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In the year of the settlement at Grand Rapids, and in the following year, were many comers and goers, chiefly of land lookers and persons seeking for themselves homesteads in the wilderness of the West. There being no hotels, travelers made a tavern of the pioneer house almost before the shingles were on, and even of the pioneer shanty while that house was building. It was simply a private family residence, but became known as Guild's Tavern. The prominent hotels of the early village days were the Eagle, the Grand River Exchange (Bridge Street House), the National (Morton House), and the Mansion House (Rathbun).


The first hotel was the Eagle, built in 1834 at the corner of Waterloo and Louis streets, where the hotel of that name now stands. It was begun by J. S. Potter and finished by Louis Campau. William H. Godfroy was its first landlord, followed in 1836 by Louis Moran, and Canton Smith in 1838. Others in succession were J. T. Finney in 1841, Herman Leonard and Marston C. Luce about 1843-44, Charles Trompe, and Gideon Surprenant; in 1849 D. E. Fisher, then Mrs. Fisher, and after her William R. Barnard in 1853. In 1856, Washington Heath; in 1859, J. L. Heath; in 1863, George C. Evans, and then till 1871, A. R. Antisdel. For the past sixteen years and more J. K. Johnston has been its landlord. The original story and -a-half wood house was built upon and enlarged until it became a very capacious structure, and it was always a popular hostelry. It was burned February 5, 1883, and the present commodious brick building has taken its place. This was opened November 12, 1883, with a banquet. It is known far and wide as temperance hotel since Mr. Johnston became proprietor.


In 1837 a tavern was built by or for Charles H. Carroll at the corner of Bridge and Kent streets, at first called Kent Hotel, next Grand River Exchange, and about nine years later the name was changed to Bridge Street House. John Thompson was the first landlord; next Solomon Withey; in 1841, Truman H. Lyon; 1842-43, William A. Tryon; 1845-47, Joshua Boyer; 1848, Dan Moore; 1849 Milton Hyde. Gottlieb Christ then leased and kept it until February 10, 1855. when the old wood building was burned, after which he purchased the property and rebuilt of brick. The new building was opened with a ball, June 12, 1857. In 1863, Frank Boxheimer was its manager, and a year or two later purchased the property. In 1864 it was kept by Ezra Whitney. After 1865 Boxheimer was landlord until 1872, when Bonney & Persons leased and kept the house until the fall of 1876. After them came Boxheimer again, who died in 1880; and then John Mohrhard. May 1, 1883, the property was purchased by E. P. Fuller for $15,000. Mohrhard was succeeded in 1884 by John B. Brittain, who conducted it until the spring of 1888, when Rice & Kelley (Judson E. Rice and John Kelley) became the lessees and landlords. from the first small frame building this hotel has grown to be a large four story block fronting two busy streets, and it has always been the principal hotel on East Bridge street. The original was a two-story structure about 24 by 40 feet on the ground, sidewise to the street, with a portico and steps along the front, very similar in appearance to many later country taverns. For several years after its erection it was a favorite place for holding elections, both local and general.


In 1835 Hiram Hinsdill erected a building for a hotel on the corner of Monroe and Ionia streets. It was purchased by Myron Hinsdill and by him opened in 1836. It was first called Hinsdill's Hotel. Three or four years later it was purchased and named 'National Hotel' by Canton Smith, who was landlord until 1850, when he leased it and went to California. Then during three or four years its landlords were Cary & Collins, Granger & Whittemore, Granger & Hall, Granger & Mills, and T. H. Rathbun. After them Smith resumed possession, conducting the house until about 1865, when James A. and Isreal C. Smith became managing proprietors. September 27,1855, while occupied by Granger & Mills, the original house was burned, but was soon replaced by a new one of wood, four stories high. After I. C. Smith, John T. Barker, Mrs. Barker and Campbell & Beach were landlords, the latter when the building was again burned, September 20,1872. The original hotel was a neat two-story frame, with ball-room on the second floor, and a tasty veranda or portico around the first story on each of the fronts. Opposite the corner, in the middle of Ionia street, was a well and the town pump. For more than thirty years the National had been the leading up-town hotel. After the fire of 1872 Isreal C. Smith and George B. Morton became proprietors and rebuilt upon the site a fine four-story brick block, changing { picture of Canton Smith} the name to Morton House, and renting it to Pantlind & Lyon, afterward Pantlind & Co. (A.V. and J. Boyd Pantlind), who are still (1890) the hotel proprietors. In September, 1884, a half interest in the property was purchased by the Aldrich estate for $50,000. Under its present ownership the block has been considerably improved, and another story added.

