Among his historical papers are "The Early Jesuits of Michigan," "Michigan from 1796 to 1805," and the "The Civil Administration of General Hull." In 1871 he read before the Historical Society of Wisconsin a paper on "The Northwest Territory During the Revolution." It aroused wide attention from the many interesting facts it contained never before printed; was published in the third volume of the Wisconsin Historical Collection, and has since been republished in the collections of the Pioneer Society of Michigan. Mr. Walker has taken a warm and active interest in educational matters and has ever given his voice and influence to the broadest and most liberal provisions in all matters relating to educational affairs. In the spring of 1859 he became a professor in the law department of the University of Michigan, which position he ably filled for fifteen years, and then failing health and the demands of business forced him to resign. Mr. Walker was appointed by Governor Crapo, in 1867, Judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Judge B. F. Witherell. After having held office ten months he resigned in order to give his attention to his practice. Under a joint resolution of the Legislature in 1869 he was appointed by Governor Baldwin one of the Commissioners to examine the penal, reformatory and charitable institutions in Michigan, visit such institutions in other States, and report to results to the Governor. Their report, which was based upon extensive examinations, led to the passage of the law creating a Board of State Charities, of which Mr. Walker was appointed a member and acted as Chairman many years. He represented the Board at the National Prison Reform Congress at Baltimore in 1872, and at St. Louis in 1874. So thoroughly has he studied the great problems of charity and correction that he is recognized authority in various branches of these important questions. He was reared in the faith of the Quakers and observed their forms until he left home. He then became a member of the Presbyterian Church. When at Grand Rapids he assisted in organizing an Episcopal Church, was one of its officers and a regular attendant while residing here. He has since become a member of the First Congregational Church of Detroit. In politics, Mr. Walker has ever been a Democrat. He is a strong believer in the morality and advisability of free trade, and an equally strong opponent of the centralization of power. "He was an unswerving anti-slavery man and was in sympathy with the Free Soil party in 1848, and supported Van Buren. He was a hearty supporter of the Government war measures from 1861 to 1865, and in the war meetings held in that critical time to raise funds or volunteers to prosecute the war he was a frequent and influential speaker. Personally he has a pleasant, agreeable manner, with inflexible integrity and strong common sense. His life has been characterized by faithfulness to every trust committed to him. His private life has been without reproach, and in public affairs he has been unusually active, influential and useful." He married in 1838 Mary Hinsdale, sister of Judge Mitchell Hinsdale, a pioneer of Kalamazoo county. She died in May, 1864. In May, 1865, he married Ella Fletcher, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Fletcher, of Townshend, Vermont. By the first wife he had one son, and by his second two children. [See page 115.]

Document Source: Baxter, Albert, History of the City of Grand Rapids, New York and Grand Rapids: Munsell & Company, Publishers, 1891. (Name Index)
Location of Original: Various.
Transcriber: Jennifer Godwin

URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/baxter1891/33publicbldgs.html
Created: 11 October 2003