Log houses within the present limits of the city of Grand Rapids were very few. Some old residents say they do not remember any, aside from the Mission buildings, on the west side of the river. The buildings of the fur traders were of logs, either round or hewed on two sides. Those of hewed logs were called block houses.

Luther Lincoln in the fall of 1833, built a log hut north of Pearl street where now is the Arcade. An addition of frame work was afterward made to it, for a sort of boarding house, and there some of the early immigrants found temporary quarters, during several years.

Josiah Burton, in the spring of 1834, cleared a small piece of ground on the east side of Division street, a little south of Blakely avenue, and there by a brook and a spring built a log house, and near by made a garden and planted corn.

James Clark, in the spring of 1835, purchased an acre of ground and erected thereon a log house at what was then the head of Fountain Street, just east of Ransom Street. The family lived there two years, and the house remained about ten years. Beside it was a fine spring.

A log house east of Madison avenue and south of Cherry street, and a few huts south of the Eagle Hotel and along the Grandville road, with those just mentioned, compromised about all there was of the log-cabin part of the settlement.


The pioneer frame house is described elsewhere. The "Old Yellow Warehouse" was begun on the west side of the river, but moved across in the spring of 1834 on the ice. Many years later it was again removed from its original position on the river bank to Waterloo street, where it was used as a blacksmith shop, just below the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad track. The front has been remodeled; but the rest of the outside, with its dormer windows, remained in the original form until it was torn down to give place to a brick building, in April, 1889. IT was a heavy timber frame.

In 1834 several frame buildings were erected; the first being for a store, in the Indian trade, where now is Campau place, just south of Pearl Street, but a few feet from where then was the river bank. This was built by Louis Campau, who also erected a dwelling at the corner of Monroe and Waterloo streets. The Eagle Hotel was built the same year; also a small store at the east corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, by Zenas G. Winsor, subsequently occupied by Henry C. Smith and others. The two story house of Richard Godfroy, on the south corner of Ottawa and Monroe, and the Winsor dwelling on the corner of Fountain and Ottawa, were built in that and the following year. About the same time the Campau warehouse (called in those days "the red warehouse") was erected near the "old yellow warehouse." This was for several years headquarters for the fall payment of Indian annuities. It was burned November 8, 1858. Another, called the Watson warehouse, was built at the river dock above Fulton street, by James Watson, of Detroit, and afterward, in 1845, removed to the foot of Monroe Street, and converted into a store adjoining Commercial Block.

The Kent Improvement Company in 1835 erected two small frame buildings exactly alike. One of them was at the northeast corner of Kent Street and Crescent avenue; the other at the northwest corner of Kent and Bridge streets. (The intent was to make one of these the Land Office Building, but Ionia secured the Land Office.) In the former was opened the first book store; the latter was made into the business of Kent Company, and afterward the Grand River Bank was established there. In it for a time was the residence of Lucius Lyon and his sister Lucretia. In 1849 it was doctor's office. The book store building has lately been removed to near the north end of Ottawa street. The bank building was removed toward Canal street, and was torn down in 1888. The picture serves to show them both.

John W. Pierce made a memorandum to the effect that when he came here in 1836, he counted the frame buildings in town, and there were only thirteen. In addition to those mentioned, on Waterloo street at that time were the stores of Jefferson Morrison and Dwight Lyman, and two or three small houses. Another store was bought by A. Hosford Smith, a little way south of the Eagle Hotel, which in 1888 was moved down below the steamboat landing. Among the frame structures erected in 1836, and the three following years, were: The National Hotel; the Bridge Street House; store where the Grinnell block is; one between the Bridge Street House and Canal Street; and another a little north on Canal street; several dwellings and shops on Kent street; several on Prospect Hill; the Calkins law office (where now is the north side of Wilson's drug store); a number of stores and dwellings on Monroe street below Ionia; the houses afterward occupied by John Ball and Louis Campau on the Fulton Street Hill; the house that stood where the Livingston building is, corner of Division and Fulton; the Lyman house with columns in front, still standing, on the triangular lot at the junction of Ionia and Louis streets, and the old Congregational (at first at Catholic) meeting house. Also a few dwelling houses were built on the west side of the river near Bridge street, and some on Front near Leonard street. An early one there was the dwelling house of Charles G. Mason.