Early residents have a grateful and pleasant remembrance of Mrs. Ann Smith, whose maiden name was Angell, wife of Canton Smith, who was landlady of the National Hotel while he was proprietor. She was a most excellent lady, who took a kindly and motherly interest in the care of the sick and suffering, of whom not a few were inmates of that house in those days. She was a hostess of blessed memory.


In 1834 Louis Campau built a dwelling house west of Waterloo, adjoining Monroe street. It was his family residence till 1838. Afterward it was leased by the Misses Bayless (sisters of Mrs. George Coggeshall), who kept a boarding house there. A little later it was opened as a hotel--the Mansion House--by James T. Finney, after whom came landlords, Marston C. Luce and Truman H. Lyon. Then in succession were Charles Rathbun (who changed the name to Rathbun House), Hiram Rathbun, Dorsey & Thornton, De Witt Shoemaker, Julious Granger, W. P. Mills, and Benjamin Smith, prior to 1860. From 1861 to 1866 it was run by Truman H. Lyon, Jr. In the later year it was taken by Farnham and Charles D. Lyon who managed it but a short time, when T. H. Lyon, Jr. resumed possession and retained it until 1870. In 1872 it went into the hands of A. R. Antisdel, who remained its landlord until November 12, 1885, when the house was closed, the place having been sold, and the ground became the site of the Widdicomb Block. At first it was a story and a half structure on the corner, fronting Monroe street, about 20 by 30 feet in size, to which wooden additions were made on both streets and on top, until finally it was a four story building. In 1846 a wing was added on the Waterloo street side, of stone, four stories high in which were placed the dining room, and on the upper floor a hall or ball room. The latter for some years was frequently used for lectures, concerts, and as a theater hall by the earliest organized traveling theatrical companies giving performances here. The massive building now on that spot, in its strong contract with the pioneer house and its rough stone cellar, affords a striking illustration of the growth of Grand Rapids in the years from 1834 to 1888. Charles Rathbun erected the stone addition above mentioned. He was landlord in person about seven years, from 1844, and owned and leased it afterward until 1871. Lansing K. Rathbun, son of Charles, was with his father at the hotel, and about 1851 retired to Paris township, where he has since lived, a successful farmer.


It is not the intention here to give a description in detail of all the numerous hotels or taverns of the earlier days. The four already described are prominent not only on account of priority but of their long life and indentication with the history of the city up to the present day. Yet a considerable number of the minor stopping places for the traveler and wayfarer are worthy of mention. A small wooden building on the corner of Waterloo and Louis streets where the Michigan House of early days. It was built by Charles Trompe, who opened it in the fall of 1848, and in 1850 was succeeded by John W. Robbins, and after him E. C. Saunders and Ezekiel Welch. In 1854 it was purchased by Jacob Nagele, who has since been its owner, and who built the three-story brick block now on that corner. Frank T. Warrell is the present proprietor.


In the village and early city days there were a number of small wooden taverns in and about the business part of the town, doing only a moderate but most of them a living business, in the entertainment of farmers and their horse and ox teams. One of these was a little building known at different times as the Farmer's Home, the Bender Hotel and the Courtright Tavern, situated a short distance north of Erie street, about where now is the location of 103 Canal street. Its lodging accommodations were meager, but it had a small barn and sheds at the rear, next the canal where teams were fed, and the table was usually sumptuously loaded with plain, good and substantial food, and home-made pastry for hungry customers. Among its landlords were A. Bender, Aaron Courtright, and John M. Balcom. It was destroyed by fire February 27,1857.

Another village tavern was located between Waterloo street and the river near Ferry street, called the Exchange. It was used as a public house until about 1859. Asa Pratt was landlord for several years there. Another, a little south of Erie, on Canal street, was called the Franklin House. It was kept in 1859 by P. K. Smith.

About 1848, was erected by A.W. Almy, the building since known as the Arnold House, at 86 West Bridge street. He traded it for a farm. It is still a tavern, and among its landlords have been Frank Arnold, John Wallich, Joseph Herrmann, Mary J. Beal, and Frank S. Damskey, the present proprietors.

On the west side of the river in 1852, on Court street, a little south of Bridge, was built the American, named later the Planters' House, occupied for some years by Isaac Turner, and still carried on as a hotel.

At 164 West Bridge street the Watson House was built in 1858 by John Watson.

