Grand Rapids Township, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 197,800. The Grand Rapids-Wyoming Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had a population of 776,742, while the Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland Combined Statistical Area (CSA) had a population of 1,323,095 as of the 2007 census estimate. It is the county seat of Kent County, Michigan. It is the second largest city in the state and one of the principal cities in West Michigan.


Over 2,000 years ago, people associated with the Hopewell culture occupied the Grand River Valley. Around 1700 A.D., the Ottawa Indians moved into the area and founded several villages along the Grand River.

The Grand Rapids area was first settled by Europeans near the start of the 19th century by missionaries and fur traders. They generally lived in reasonable peace alongside the Ottawa tribespeople, with whom they traded their European metal and textile goods for fur pelts. Joseph and Madeline La Framboise established the first Indian/European trading post in West Michigan, and in present Grand Rapids, on the banks of the Grand River near what is now Ada. After the death of her husband in 1806, Madeline La Framboise carried on, expanding fur trading posts to the west and north. La Framboise, whose ancestry was a mix of French and Indian, later merged her successful operations with the American Fur Company. She retired, at age 41, to Mackinac Island. The first permanent white settler in the Grand Rapids area was a Baptist minister named Isaac McCoy who arrived in 1825.

In 1826 Detroit-born Louis Campau, the official founder of Grand Rapids, built his cabin, trading post, and blackmith shop on the east bank of the Grand River near the rapids. Campau returned to Detroit, then came back a year later with his wife and $5,000 of trade goods to trade with the native tribes. In 1831 the federal survey of the Northwest Territory reached the Grand River and set the boundaries for Kent County, named after prominent New York jurist James Kent. Campau became perhaps the most important settler when, in 1831, he bought 72 acres (291,000 m²) of what is now the entire downtown business district of Grand Rapids. He purchased it from the federal government for $90 and named his tract Grand Rapids. Rival Lucius Lyon, who purchased the rest of the prime land, called his the Village of Kent. Yankee immigrants and others began immigrating from New York and New England in the 1830s.

In 1836 John Ball, representing a group of New York land speculators, bypassed Detroit for a better deal in Grand Rapids. Ball declared the Grand River valley "the promised land, or at least the most promising one for my operations."

By 1838, the settlement had incorporated itself as a village, and encompassed an area of approximately three-quarters of a mile (1 km) . The first formal census occurred in 1845, which announced a population of 1,510 and recorded an area of four square miles. The city of Grand Rapids was officially created on May 1, 1850, when the village of Grand Rapids voted to accept the proposed city charter. The population at the time was 2,686. By 1857, the city of Grand Rapids' boundary totaled 10.5 square miles (27 km²).

Grand Rapids was also an early participant in the automobile industry, serving as home to the Austin Automobile Company from 1901 until 1921.

Transportation History

The first improved road into the city was completed in 1855. This road was a private, toll plank road from Kalamazoo through Wayland, and was a primary route for freight and passengers until about 1868. This road connected to the outside world via the Michigan Central Railroad at Kalamazoo.

The first railroad into the city was the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad, which commenced service in 1858. In 1869 the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad connected to the city.

The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad began passenger and freight service to Cedar Springs, Michigan on December 25 1867 and to Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1870. This railroad expanded service to Muskegon in 1886.

The Grand Rapids, Newaygo and Lake Shore Railroad completed a line to White Cloud in 1875,

In 1888 the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad connected with Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids was a home to one of the first regularly scheduled passenger airline in the United States when Stout Air Services began flights from Grand Rapids to Detroit (actually Ford Airport in Dearborn, Michigan) on July 31 1926.

Nowadays, The Rapid provides public transportation with several regular and special routes throughout the greater metro area. There are plans in the works to add more express routes, secondary stations, a streetcar and dedicated (exclusive) highway lanes.

Furniture City

During the second half of the 19th century, the city became a major lumbering center and the premier furniture manufacturing city of the United States. For this reason it was nicknamed "Furniture City". After an international exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Grand Rapids became recognized worldwide as a leader in the production of fine furniture. National home furnishing markets were held in Grand Rapids for about 75 years, concluding in the 1960s. Today, Grand Rapids is considered a world leader in the production of office furniture.