William Haldane in 1837 built on Prospect Hill a two-story frame building for a dwelling and shop (the same mentioned in the chapter on furniture, page 461). This was afterward moved to the west side of Ottawa, and still later northward to near the Lyon street corner, where it stood until torn down in 1888 for the purpose of excavating the hill.

About 1839 Charles W. Taylor built for his residence, and occupied for a great many years, the little frame dwelling house yet standing on Coldbrook street, near the Ionia street corner.

In 1840 was built, by H. H. Philbrick, the square cottage now standing, and the present residence of Freeman Godfrey, by the southeast corner of the Fulton Street Park.

Abram W. Pike, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, born October 5, 1814, came to Michigan in 1827, and was for a time an assistant in the Indian Mission School at Niles. In 1838 he went into the employ of the Port Sheldon Company at Pigeon Lake, and had charge of a store in Grand Rapids where the east end of the Hermitage block now stands. Afterward he settled the affairs of that company, moved into Grand Rapids in 1844, and in 1845 built the comely house on the south side of Fulton street a few rods below Lafayette, where he has since resided.


John Almy built the first stone house, for his family residence, in 1839. It is now standing, on the north side of Crescent avenue, next to Kent alley, and used for livery office, harness shop and undertaker's rooms. The walls are of river limestone.

The Kent Mills, the house of H. K. Rose and a church at the corner of Bridge and Ottawa streets, were built in 1842-43, and then the wedge-shaped, three story Rathbone block at the junction of Monroe and Ottawa.

The Commercial Block, three-story, at the foot of Monroe Street, was built in 1843-44 by Amos Roberts and A. W. Pike.

Dr. Charles Shepard in 1843 built a pretty stone cottage on Prospect Hill east side of Ottawa between Fountain and Pearl streets. This was torn down in the spring of 1890, to be superseded by a fine brick block of modern style.

Fanueil Hall, still standing at the corner of Monroe and Ottawa; the stone wing of the Rathbun House; the Backus Block at the southeast corner of Crescent avenue and Canal street, and the Franklin Block opposite the latter on the west side of Canal street, were built in the years 1844 to 1846.

On the west side of the river the stone dwelling of E. H. Turner, on Front street, was completed in 1846; also the smaller one of George W. Daniels, and those of Boardman Noble and Ebenezer Anderson near the same time. These four are yet standing.

Ebenezer Anderson is a native of Scotland, born in 1813. He came to Grand Rapids in 1843 and worked twenty-five years at his trade of brick and stone mason, and as building contractor. Was Superintendent of the Street Railway about fifteen years, after 1868, and from 1856 some twenty-four years was a member of the School Board. Has served the city as Marshal and Treasurer, and both city and county in caring for the poor. As a Free Mason he has been Treasurer of Grand River Lodge, No. 34, nearly all the time since its organization.

In the years 1848 to 1850 were built the stone school house where now stands the Central School building, above Ransom street, on Lyon; St. Mark's Church (now standing); St. Andrew's Church, south side of Monroe, above Ottawa street, and some others.

Truman H. Lyon, about 1845, erected the pretty gothic cottage yet standing south of Fulton street, below Lafayette; and Damon Hatch erected the low stone residence that stands on the north side of Cherry street, a little below College avenue.

In 1850 to 1852, Zenas G. Winsor and J. W. Winsor built handsome houses on Washington street, east of Jefferson avenue.

The Abel Block, Monroe street, above Waterloo, was a somewhat prominent stone building in those days.

About this time also was built by Daniel Ball, a handsome stone residence on Prospect Hill, fronting Pearl Street. This was torn down in 1888.