The Barnard House, west side of Waterloo, near Fulton street, was opened in 1855 by William R. Barnard. Present proprietor, Stella S. Nellis.

The Ohio House at 182 Canal was started as early as 1858 by Valentine Richter, and by him conducted during his life, about twenty years. It afterward passed into the hands of Frederick Brogger, who has since been its landlord.

The Taylor House at the corner of Coldbrook and Taylor streets, was built about 1857 by Charles W. Taylor. It was operated many years as a hotel and boarding house, and then for other business uses.

A frame building erected in 1836, at the corner of Canal street and Crescent avenue, on the site of the present Grinnell Block, was remodeled in 1854 and converted into a hotel--three stories high, 100 feet on Canal street and 94 feet deep. it was opened in February, 1855, as the Western Hotel, by John W. Squier and Charles P.Babcock, the latter being landlord, and afterward George C. Evans, the name being changed to Bronson House. In 1863 it was kept by Aaron Courtright, who managed it until it was reduced to ashes by fire in May, 1871, and the use of that site for hotel purposes ended.

There were but a few others of this class of public houses here during the thirty years following the settlement. With two or three exceptions, frequent changes of proprietorship form a noticeable feature of their history. The later ones have become so numerous as to almost lose their individuality among the hundreds of business houses in the fast-growing city. Prominent among those of the past twenty-five years is Sweet's Hotel, which was built in 1868 and opened by Lawrence & French in 1869. They were succeeded in March, 1870, by T. Hawley Lyon. The block was lifted four feet in 1874 to the grade of the street. Lyon continued landlord of the hotel till 1878, when it was taken by T. F. Pickering, and he in turn was succeeded in 1882 bt N. C. Johnson, still its manager, widely known and popular. The building and property are owned by Martin L. Sweet.

A tavern called the Union Hotel was built by William H. Stewart in 1860, at the corner of Lyon and Kent streets, which was burned in January, 1864. In its place was built the Phoenix Block, with the Commercial Hotel, which was kept up a dozen years. In the wood building Orin Plumley was landlord. In the brick Elliott Covell, W. F. Parrish and others. It is now Livingston's Hotel.

The Clarendon Hotel, at the northwest corner of Bridge and Canal streets, was opened as the Rasch Hotel, in 1878. Edward Killean became proprietor in 1880 and renamed it. This is a neat four-story brick structure fronting 154 feet on Canal and about 85 feet on Bridge street, roomy, well ventilated and popular.

The Sherman House, corner of Leonard street and Plainfield avenue, was from about 1864 for upward of twenty years a prominent hotel in that part of the town, kept by Fred Saunders. It was destroyed about five years ago by fire.

The Occidental, later the Parnell House, Patrick Finn, proprietor, has been running some ten years, at 44 Plainfield avenue, by the depot.

Among others of recent years, have been the Hotel Weber, 142 Canal, and the Kalamazoo House, corner of Division and Oakes. The Sinclair House, 125 and 127 Canal, has changed landlords several times in fifteen years; J. B. Brittain, present proprietor; is under the management of Mrs. Brittain. There have been, also, several taverns in wood buildings near the Union Depot.

The Baldwin House, west side of Plainfield avenue, and south of East Leonard street is a capacious wood structure, which for half a dozen years has had brick business; Fred. Saunders, proprietor.

There are now some forty or more hotels, of all classes in the city. The larger ones, in appearance and furnishing, compare favorable with those of cities having twice the population of Grand Rapids. They have acquired a national reputation for hospitality in entertaining large conventions and great numbers of people. The Morton, Sweet's, Eagle, Bridge Street, Clarendon, Derby, Michigan, and New Rathbun, among leading public hotels and the Livingston, Brunswick, Vendome, Warwick, Park Place and Irving, of the family hotels, have room and facilities for the care of about 3,000 quests and patrons. Many others are popular with the traveling public.


In 1847 Henry Potts kept a few horses for hire, at a little barn just below the Eagle Hotel. To this place he had moved from north side of Fountain street, near Ottawa, where he began the business some years earlier. His livery outfit was small, cheap and plain, with no costly carriages, but seemed sufficient for the time.

In 1848 Joseph J. Baxter built a small livery barn just north of the stables of the old National Hotel, where he carried on the livery business during several years.