In 1880, the country's first hydro-electric generator was put to use on the city's west side. At the turn of the twentieth century, the people of Grand Rapids numbered 87,565. In 1916, the citizens of Grand Rapids voted to adopt a home rule charter that abolished the old aldermanic systems and replaced it with a commission-manager form of government, one of the first in the country. That 1916 Charter, although amended several times, is still in effect.

In 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water.

Downtown Grand Rapids used to host four department stores: Herpolsheimer's (Lazarus in 1987), Jacobson's, Steketee's (founded in 1862), and Wurzburg's. Like most downtown regional department stores, they suffered the same fate of falling sales, caused largely by the flight to the suburbs, and consolidation in the 1980s and 1990s.

Geography and climate

Grand Rapids sits on the banks of the Grand River, where there was once a set of rapids, at an altitude of above sea level. It is approximately 30 miles (50 km) east of Lake Michigan. The state capital of Lansing lies about 60 miles (100 km) to the east-by-southeast, and Kalamazoo is about 50 miles (80 km) to the south.

Grand Rapids is divided into four quadrants which form a part of mailing addresses in the city. The quadrants are NE (northeast), NW (northwest), SE (southeast), and SW (southwest). Fulton Street serves as the north-south dividing line, while Division Avenue serve as the east-west dividing line separating these quadrants.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.3 sq mi (117.4 km²). 44.6 sq mi (115.6 km²) of it is land and 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km², 1.50%) of it is water (primarily the Grand River).

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 62 69 78 88 92 98 100 100 93 87 77 69
Norm High °F 29.3 32.6 43.3 56.6 69.6 78.4 82.3 79.7 71.7 59.6 45.5 33.7
Norm Low °F 15.6 17.4 25.9 36.1 46.6 55.8 60.5 59 51 40.2 31.2 21.4
Rec Low °F -22 -19 -8 3 22 33 41 39 27 18 5 -18
Precip (in) 2.03 1.54 2.59 3.48 3.35 3.67 3.56 3.78 4.28 2.8 3.35 2.7


As of the census of 2000, there were 197,800 people, 73,217 households, and 44,369 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,431.2/sq mi (1,710.8/km²). There were 77,960 housing units at an average density of 1,746.5/sq mi (674.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 67.30% White American (62.5% non-Hispanic White), 20.41% African American, 0.74% Native American, 1.62% Asian American, 0.12% Pacific Islander American, 6.63% from other races, and 3.19% from two or more races. 13.05% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. The city had a foreign-born population of 10.5%.

There were 73,217 households out of which 32.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 15.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.24.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.0% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 16.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 95.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,224, and the median income for a family was $44,224. Males had a median income of $33,050 versus $26,382 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,661. 15.7% of the population and 11.9% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 19.4% are under the age of 18 and 10.4% are 65 or older.

Government and politics

Like the surrounding counties, the Grand Rapids area has traditionally been a stronghold for the Republican Party, but the city itself leans Democratic.

The city is the center of the 3rd Congressional District, represented by Republican Vern Ehlers. Former President Gerald Ford represented the district from 1949 to 1974. Ford died on December 26, 2006 at his home in Palm Springs, California, and was buried on the grounds of his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids on January 3, 2007.

Grand Rapids (including the suburbs of Ada, East Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Grandville, Walker, and Kentwood) also serves as the home business base of one of the largest past political funders of the national Republican Party, Richard and Helen De Vos, and former Ambassador to Italy, Peter Secchia.

However, despite Grand Rapids' reputation for conservatism, the city tends to elect Democrats. Both of its representatives in the Michigan State House of Representatives are Democrats, and in the four most recent presidential elections Democratic candidates Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry won the majority of votes in the city of Grand Rapids. (The city itself hasn't elected a Republican candidate for President since George H W Bush in 1988.)

Commission-Manager plan

Under Michigan law, Grand Rapids is a home rule city and adopted a city charter in 1916 providing for the Commission-Manager form of municipal government. Under this system, the political responsibilities are divided between an elected City Commission and a hired full-time City Manager. Two part-time Commissioners are elected to four-year terms from each of three wards, with half of these seats up for election every two years. The part-time Mayor is elected every four years by the city at large, and serves as chair of the Commission, with a vote equal to that of a Commissioner. The races—held in odd-numbered years—are formally non-partisan, although the party and other political affiliations of candidates do sometimes come up during the campaign period. The Commission sets policy for the city, and is responsible for hiring the City Manager and other appointed officials


George Heartwell was elected mayor of Grand Rapids after long-serving mayor John H. Logie declined to run for re-election in 2003. Logie felt the position should be made full-time, but to avoid the question becoming a referendum on whether he should hold the job full-time, he announced that he would not run for re-election. The voters decided to keep the position part-time, and Heartwell was elected.