On West Bridge Street, where the railway tracks now cross, John Allen erected a low square block, which for many years was known as "The Stone Grocery." This was torn down in 1879.

James M. Nelson built three stone dwellings on the east side of Division street, north of Lyon. Several years earlier Dr. A. Platt built his stone house at the southwest corner of Division and Fulton streets.

Henry R. Williams, the first Mayor of the city, in 1851 erected a handsome cottage at the southeast corner of Bostwick street and Crescent avenue still standing, with the streets on both fronts graded far down into the sand.

All the above, and a number of buildings mentioned elsewhere, were of river limestone; and for some of them the sand also was taken from the river shoals. In 1846 such stone cost only from $2.50 to $3 a cord, delivered.

In 1852 Martin L. Sweet built the stone cottage now standing at the northwest corner of Bridge and Ottawa streets.

Along in the years from 1852 to 1856 was the era of building gravel or cement houses. Some of the structures are now standing one at the southeast corner of Bostwick and Lyon streets; an octagon house north of Hastings, between Clinton and Ionia streets; built by Elihu Smith; also a residence front Ottawa, and another fronting Ionia, north of the City Hall, are among them. A gravel house built by A. L. Chubb was removed to make place for the City Hall.

Ira Jones erected an octagon house of cobble stone, on the Butterworth road, some thirty-five years ago, which is still an attractive building, and about the same time a cobble stone residence was erected on Lafayette, near the head of John street. In these buildings the stones were carefully laid in courses and pointed.

Many houses, both of wood and stone, were built prior to the organization of the city, and yet standing, are neat and tasty structures, some of them comparing favorably with the more modern styles.


The first brick building of much size was Irving Hall, erected by Samuel B. Ball in 1843, and opened for business in 1844. It was three stories high, and had a frontage on Monroe street for two stores. It was gabled-roofed with eaves to the street. This was torn down in 1858, and a modern four-story block built in its place now occupied by the Eaton & Lyon book store.

About this time (1844), or two or three years later, were built two small brick dwellings on the west side of Division street a little north of Fountain, and two on the south side of Fountain street between Bostwick and Ransom. One of the latter is still standing.

In 1848 Orison A. Withey built his present residence, the square cottage at the northeast corner of South Division and Maple streets.

The second brick block on Monroe street, was built by Wm. H. McConnell, in 1850, a little above Waterloo. It was three stories high, and was the first one furnished with a French plate glass front. It should be understood, however, that the plate glass of those days was diminutive in comparison with the present large, single-light fronts. Four lights to the sash were used.

In 1850 William Haldane built a gothic cottage at the southeast corner of Pearl and Ottawa streets, for the front of which the brick were imported. It was torn down in the spring of 1890.

In 1853 John W. Pierce erected a building called Concert Hall, at the corner of Canal and Erie streets, and imported the brick thereof from Milwaukee. It was a three-story gothic structure, with gable end toward Canal street, and deemed very pretty.

The first four-story business block of brick was built in 1855 at the northwest corner of Erie and Canal streets, and was called Collins Hall from the name of its builders, who came from the East and returned there. Afterward it was called Empire Hall. It had in front of the fourth story an iron balcony for a band stand.

In 1856 were built the Luce Block, corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, and the Taylor & Barns Block, corner of Canal and Lyon streets, four stories each; also the Withey and Porter Blocks opposite the latter on the west side of Canal street, three stories high. About the same time was erected a four-story brick block with a frontage of four stores, next north of the Collins Block.

The Collins Block, the Withey and Porter blocks and a house built by Amos Rathbone on Division street, south of St. Mark's Church, were faced with stone cut from the gypsum rock, which at that time was considered promising for building material. That on the Collins block was dressed smooth and oiled, giving it a glossy appearance.

In 1857 was built the four-story brick block now standing at 14 Lyon street, by Truman H. Lyon; and Hake & Vogt erected a three story block, nearly opposite on the west side of Canal street.