In 1850 George C. Evans erected a barn at the northeast corner of Fountain and Ionia Streets. It was quite large, and so well stocked with fine horses, and finer carriages than had previously been plenty, that the enterprise seemed to the villagers as a rash and extravagant venture. This building, considerably enlarged, remains there and has been used ever since in the same business. In 1859 W. R. Cady and H. P. Yale were its proprietors, and in 1867 and many years thereafter, James M. Kennedy. Its proprietoress in 1889 were Gill & Greenley.

In 1850 Andrew J. Wheelock had a small livery stable on Ionia street, nearly opposite the site of the Morton House, and during all the years since in that immediate vicinity have been from one to three livery, hack or sale stables.

Winthrop R. Cady, the pioneer here in hack running, during some thirty years after 1851, conducted a brick livery business, the greater portion of the time near the junction of Ottawa and Louis streets. He also carried on considerable trade as a dealer in horses.

Among others in the livery business between 1850 and 1870 were E. H. Cady, Duncan Stocking. N. H. Cady, S. S. Ball, Leonard Covell, Rathbun & Moore, A. Gage, Todd & Boorhem, and Watson & Klys. During ten years or more of that period there were two or three stables on the west side of Canal street between Huron and Bridge. Some later livery keepers have been Calvin L. Ives, Kent street, 1874; Klys & Shaw, corner of West Bridge and Broadway, 1874; George W. Granger, corner of Waterloo and Louis, 1874; E. A. & G. S. Ward, Louis street, 1878; John Klys, West Briodge street, 1878.

Some of the prominent livery barns and boarding and sale stables in 1888, are those of A. N. Albee, 9 Cresent avenue; Gill & Greenley, corner of Fountain and Ionia; C. E. Hodges, 42 Louis; G.V. French, 62 North Ionia; H. N. Pulver, 64 North Ionia; A. M. Rathbun, corner of Wealthy avenue and Lagrave street; E. M. Vincent, 107 Kent; C. B. Pierce, 89 West Bridge; Owashtanong, corner of Spring and Fulton, J. L. Lee, proprietor.

Andrew Tabor has conducted a hack and baggage line several years, at 66 North Ionia street. A large proportion of the hack business of the city has been carried on in a smaller way by parties running one or more carriages each.

James P. Moran in 1850 bought a livery barn very near the spot where was kept the earliest one in the village, which he operated for some years. He is now in the business (1889) at 65 and 67 Kent street.


Until the advent of railroads the hack and omnibus business as a specialty was very light. The leading hotels upon their own account ran open carriages free to meet the river boats. In 1859 Sidney S. Ball, with N. H. Cady, had a hack and omnibus barn at the corner of Waterloo and Louis streets, with a stock of fine covered carriages. Mr. Ball has followed this business for thirty years; after 1864 at 70 North Waterloo street, and since 1884 at 15-17 North Waterloo. Since 1881 Charles M. Watters has been associated with him in operating a hack, omnibus and baggage line, and in 1886 they organized the Ball & Watters Transfer Company, of which Watters is President and Ball is Secretary and Treasurer.

SIDNEY S. BALL, a stirring, active and busy citizen of Grand Rapids during thirty years and more, was born at Rochester, N.Y., October 27, 1827. His early educational advantages were meager; but in the common schools he managed to acquire sufficient rudimental culture to serve him in the business transactions of life, and he also had youthful experience at work and learned useful lessons of self-reliance and energetic endeavor. Before coming to Grand Rapids, after coming to the years of manhood, his occupation was chiefly that of railroad and canal contractor. On coming west, he arrived in this city January 21, 1856, and from that time for some four years, followed steamboating, and was then agent for the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad Company about two and a half years. Meantime, he had begun to make investments in horses and carriages for the accommodation of the public; in 1857-58 brought to this town some of the first covered omnibuses that were run here, and since that time has followed the livery, omnibus and hack business continuously and with a marked degree of success. For an omnibus barn he erected the brick building on Waterloo street opposite the Eagle Hotel, afterward for many years occupied for thestrical uses and known as Smith's Opera House. In 1882 he associated with himself Charles M. Watters as a partner, and in 1886 they organized the Ball & Watters Transfer Company, and Omnibus, Hack and Baggage line, of which Me. Ball has been and still is Secretary and Treasurer. In 1885 the establishment was removed to the other side of Waterloo street, just above the Barnard House, it present location. From the first Mr. Ball has done a lively business and has probably carried in and through and about the city more people and more baggage than any other person; always equipped with the best of carriages and of horses adapted to that business. Mr. Ball married, at Rochester, New York, November 9, 1848, Amanda N. Wood, who died in this city July 4, 1871. January 24, 1872, he married Mrs. Susan M. Gray, his present wife, at Grand Rapids. Naturally quiet and unostentatious, Mr. Ball has never sought official position, nor been active in politics. He is essentially a man of business, to which he gives strict personal attention. As a man and citizen he enjoys universal respect, and the public confidence in his trustworthiness. His share of the building up of Grand Rapids to its present stature and robustness is one upon which he may look back with no small degree of pleasure. The artificers of a livery, attractive town, are the workers, not the drones of the community.


