1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grand Rapids (Michigan)

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GRAND RAPIDS, a city and the county-seat of Kent county, Michigan, U.S.A., at the head of navigation on the Grand river, about 30 m. from Lake Michigan and 145 m. W.N.W. of Detroit. Pop. (1890) 60,278; (1900) 87,565, of whom 23,896 were foreign-born and 604 were negroes; (1910 census) 112,571. Of the foreign-born population in 1900, 11,137 were Hollanders; 3318 English-Canadians; 3253 Germans; 1137 Irish; 1060 from German Poland; and 1026 from England. Grand Rapids is served by the Michigan Central, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, the Grand Trunk, the Père Marquette and the Grand Rapids & Indiana railways, and by electric interurban railways. The valley here is about 2 m. wide, with a range of hills on either side, and about midway between these hills the river flows over a limestone bed, falling about 18 ft. in 1 m. Factories and mills line both banks, but the business blocks are nearly all along the foot of the E. range of hills; the finest residences command picturesque views from the hills farther back, the residences on the W. side being less pretentious and standing on bottom-lands. The principal business thoroughfares are Canal, Monroe and Division streets. Among the important buildings are the United States Government building (Grand Rapids is the seat of the southern division of the Federal judicial district of western Michigan), the County Court house, the city hall, the public library (presented by Martin A. Ryerson of Chicago), the Manufacturer’s building, the Evening Press building, the Michigan Trust building and several handsome churches. The principal charitable institutions are the municipal Tuberculosis Sanatorium; the city hospital; the Union Benevolent Association, which maintains a home and hospital for the indigent, together with a training school for nurses; Saint John’s orphan asylum (under the superintendence of the Dominican Sisters); Saint Mary’s hospital (in charge of the Sisters of Mercy); Butterworth hospital (with a training school for nurses); the Woman’s Home and Hospital, maintained largely by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union; the Aldrich Memorial Deaconess’ Home; the D. A. Blodgett Memorial Children’s Home, and the Michigan Masonic Home. About 1 m. N. of the city, overlooking the river, is the Michigan Soldiers’ Home, with accommodation for 500. On the E. limits of the city is Reed’s Lake, a popular resort during the summer season. The city is the see of Roman Catholic and Protestant Episcopal bishops. In 1907–1908, through the efforts of a committee of the Board of Trade, interest was aroused in the improvement of the city, appropriations were made for a “city plan,” and flood walls were completed for the protection of the lower parts of the city from inundation. The large quantities of fruit, cereals and vegetables from the surrounding country, and ample facilities for transportation by rail and by the river, which is navigable from below the rapids to its mouth, make the commerce and trade of Grand Rapids very important. The manufacturing interests are greatly promoted by the fine water-power, and as a furniture centre the city has a world-wide reputation—the value of the furniture manufactured within its limits in 1904 amounted to $9,409,097, about 5.5% of the value of all furniture manufactured in the United States. Grand Rapids manufactures carpet sweepers—a large proportion of the whole world’s product,—flour and grist mill products, foundry and machine-shop products, planing-mill products, school seats, wood-working tools, fly paper, calcined plaster, barrels, kegs, carriages, wagons, agricultural implements and bricks and tile. The total factory product in 1904 was valued at $31,032,589, an increase of 39.6% in four years.

On the site of Grand Rapids there was for a long time a large Ottawa Indian village, and for the conversion of the Indians a Baptist mission was established in 1824. Two years later a trading post joined the mission, in 1833 a saw mill was built, and for the next few years the growth was rapid. The settlement was organized as a town in 1834, was incorporated as a village in 1838, and was chartered as a city in 1850, the city charter being revised in 1857, 1871, 1877 and 1905.