Fire having swept that part of Monroe street above Waterloo and below Ottawa; in 1858 began the erection of brick blocks from Ottawa street downward on the north side of Monroe, and also on the south side below Luce's Block. With the exception of these few structures, building of brick, after the financial revulsion of 1857, was very slow, until about the time of the close of the War of the Rebellion.

About 1855 began the putting in of iron column store fronts. Those for the Collins block, built in that year, were imported and arrived about the middle of July. Since then very few brick blocks have been erected without them. Chiefly, the castings have been the work of home skill in home factories.

In 1869 came in the era of single-light plate-glass fronts. The first of these glass, six feet by twelve in size, were put in the drug store of Wilson & Harvey. They were imported from England. The City National Bank front was the next thus furnished. In a few years the fashion became so imperious that no large structure for business purposes was considered respectable without a plate-glass front.

To enter on an enumeration, or a description in detail, of the many magnificent buildings erected in the last decade is unnecessary. Even the mere mention of a few may appear invidious. But among the recent ones which inevitably catch the eye of the visiting strange are the Widdicomb Block, Monroe and Waterloo; the Livingston and the Cody blocks, on either side of Division street, at Fulton; the two Blodgett blocks, one on Ionia street, near the depot, the other at the corner of Ottawa and Louis streets, the latter six stories besides basement and attic; the furniture house of Nelson, Matter & Co., eight stories high including basement, on the east side of Lock street, and extending from Lyon to Huron; the Houseman Building, east side of Ottawa, and extending from Lyon to Pearl; the New Aldrich Block, Fountain to Ottawa; the Shepard-Hartman Block, Fountain and Ionia; the Hermitage, six stories above basement, at the northeast corner of Bridge and Canal; the Strahan Block, Mt. Vernon and West Fulton; the Leonard & Sons Block, Spring and Fulton streets but why continue the list? From such sizes down, they are all about.

JOHN THOMAS STRAHAN, formerly spelling Strachan, was born in Manchester, England, Jan. 8, 1835. Mr. Strahanis a descendant of an old Scotch and Irish family, whose crest is now in his possession. His great-grandfather Simon was a Scotchman, an officer in the English army, and went to Ireland on service. He raised a large family, of whom seven sons were in the English service during the troublesome times from 1740 and 1800. His grandfather John was born in Ireland, and brought his family to Manchester, England, in 1810, where he manufactured furniture. His father, Nicholas, was born in Manchester, and continued in the same business until 1849, when he brought his family of four sons and one daughter to America, landing in New York October 1, 1849. The father and the rest of the family stayed in American about two years, then returned to England. John remained and worked a short time in New York, then went to Belvidere, New Jersey, to work as a cabinetmaker where he stayed about one year. He then went to Easton, Pennsylvania, where he remained eighteen months. While there he married Margaret reading, of Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey, Jan. 31, 1856. A few months afterward he went with his wife to New Haven, Conn., to work as a carver, and in a short time started business in carvers' jobbing work, which he gave up in 1858, and was foreman in a carriage manufactory until 1860. After the fall of Fort Sumter, he went to Philadelphia to work on a Government contract for English rifles; stayed there until the latter part of 1861; then went to Toronto, Canada, to work in a furniture factory, where he stayed about seven months, then took his family (one son, Nicholas, one daughter, Mary, now wife of Dr. Disbrow of this city) to England. Where he went into business with his father and brothers in Manchester. They were prosperous until the latter part of 1866, when they burned out and lost nearly everything. Two children were born to them in England, and one after returning to American, making five, one of whom has since died. After the fire, he returned to America, in 1867, with the intention of going to California, but stopped in New Haven to settle some business, and concluded to remain there. He then sent for his wife and children, and immediately built a house at Cedar Hill, a suburb of New Haven, which house he still owns. Went into business, but soon gave it up to accept the foremanship of a furniture factory, where he stayed until the beginning of 1873, when he came to Grand rapids, as designer for the Phoenix Furniture Company, and in 1874 became superintendent of the same factory and has remained so since that time. Has spent most of his money in the building up of the West Side. In 1883 he built the Strahan Block, in 1884 the Boston Block, in 1886 the Derby Hotel, and also several houses, besides a handsome residence on the corner of Mount Vernon and West Fulton streets.