The pioneers of this valley were volunteers in the army of occupation and progress. All men are selfish, in some degree, yet they were as near to being unselfish as in nature man can be. the women and children were packed into the rude wagon, with the ax and the hoe and the hammer, a little bedding, some clothes, a spinning wheel, the tin oven and a few other domestic utensils, and rode joltingly over the rough places, or more slowly through the miry ones; the men and the dog walked, while the patient team drew the load. Many think and speak of the early times as hard times--so they were in some sense; times of hard work, and frequently of sickness and of other hardships not now known. But they were also times of many social pleasures that were enjoyed with great relich, and a measure of cheerfulness and content not exceded in the present day. They were free from many of the ills and annoyances and fashionable labors that vex modern communities. There were few or no class distinctions. All were neighborly, and they helped one another. They endured much toil and privation; but withal enjoyed many and various ways of rest and relaxation. A social gathering in the roughest of log houses or the plainest of board shanties was a genuine feast of good will and good cheer. The raising, logging, husking, harvesting and quilting bees and the evening frolic and games were alike genuine jollities, giving zest to labor and driving dull care away. What if sometimes they lived on plain and scant fare and dressed in homespun garb? What if they came from various countries and conditions? Here they were neighbors and friends, ready with a true fellow-feeling to sympathize with each other in all the phases of socialty and open-hearted humanity. And they had numerous resources for amusement and recreation.

At first and for many years there was little need of public halls as places for social entertainment. The original cabins, whether made of logs, slabs or boards, and the better though yet cheap and modest residences which succeeded them, in the village and in the country about, were cozy meeting places for little neighborhood parties and not infrequently for dancing, games, or other social pastimes, were filled to overflowing. Some of the very early houses were logs, roofed with marsh grass, or straw, or bark, or slabs, or rough boards; had doors on wooden hinges, with wooden latches; windows of but two six-light, seven-by-nine sash, and the glass fastened with little three-cornered bits of tin or with small pegs or tacks; but even in such a building, sixteen by twenty-two feet, before a cheerful, open fire-place, was room for a French four, an eight-hand reel, or half a dozen couples in Money-musk, while as many onlookers sat or stand by the walls. And it is doubtful if the more formal, elaborate, conventional and general receptions of our modern life are enjoyed with more real, unaffected pleasure than were those plays and breakdowns of the early days. A ride out of town six, eight, or ten miles, in a lumber rigged with rough board seats, or in winter a sleigh in which the parties were snugly packed, was often a jolly frolic; and if after a 'dance all night till broad daylight' the load could be dexterously tipped over, the merriment was only so much the greater. The spirit of play rounded the rough edges of many a hard day's work. When the young man finished his task a little earlier than usual, his face betrayed his anticipation of accompanying his favorite girl in the pleasures of an evening party somewhere in the settlement. It was not all dancing; often some other sport opened the entertainment, and usually all in the house participated in the amusements----'children of large growth' as well as the stalwart young men and the blithesome maidens. Few or none were too dignified for that. They had no stock on hand of quadrille bands and string orchestras, but seldom were they without a fiddler--not a 'violinist,' but an all-alive fiddler, whose head and shoulders and heels would mask time with the cadences of the fiddle and bow. Sometimes the boys would pay him twp shillings each, more or less, according to the number present or the condition of their finances.

