Datas of the Past and Present of Grand Rapids

(Grandville Avenue Record, August 8, 1911)

Taking up the thread of the earlier days of the city we find so many things that could be written, that have been published, but we desire to briefly summarize that which seems most interesting and to form a story that will be read by the present day people who have come here since the 30’s and 40’s.

The earlier history of the city is identified with a goodly portion of the state and especially of the county. Paris township is very closely interwoven with that of the city settlement. So also is Walker township. Time brought division and established independent towns. It was in 1837 that Kent County was authorized to borrow money and build a court house.

On 9 May 1835, the first school district was established. It included all of what is now city territory on the east side of the river. On 6 Jun 1835, Louis Campau filed his plat of the Village of Grand Rapids, included in the following boundaries: From the river east on Fulton street to the head of Monroe street, thence north half way across Fulton Street Park, thence east as far as Jefferson avenue, thence north to about 25 feet beyond Fountain street, thence west to Division street, thence north to about 50 feet beyond Pearl street, thence west to the river.

The village of Grand Rapids was incorporated in 1833. Its boundaries were as follows: Fulton street east from the river to where now is Jefferson avenue, thence north to Hastings street, thence west to Canal street, thence down the west side of Canal street to Pearl street, thence down the river to Fulton street. At that time the river flowed along the west line of Canal street at its junction with Pearl street. The Pantlind and all west of it stands on made ground.

In 1838 a County building was built on Fulton Street Park, which was used until 12 Jul 1844, when it was destroyed by fire. The County soon after erected a temporary structure, which was used for a court house until 1852, when it was abandoned and court was held in different places about town until the present court house was built.

In 1845 the first bridge was built across the river at Bridge street. 2 April 1850, Grand Rapids was made a city. Its boundaries were what are now Wealthy avenue, East street, Leonard street, Alpine avenue and Straight street. It was divided into five wards as follows: The First ward was all between the river and Division street south of Lyon street; the Second ward included all east of the river north of Lyon street to Division and all north of Bridge street east of the river. The Third ward was bounded……. The Fourth Ward?? north of Bridge street on the west side, and the Fifth ward was all south of Bridge street on the west side. In 1871 the number of wards was increased from five to eight. In 1899 (error-1888/1889?) the number was increased to ten, and in 1891 to twelve.

The first fire company was organized in 1849. The first engine house was built in 1855. The police department was organized in 1871. The present school system was established in 1871. Prior to that time the city was divided into three separate school districts: the Union District, the West Side district, and the Coldbrook District.

The first railway to reach Grand Rapids was the Detroit & Milwaukee road. Trains commenced running from Grand Rapids to Detroit in 1858. In 1867, trains commenced running from Grand Rapids to Cedar Springs. In 1870 the G. R. & I. south was completed. In March, 1860, the Lake Shore line commenced running trains out of Grand Rapids. 1 Jan 1870 the Michigan Central commenced running between Grand Rapids and Jackson. Trains commenced running between Grand Rapids and Holland in 1872.

Grand Rapids took a prominent part in the Civil War. The first war meeting was held at Luce’s Hall, 15 April 1861. On May 21 following the Third Michigan Infantry entered the service with the Valley City Guards as a company in that regiment. Kent County sent 4,214 men to the war.

By act of Congress in 1863 the Western District of Michigan was made a federal district, and Judge Withey was appointed the first U. S. District Judge. He first held court in Grand Rapids on May 14 of that year. The first term of court held in the present federal building was held in October, 1879.

The first street railroad cars in Grand Rapids were started in 1865, and ran from D. & M. depot along Canal street, Monroe and Fulton streets to Jefferson avenue. In 1873 a line was extended from Monroe along Division street to the old fair grounds, which were situated south of Hall street and east of Jefferson avenue. In 1875 street cars first ran to Reed’s Lake. Since that time car lines have been extended all over the city until the present excellent system has developed.

The first furniture making in Grand Rapids was done by hand. In 1847 some furniture was made by machinery. Before the war there were several small furniture factories built and equipped in Grand Rapids, which sold furniture to the wholesale trade. After the Civil War the furniture trade rapidly developed and Grand Rapids manufacturers sold largely in the western market. There was a large Grand Rapids exhibit of furniture at the Centennial in Philadelphia in 1876, and since that time Grand Rapids has been recognized as headquarters for fine and artistic furniture.

Transcriber: ES
Created: 27 April 2007