Heartwell assumed office on January 1, 2004. Prior to being mayor, Heartwell was a City Commissioner for the third ward, 1992-1999. Heartwell currently serves as President and CEO of Pilgrim Manor Retirement Community. He was Director of the Community Leadership Institute at Aquinas College, where he also was a professor in the Community Leadership undergraduate study program. Mayor Heartwell is an ordained minister for the United Church of Christ, and served for 14 years at Heartside Ministry, a program for the homeless in Grand Rapids. He was previously the president of Heartwell Mortgage Corporation

In August, 2007, Mayor Heartwell was re-elected to a second mayoral term in Grand Rapids. He won the primary election with 51% of the vote.


Grand Rapids has long been a center for furniture and automobile manufacturing; however, the presence of both industries has declined in the region along with manufacturing in general. American Seating, Steelcase and Herman Miller, major manufacturers of office furniture, are based in the Grand Rapids area.

In 1880, [Sligh Furniture Company] started manufacturing furniture. In 1881, the Furniture Manufacturers Association (FMA) was organized in Grand Rapids, it was apparently the first furniture manufacturing advocacy group in the country. Also Since 1912, Kindel Furniture Company, and since 1922, the Hekman/Woodmark Furniture Company, have been designing and manufacturing traditional American furniture in Grand Rapids. All of these companies are still producing furniture today.

More recently the city has had some success in developing and attracting businesses focusing on the health sciences, with facilities such as the Van Andel Research Institute (primarily focused on cancer research), Grand Valley State University's Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences (undergraduate and graduate health-related programs, doctorate program in Physical Therapy, upcoming Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)), and Michigan State University's planned medical school, adjacent to GVSU's Cook-DeVos Center and Spectrum Health's Butterworth Hospital.This year, several million dollars will be spent on new hospitals (including the Spectrum Health Cancer Pavilion and the Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children's Hospital), medical research centers and health facilities. Most of these facilities are based on Michigan Avenue medical corridor, and is commonly known as "Medical Mile". Employment opportunities thrive and the growth has developed specialized health science employment groups to facilitate the influx, such as the Medical Mile Group].

The Grand Rapids area is also home to a number of well known companies that include; Alticor/Amway (a consumer goods manufacturer and distributor), Foremost Insurance Company (a specialty lines insurance company), Meijer (a Supercenter chain), GE Aviation (formerly Smiths Industries, an Aerospace products company), Wolverine World Wide (a designer and manufacturer of shoes, boots and clothing), MC Sports, Inc. (a regional sports retail chain) and Universal Forest Products (a building materials company).

The city is also known as a center of Christian publishing, home to Zondervan, Baker Books, Kregel Publications, and Eerdmans Publishing.

The surrounding area is noted for its fruit production. Due to its close proximity to Lake Michigan the climate is considered prime for apple, peach, and blueberry farming.

In recent years, the convention business has seen an increase following the construction of the DeVos Place Convention Center.


Grand Rapids is home to several colleges and universities. Aquinas College, Calvin College, Cornerstone University, Grace Bible College, and Kuyper College are private, religious schools, each with a campus within the city. Grand Rapids Community College maintains a campus downtown and facilities in other parts of the city and surrounding region. Grand Valley State University continues to develop its presence in the city with an expanding downtown campus, begun in the late 1990s on the west bank of the Grand River. ITT Technical Institute has a variety of technical programs and it continues to grow as they are moving to a new campus later on this year right next door to the new Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming. Ferris State University has a growing campus downtown, including the Applied Technology Center (operated with GRCC) and the prestigious Kendall College of Art and Design. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, a private institution, has a campus in Grand Rapids. Davenport University, a state-wide educational institution, has its main campus in Grand Rapids as well as several satellite locations. Western Michigan University has a long-standing graduate program in the city, with facilities downtown and in the southeast. Clinical Pastoral Education is also offered at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in nearby Cutlerville, Michigan.