The fiddler was perched in one corner, perhaps adjacent to the big fire-place, or in a double loft house. The entertainment would begin with a march to some such refrain as "We're marching onward to Quebec." the company promenading by couples about the room. Some one would be placed within the circle, whose duty it was to choose a partner from the promenaders. Then there was the forfeit of a kiss and another must take his place. And the play was so timed as to give each a kiss before a change was made in the programme. There was the 'grab' play, when at the word each one would grab for some other's partner, sometimes creating much mirthful confusion; or 'hurl-burly', in which each would attempt to do something according to instructions that had been given in a whisper, and with collisions or tumbling over each other the scene would be one of 'confusion more confounded'. Men and matrons of sixty years or over will remember numerous ludicrous incidents connected with those harmless plays which now seem so silly and frivolous. But the winding up, with dancing, as men and maidens of those days did and could dance--even now something more than the mere remembrance of it is demonstrated whenever the Old Residents have a reunion party or picnic. There is probably no keener nor more satisfying enjoyment in the modern promenade, or quadrille, or waltz, than was theirs when Robert Barr called 'Down the outside!' in the Opera Reel; when John Bemis prompted, 'Swing once and a half round!' and 'Forward six!' in the Money-musk, or when Chester Turner, or Fidius Stocking, or John Powell, sang out, 'All hands round!' or 'Grand right and left!' The olden times are gone, but many gray-headed men and women love to look back upon the hours when 'Old Zip Coon' or 'Molly put the kettle on' gave the key note and inspiration to their recreations, as among the happiest in their lives.

In calicoes and keyseys clad
What cared they for silks and laces?
In friendship's ties they all were glad--
They had stout hearts and smiling faces.


Some of the early efforts in the way of theatrical playing were made at school exhibitions. About 1838 a term of school in the house on the Baptist mission ground was closed in that manner, and the village youngsters vied with each other in endeavoring to make it as good as a genuine theater. What the play was, is not recorded. They built a platform outside the building for a stage entrance, and with sheets and shawls managed to make a drop curtain for the stage. Probably without suspecting that it was the fashionably way, the actors were slow in the opening, and the boys in the audience began to whistle and stamp and hiss; when John W. Peirce parted the curtains and put his head far enough through to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, please be patient; we will soon begin; we are fixing up a woman'; whereat there was a thundering outburst of applause. The 'woman' was Aaron B. Turner, then a slim, beardless boy of sixteen years. He says it was his first and last appearance as an actress or actor 'on any stage;' yet he has acted a very creditable part since as a citizen and in public life.

The earliest place of regular resort in Grand Rapids for concerts, dancing parties, minstrel shows and other public social gatherings was in the upper part of the building long known as the Old Yellow Warehouse, erected in 1843, on the east bank of the river, some four hundred feet below the Eagle Hotel. Following that, within a few years, were popular entertainment rooms in two or three other buildings in that vicinity. The first prestidigitator or sleight of hand performer who came this way gave an exhibition in the Yellow Warehouse, and the building was packed full. In one part of his performance he lifted Warren Mills' hat from his head, and nearly a peck of potatoes rolled over that gentleman's shoulders to the floor. Then amid the cheering and stamping of feet came a crackling of timbers, and the floor began to settle. This caused a stampede for exit, and those in the audience tumbled over each other in their haste to get down stairs. Fortunately the sills settled but two or three inches and were on solid blocking. No one was seriously hurt.

The ball room of the old National Hotel, built in 1836, was a hall of fair dimensions for those days and was much used for a variety of social purpose, including dancing parties, during the next fifteen years.

In 1844, the Irving Hall was opened, and became a popular place for public assemblages of various kinds, and as a lecture room. It was also occupied for a time as a lodge room by two or three secret societies. At that time also were built the Commerical Block and the Faneuil Hall Block, each of which had a room large enough for similar uses. That in Commercial Block was afterward fitted up for a Masonic Hall and used as such for a long time. The Odd Fellows and the Good Templars also occupied it. In Faneuil Hall the Mechanics' Mutual Prottection held its sessions when organized.

In 1849 a three-story wooden building was erected on the east side of Canal street, about midway between Lyon street and Cresent avenue, in which was fitted up a hall about 25 by 80 feet in size. It was christened Sons of Temerance Hall, and afterward called Public Hall. The building was burned about ten years ago.

John W. Peirce, about 1853, built over his store on Canal street, opposite the foot of Cresent avenue, a cosy room, suitable and considerably used for public meetings, lectures, theatrical performances and dancing parties, which he named Concert Hall. Across Erie street on the opposite corner, two years later, was Collins Hall, afterward called Empire Hall, in the fourth story of a large brick block, This was a larger room than any of the kind that had preceded it (40 by 70 feet), and became popular with the public and with traveling theater companies.

In the stone part of the Rathbun House, facing Waterloo street, was a comfortable little hall, much used by lovers of the quadrille, and which was fitted up and used some weeks by the first regularly organized theatrical troupe that came this way--that of Langrishe & Atwater, in September, 1852. There was also a neat little hall in the upper part of the Bridge Street House, much used by the earlier German immigrants for their convivial and musical entertainments.

