| United States|
5.0% (Feb 2015)
45.27 sq mi
| Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Public Museum of Grand Rapids, Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum, John Ball Zoological Garden, Van Andel Arena|
Calvin College, Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University, Aquinas College, Cornerstone University
Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan, and the largest city in West Michigan. It is located on the Grand River about 25 miles east of Lake Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 188,040. In 2010, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area had a population of 1,005,648, and the combined statistical area of Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland had a population of 1,321,557. Grand Rapids is the county seat of Kent County, Michigan. A historic furniture-manufacturing center, Grand Rapids is still home to five of the worlds leading office furniture companies, and is nicknamed Furniture City. Its more common modern nickname of River City refers to the landmark river for which it was named. The city and surrounding communities are economically diverse, and have economies based in the health care, information technology, automotive, aviation, and consumer goods manufacturing industries, among others.
Grand Rapids was the home of the Mayweather boxing family: Floyd Mayweather, Sr., and his son Floyd Jr., and brothers Jeff, and Roger; World Championship Boxer James Toney, singer and song writer Anthony Kiedis, the filmmakers Paul Schrader and Leonard Schrader, the singer Al Green, and U.S. President Gerald Ford, who—along with his wife Betty—is buried on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in the city.
For thousands of years, succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples occupied this area. Over 2,000 years ago, people associated with the Hopewell culture occupied the Grand River Valley. Around A.D. 1700, 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 people, with whom they traded 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 Ottawa and French, later merged her successful operations with the American Fur Company. She retired, at age 41, to Mackinac Island. The first permanent European-American settler in the Grand Rapids area was a Baptist minister named Isaac McCoy, who established a missionary station in 1825.
In 1826 Detroit-born Louis Campau, the official founder of Grand Rapids, built his cabin, trading post, and blacksmith 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; it 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 migrants (primarily New Englanders of English colonial descent) and others began migrating 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 incorporated as a village, and encompassed an area of approximately three-quarters of a mile (1 km) . The first formal census occurred in 1845, which recorded a population of 1,510 and an area of four square miles. The city of Grand Rapids was incorporated April 2, 1850. It was officially established on May 2, 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 area totaled 10.5 square miles (27 km2).
In 1880, the countrys first hydro-electric generator was put to use on the citys west side.
Grand Rapids was an early center for the automobile industry, as the Austin Automobile Company operated here from 1901 until 1921.
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: Herpolsheimers (Lazarus in 1987), Jacobsons, Steketees (founded in 1862), and Wurzburgs. As with many older cities, they suffered as the population moved to suburbs in the postwar era with federal subsidization of highway construction. In addition, retail changes in buying habits, and consolidation of department stores occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.
Grand Rapids developed on the banks of the Grand River, where there was once a set of rapids, at an altitude of 610 feet (186 m) above sea level. This was as far as ships could navigate on the river because of the rapids. It is approximately 25 mi (40 km) east of Lake Michigan. The state capital of Lansing lies about 60 mi (97 km) to the east-by-southeast, and Kalamazoo is about 50 mi (80 km) to the south.
Grand Rapids is divided into four quadrants, which form a part of mailing addresses in Kent County. The quadrants are NE (northeast), NW (northwest), SE (southeast), and SW (southwest). Fulton Street serves as the north-south dividing line, while Division Avenue serves as the east-west dividing line separating these quadrants.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.27 square miles (117.25 km2), of which, 44.40 square miles (115.00 km2) of it is land and 0.87 square miles (2.25 km2) is water.
In 1969, Alexander Calders abstract sculpture, La Grande Vitesse, which translates from French as "the great swiftness" or more loosely as "grand rapids", was installed downtown on the Vandenberg Plaza, the remodeled site of Grand Rapids City Hall. It became the first work of public art in the United States funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then, the site has hosted an annual Festival of the Arts on the plaza, now known informally as "Calder Plaza". During the first weekend in June, several blocks of downtown surrounding the Calder stabile in Vandenberg Plaza are closed to traffic. The 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. 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, fireworks display and food booths. Celebration on the Grand is an event that celebrates life in the Grand River valley. Each October, the city celebrates the Polish heritage centered on the West side of town with Pulaski Days.
In Grand Rapids in 1973, the city hosted Sculpture off the Pedestal, an outdoor exhibition of public sculpture, which assembled works by 13 world-renowned artists, including Mark di Suvero, John Henry, Kenneth Snelson, Robert Morris, John Mason, Lyman Kipp 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 premiere of the film The Polar Express was held in Grand Rapids; it was adapted from the childrens book by author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. He lives in the city, as does its main character in the book and movie. The movie was set in the city. 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 of a new, larger building for its collection; it opened in October 2007 at 101 Monroe Center NW. The new building site faces the sculpture Ecliptic, by Maya Lin, at Rosa Parks Circle. The Museum was completed in 2007. It was the first new art museum to achieve gold-level LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The first ArtPrize, the worlds largest art competition determined by public voting, took place in Grand Rapids from September 23 through October 10, 2009. This event was founded by Rick DeVos, grandson of Amway Corp. co-founder Richard DeVos, who offered $449,000 in cash prizes. a total of 1,262 artists exhibited their work for two weeks, and a total of 334,219 votes were cast. First prize, including a $250,000 cash prize, went to Brooklyn painter Ran Ortner. ArtPrize 2010 was held September 22 through October 10, 2010, with work by 1,713 artists on display. The first prize was awarded to Grand Rapids artist Chris LaPorte.
In 2012, Grand Rapids tied with Asheville, North Carolina, for "Beer City USA". The competition was held by casting votes online for cities around the United States. Prominent breweries in the area such as B.O.Bs Brewery, Brewery Vivant, Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Hideout, HopCat and Schmohz have created the culture necessary to win the award. In 2013, Grand Rapids was the sole winner of "Beer City USA", taking the prize with more votes than those combined for the second-place Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the third-place Asheville, North Carolina.