K-12 public education is provided by the Grand Rapids Public Schools as well as a number of charter schools.

Grand Rapids is home of the oldest co-educational Catholic high school in the United States, Catholic Central High School (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

As of 2006, there is an active movement among community leaders to have Michigan State University open a new medical school in Grand Rapids. Michigan State University College of Human Medicine will relocate and expand from East Lansing to downtown Grand Rapids. The College of Human Medicine is one of three fully accredited four-year medical schools at MSU, along with the College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine. On April 21, 2008, the Secchia Center medical education building, a $90 million, seven-story, facility, began construction at Michigan Street hill and Division Avenue.


Beginning with the installation of Alexander Calder's abstract sculpture La Grande Vitesse (French for "The Grand Rapids"), the very first financially funded project in the United States by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1969, the city has been host to the annual Festival of the Arts downtown since 1970, known to locals simply as Festival. During the first weekend in June, several blocks of downtown surrounding the Calder stabile in Vandenberg Plaza are closed to traffic. Festival features several stages with free live performances, food booths selling a variety of ethnic cuisine, art demonstrations and sales, and other arts-related activities. Organizers bill it as the largest all-volunteer arts festival in the United States, though this is a bit of a misnomer since sound companies and other professionals are paid for their services. Vandenberg Plaza also hosts various ethnic festivals that take place throughout the summer season.

Summer concludes with Celebration on the Grand the weekend after Labor Day featuring free concerts, West Michigan's largest fireworks display and food booths. Celebration on the Grand is an all volunteer event to celebrate life in the Grand River valley.

In Grand Rapids in 1973, Main Street America celebrated mainstream art, as the city hosted Sculpture off the Pedestal, an exemplar of public sculpture exhibitions, which assembled 13 world-renowned artists, including Mark di Suvero, John Henry, Kenneth Snelson, Robert Morris, John Mason and Stephen Antonakos, in a single, citywide celebration. Sculpture off the Pedestal was a public/private partnership, which included financial support by the National Endowment for the Arts, educational support from the Michigan Council for the Arts and in-kind contributions from individuals, business and industry. Fund-raising events, volunteers and locals housing artists contributed to the public character of the event.

On November 10, 2004, the grand premier of the film The Polar Express was held in Grand Rapids, the movie's setting and home of the book's author Chris Van Allsburg, and its main character. The Meijer Gardens created a Polar Express display which was part of their larger Christmas Around the World exhibit.

In mid-2004, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) began construction on a new, larger building for its art museum collection, which opened in October, 2007 at 101 Monroe Center NW. The new building site faces downtown's Ecliptic by Maya Lin at Rosa Parks Circle. The Museum was completed in 2007 and became the first LEED certified Art Museum in the world.

Sites of interest

Grand Rapids is the home of John Ball Park, Belknap Hill, and the Gerald R. Ford Museum, the final resting place of the 38th President of the United States. Significant buildings in the downtown include the DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, and now the JW Marriott Hotel. The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is located downtown, and houses art exhibits, a movie theater, and the urban clay studio.

Along the Grand River are symbolic burial mounds which were used by the Hopewell tribe, a fish ladder, and a riverwalk.

Grand Rapids is also home to the Van Andel Museum Center. Founded in 1854, it is among the oldest history museums in the United States. The museum's sites currently include the main site constructed in 1994 on the west bank of the Grand River (home to the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, the Voigt House Victorian Museum, and the City Archives and Records Center, which was the site of the museum and planetarium prior to 1994. The museum has, in the past few years, played host to a handful of notable exhibitions, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and The Quest for Immortality: the Treasures of Ancient Egypt. The museum is set up as a non-profit institution owned and managed by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids Foundation.

Heritage Hill, a neighborhood in the southeastern section of town. It is one of the largest Urban Historic Districts in the country, with over 1000 Victorian homes. Of particular significance is the Meyer May House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908 was commissioned by local merchant Meyer May who operated a men's clothing store (May's of Michigan). The house is now a free museum owned and operated by Steelcase who restored the property in the 1980s.