In building, from the beginning up, there has been much display of genius and skill, and great variety of tastes. It would be of little use to attempt minute descriptions. The pictured illustrations in this volume convey at a glance a better idea of them than could be given by whole pages of written delineations.

In the style and character and costliness of her buildings, Grand Rapids shows an unbroken record of progress -- a growth that has been steady and substantial. As a recent writer well remarks: "Among the present structures, though the representatives of the earliest are not plenty, classes of buildings which mark historical periods are found. A few of the buildings of the early settlers are yet standing, sound and substantial, fit emblems of the sturdy integrity of the men who founded with faith that the future would fill out their foundation to the city they could even then see. Then come relics of the village period -- good, plain stores and houses, many having experienced the effects of growth in being relegated to the suburbs to make way for younger, larger and handsomer structures for business purposes. The early city days are marked, in an architectural sense, by the results of the idea which declared four stories high and a plate glass front the proper thing in business blocks. The latest period -- that of today -- which was ushered in when the city grew metropolitan, breaking the former bounds which confined business structures, aside from factories, to a few streets, is marked by the rising of such edifices as are worthy to be the business buildings, warehouses and factories of a great commercial and industrial center, such as only great cities can either utilize or pay for. The growth is as solid as great, and the material used has kept pace with other things, so that permanency and security from destructive conflagrations have been established as far as human foresight can provide, while the designs of the best architectural talents have been used to add to the attractiveness of the work."

Residences, Businesses and Institutions Pictured:

Residence of John L. Curtiss -- Built in 1884

Residence of A. J. Bowne -- 285 E. Fulton Street -- Built in 1883

Residence of William R. Shelby -- 65 N. Lafayette Street -- Built in 1882

Residence of Allen Durfee -- 189 Jefferson Avenue -- Built in 1887

Residence of the Late Maj. A. B. Watson -- 200 E. Fulton Street -- Built in 1882 and 1883

Residence of A. E. Stockwell -- 263 Madison Avenue -- Built in 1882

Residence of Peter Haifley -- 88 Sheldon Street -- Built in 1887

Residence of E. Crofton and Charles Fox -- 413 Cherry Street, Corner of College Avenue -- Built in 1889

Residence of Geroge Kendall -- 195 Fountain Street -- Built in 1850

Residence of John Caulfield -- 110 Sheldon Street -- Built in 1885-86

Residence of Nelson W. Northrop -- 470 Cherry Street -- Built in 1882 and 1883

Residence of William Dunham -- 63 Jefferson Avenue

Residence of Gaius W. Perkins -- 181 Fountain Street -- Built in 1882

Residence of Mrs. R. W. Morris -- Cherry Street, S. E. Corner Morris Avenue

Residence of Harry Widdicomb -- 369 E. Fulton Street

Residence of T. Stewart White -- 2 Waverly Place -- Built in 1880

Residence of T. W. White -- 7 Washington Street -- Built in 1851

Residence of Elias Matter -- 112 Fountain Street -- Built in 1871.

Residence of Mrs. Anna Bissell -- 80 South College Avenue -- Built in 1867

Residence of Thomas D. Gilbert -- 55 N. Lafayette Street -- Built in 1876 and 1877

Residence of Willaim Harrison -- West Bridge Street -- Built in 1854, Rebuilt in 1890

Hotel Derby -- Built in 1886

Residence of Charles W. Tuftts -- S. W. Corner Terrace Ave. and Lawn Ct. -- Built in 1886

Residence of J. D. Utley -- 401 Cherry Street -- Built in 1844
Michigan Masonic Home


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.
Transcribers: Jennifer Godwin

Created: 14 November 2001[an error occurred while processing this directive]