The first hall suitable in size for gatherings of a thousand or more people was in Luce's block, corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, erected in 1856. It was provided with an outfit of movable raised seats; also a stage and theatrical curtains and drops at the further end. Afterward something was added to its capacity by the construction of a gallery around three sides. This was a popular resort for a great variety of public entertainments, where large numbers were in attandance, including political and religious meetings and conventions, public lectures, theatrical performances, bazaars, and balls, for about a quarter of a century.

Ransom C. Luce has been a prominently known resident of Grand Rapids fifty years. He is the only surviving son of Marston C. and Rebecca W. Luce. He was born in Genesee county, N.Y., February 28,1822. The family came here in 1839. In 1846 he began trade as a groceryman in a small wood building on the north side of Monroe nearly opposite Waterloo street, and continued in business there some sixteen years, when, in 1863, he built at that place a three-story brick block. In 1856 he erected the first four-story brick block on Monroe street, at the west corner of Ottawa, ever since known as Luce's Block. Mr. Luce has been an incessantly busy man, financially successful, is counted among the wealthy citizens, and has always exhibited much interest and public spirit in the welfare and growth of the city. He served eleven years as Alderman in the Common Council, and one year as Supervisor of his ward, between 1858 and 1870, and has been a Cemetery Commissioner most of the time for a quarter of a century. He is a citizen whose yes or no is always positive and peremptory---a plain man, who puts on no airs and takes little heed of the changing breezes of fashion, or of self-seeking popularity.

On the west side of the river about 1847, the Rev. Joseph Penney caused a building to be erected on Bridge street, near the end of the bridge, for lecture-room purposes. It was not very large, but convenient, and used many years, some of the time as a court room. In 1853 a house built for a hotel on the west side of Court street, a little south of Bridge, was finished with a commodious hall or ball-room in the upper part. Lincoln Hall, built in 1857 by Alfred B. and Selden E. Turner, was in a brick block at the corner of Bridge and Scibner streets. It was 50 by 74 feet, and popular with social parties. It went down in the great fire of 1875 which swept through Bridge street. The upper story of the West Side Union School House (the stone structure built in 1855) was for some years used as an armory hall by the militia men, and a room for public assemblies.

A convenient and much used hall, for many years, is on the corner of Canal and Pearl streets in the Lovett Block. Among other halls of the past twenty years have been Leppig Hall, corner of Lyon street and Arcade; Armory Hall, 36 1/2 North Ionia; Arbeiter Hall, corner of Jefferson and Chatham. The halls of the Masons and Odd Fellows in the Tower Clock Block, the Lyon street, are finely finished for their uses.

At present nearly every nationality represented in the city has its club building, where the members, their wives, families and friends hold social assemblies. Among these are the club buildings of the Arbeiter Verein, on Jefferson street, costing $20,000; the turn Verein, also on Jefferson street, costing $7,000; the Germania, costing $9,000; the Casino, costing $9,000; Holland Society's Hall, $6.000; Polish, Danish, and Scandinavain Halls, costing from $2,500 to $5,000. There are also many clubs, organized purely for social purposes, that occupy apartments of no mean or insignificant proportions in public and private blocks of the city. And a large number of public halls in various parts of the city are constructed and well adapted for the presentation of theatricals, operas, concerts, lectures and public enterainments generally.

Germania Hall, at 26 North Front street, was opened October 27,1886, and dedicated with formal ceremonies and a musical concert by the German Benevolent Association, a Mutual Benefit society. It will hold an assembly of about 1,000 people.

Metroplitan Hall, built by W. T. Powers, at 57 Pearl street, has been in much request for popular gatherings, and for dancing assemblies. It was opened December 30,1880, the dedicatory performance being a children's dress carnival.


An assembly room not excelled by any for public entertainment in the State is Hartman's Hall (C. S. Hartman, owner and manager), corner of Ionia and Fountain streets. It was opened December 12, 1887. Its cost, including heating and furnishing, was about $50,000. It is on the ground floor, three-stories high, 88 by 132 feet in dimensions, and has a large gallery. Its regular concert seats number 2,300, besides which it is supplied with chairs to accommodate a convention audience of over 4,000 persons. The platform is without scenery, 25 by 45 feet. The hall is well ventilated, and acoustically its construction is excellent. It has all needed accessories of ante-rooms, ticket-office and check-rooms. In connection with it is a lecture room with a seating capacity of 500 or more, and to this are attached a kitchen and a full set of ante-rooms. Hartman's Hall is in the building called the Shepard Block, built in the same year, in which are also safe deposit vaults and several stores, offices and other apartments.