Grand Rapids is home to a myriad of theatres and stages, including the newly-reconstructed Civic Theatre (also known as the Meijer Majestic), the city's largest theatre DeVos hall, and the convertible Van Andel Arena. Further east of downtown is the historic Wealthy Street Theatre.

In Grand Rapids Township, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park combine of world-class botanical gardens and artwork from such sculptors as Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder, Edgar Degas, and Auguste Rodin. The Gardens' amphitheatre plays host to numerous concerts each summer, featuring such eccelctic acts as Jonny Lang, The Pointer Sisters, Lyle Lovett, Cowboy Junkies, and B.B. King. As Michigan's second most popular destination (after The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn), the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is rapidly gaining national renown.

Slightly east of the downtown area is the Eastown business district, home to many popular independently owned businesses such as Yesterdog, 76 Coffee, Kava House, Magnum Opus Manga & Anime, Billy's Lounge, New Yorker Men's Wear, Bombay Cuisine, and Mulligan's Bar. Eastown, along with Grand Rapids' Heartside District, is regarded as a center of the city's counter-culture and music scene. The neighborhood is also home to the Barack Obama campaign headquarters in Grand Rapids.


Melodic metal band Still Remains hail from Grand Rapids. The band split in May 2008. Soulful family recording artist Debarges hails from Grand Rapids, as does Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Matt Granfield of The Black Market Rhythm Co.. Local singer songwriter Ralston Bowles released his 2nd CD (Rally at the Texas Hotel) internationally on Judy Collins Wildflower Records label in 2008. The newest talent to come out of Grand Rapids is the rock band Pop Evil. Grand Rapids also has a number of popular concert venues in which a large assortment of bands have preformed, including the Orbit Room, the Intersection, DeVos Hall, the Van Andel Arena, the Royce Auditorium, the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, and the Deltaplex.


Several professional sports teams call Grand Rapids home:

Club Sport Year Founded League Venue Championships
West Michigan Whitecaps Baseball 1994 Midwest League Fifth Third Ballpark Championship Series winners: 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006, 2007; Best regular season record: 1997, 1998, 2000, 2006, 2007
Grand Rapids Flight Basketball 2004 International Basketball League DeltaPlex Arena The Flight have yet to win a Championship
Grand Rapids Griffins Ice Hockey 1996 American Hockey League Van Andel Arena IHL Joseph Turner Memorial Cup Runner-up: 2000; IHL Fred A. Huber Trophy (regular season champion): 2001
Grand Rapids Rampage Arena Football 1998 Arena Football League Van Andel Arena ArenaBowl XV Champions and best regular season record: 2001


The Grand Rapids Press is the daily newspaper, while Advance Newspapers publishes a group of weekly papers providing more community-based news. Gemini Publications is a niche, regional publishing company that produces the weekly newspaper Grand Rapids Business Journal, the magazines Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Family and Michigan Blue, and several other quarterly and annual business-to-business publications. There are two free monthly entertainment guides: REVUE, which covers music and the arts, and RECOIL, which covers music and offers Onion-style satire.

Grand Rapids, combined with nearby Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, was ranked in 2008 as the 39th largest television market in the U.S. by Nielsen Media Research. The market is served by stations affiliated with major American networks including: WOOD-TV (channel 8, NBC), WZZM-TV (channel 13, ABC), WXMI (channel 17, Fox), WXSP (channel 15, MYTV) and Kalamazoo-based WWMT (channel 3, CBS). WGVU-TV is the area's PBS member station.

The Grand Rapids area is served by 16 AM radio stations and 28 FM stations.


Major highways


U.S. highways

Michigan State Trunklines

Intercounty Highways

Mass Transit


Public bus transportation is provided by the Interurban Transit Partnership, which brands itself as The Rapid Transportation is also provided by the DASH buses: the "Downtown Area Shuttle". These provide transportation to and from the parking lots in the city of Grand Rapids to various designated loading and unloading spots around the city.


Commercial air service to Grand Rapids is provided by Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR). Previously named Kent County International Airport, it holds Grand Rapids' mark in modern history with the United States' first regularly scheduled airline service, beginning July 31, 1926, between Grand Rapids and Detroit.


Amtrak provides direct train service to Chicago from the passenger station via the Pere Marquette line.

Sister cities

Grand Rapids has city partnerships with the following cities:

See also


External links

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