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 Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of 774,084, with a Combined Statistical Area of 1,320,487 as of the 2006 Census Estimate. It is the county seat of Kent County, Michigan6. It is the second largest city in the state and is the principal city in West Michigan.
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.
The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad began passenger and freight service to Cedar Springs, Michigan on December 25, 1867. This railroad expanded service from Grand Rapids to Muskegon, northern Michigan and into Indiana and Ohio over the next few decades.
In 1880, the country's first hydro-electric generator was put to use on the city's west side. With the new century, the people of Grand Rapids numbered 82,565. 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.
Grand Rapids was a home to 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.
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.
Grand Rapids sits on the banks of the Grand River, where there was once a set of rapids, at an altitude of 610 feet 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 mi² (117.4 km²). 44.6 mi² (115.6 km²) of it is land and 0.7 mi² (1.8 km², 1.50%) of it is water (primarily the Grand River).
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 medical programs, doctorate program in Physical Therapy), and Michigan State University's planned medical school, adjacent to GVSU's Cook-DeVos Center and Spectrum Health's Butterworth Hospital.
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 home and auto insurer, Meijer a Supercenter chain, Smiths Industries an Aerospace products company, Wolverine World Wide a designer and manufacter of shoes, boots and clothing, and Universal Forest Products a building materials company.
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, and Cornerstone University 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. 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. Western Michigan University has a long-standing graduate program in the city, with facilities downtown and in the southeast.
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 West Michigan Medical School will be MSU's second fully accredited four-year medical school, this facility will be located in Downtown Grand Rapids.
Beginning with the installation of Alexander Calder's abstract sculpture La Grande Vitesse, 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. 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.
In mid-2004, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) began construction on a new, larger building for its art museum collection. The new building site is several blocks from the present museum, facing downtown's Ecliptic by Maya Lin at Rosa Parks Circle.
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, and Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is located downtown, and houses art exhibits, a movie theater, and the urban clay studio.
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 Voight 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. The City also has many intriguing places to visit, such as Heritage Hill, the first historic district to be founded in the United States.
Heritage Hill, a neighborhood east of downtown, 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.
Further east of downtown is the historic Wealthy Street Theatre.
In Grand Rapids Township, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park combine 125 acres 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.