Squier's Opera House was the first regularly appointed theater in Grand Rapids. It stood on the west side of Canal street, midway between Erie and Bridge. It was built in 1859, by John W. Squier, and thereafter, until destroyed by fire in 1872, was almost constantly in use as a theater, and for lectures and public exhibitions. During that time it was the only appropriately seated, furnished and equipped theater, and was a popular place of resort.


Powers' Grand Opera House was built by Wm. T. Powers in 1873, and was opened by McVicker's Theatrical Company May 12, 1874. This was the first fully equipped modern opera house erected in Western Michigan. It is on Pearl street, in the Arcade Block, a five story brick building which together with the opera house cost upward of $100,000. The opera house as originally built consisted of three tiers, the main floor being one story above the ground, and had a seating capacity of about 1,300. In 1884 Mr. Powers enlarged it by dropping the lower floor to the ground and converting the original lower floor into a gallery, thereby making the auditorium to consist of four tiers, which are designed parquette and parquette circle, dress circle, balcony and gallery. Ample ways are furnished for ingress and egress, by a main hall of large proportions on each floor of the building, so that the largest audience can be dispersed in less than five minutes' time. The house at

(Inserted picture of Squier's Opera House-Built in 1859-burned in 1872)
 the time the enlargement was made was thoroughly refitted and seated with improved folding chairs, and new scenery, drop curtains and stage paraphernalia were provided, at a cost of about $10,000. It now seats over 1,600 people. The auditorium is 61 by 66 feet in size. The stage is 33 by 61 feet, with scene loft 60 feet in height, and is fully equipped with pullies and tackle sufficient to handle any modern drops and special scenery. The house is also provided with a stand pipe and hose connected with the city water pipes for fire protection. It is heated by steam and lighted by both gas and incandescent electric lamps.


Redmond's Grand Opera House, built by T. H. Remond, was opened September 18, 1882, by the Madison Square Theater Company. The interior is elaborately and richly finished and furnished. In style and in capacity it is among the first class theaters of the country. It has seatings for about 1,400 people, with entrances and exits sufficient for the rapid clearing of the house in case of emergency. The stage is 34 by 60 feet and thoroughly equipped with all essential appliances. The seats are folding opera chairs of the best styles. There are eleven dressing rooms nicely furnished, the lighting is electric, and the heating is done by steam. It has a stand pipe and hose ready for use in case of fire. Outwardly the building is an imposing structure, 60 feet front and about the same height, and its architecture is tasty and attractive. It is situated at 117-121 Canal street.


Wm. B. Smith opened Ball's Adelphia Theater, at 68 Waterloo street, October 25, 1875, and closed it July 17, 1885. That was not a large theater, but had very steady patronage. April 25, 1885, he began excavating at 62 Waterloo street for Smith's Opera House, which was completed and opened September 7, 1885. Its cost was $45,000. The building is 55 by 132 feet on the ground. The lobby and front offices are paved and floored with English tiling, and lighted with electric lights. The theater proper is lighted with gas and seated with Andrew folding chairs. The entire building is heated by steam. The theater is situated at the street corner and on the ground floor. The stage is 26 by 42 feet, and nicely equipped. On each side are five upholstered private boxes. The flats are 24 by 18 feet. Proscenium arch 32 feet high. It has six commodious dressing rooms and a large orchestra room. Seating capacity--parquette and circle 500, balcony 260, gallery 500, private boxes 56; total 1,316. The stage is equipped with all modern improvements and fitted for the production of all classes of theatrical plays. The building is of a pleasing style of architecture, and, though not the largest, this theater is among the handsomest in the country.

Science Hall, 59 by 61 Canal street, was erected in 1883 and opened in January, 1884. It was at first fitted up as a lecture room and for small assemblies, by an association of Spiritualists. It was then upon the second floor. In 1886 it was remodeled by taking out the stores beneath and settling it to the lower floors. The hall was reconstructed and fitted up as a theater, in which shape it had a lively run of business for a year or two, under the name of Wonderland. It has since been rechristened Lyceum Theater. Seating capacity, about 800.

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: Barb Jones
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/baxter1891/51entertainment.html
Created: 12 December 2000[an error occurred while processing this directive]