Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

"Grand Rapids" redirects here. For other uses, see Grand Rapids (disambiguation).
City of Grand Rapids
Medical Mile
Official seal of City of Grand Rapids
Nickname(s): Furniture City, GR
Kent County, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Location in the United States

Coordinates: 42°57′40.5″N 85°39′20.59″W / 42.961250°N 85.6557194°W / 42.961250; -85.6557194Coordinates: 42°57′40.5″N 85°39′20.59″W / 42.961250°N 85.6557194°W / 42.961250; -85.6557194

Country  United States
State  Michigan
County Kent
Founded 1826
Incorporation 1850
 • Type City Commission-Manager
 • Mayor George Heartwell
 • City Manager Greg Sundstrom
 • City 45.27 sq mi (117.25 km2)
 • Land 44.40 sq mi (115.00 km2)
 • Water 0.87 sq mi (2.25 km2)  1.92%
Elevation 640 ft (200 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • City 188,040
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 190,411
 • Rank (US: 124th)
 • Density 4,235.1/sq mi (1,635.2/km2)
 • Urban 569,935 (US: 70th)
 • Metro 1,005,648 (US: 52nd)
 • CSA 1,328,440 (US: 35th)
 • Demonym Grand Rapidian
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 616
FIPS code 26-34000
GNIS feature ID 0627105[4]

Grand Rapids is a city in the U.S. state of 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,[5] second largest city in Michigan (after Detroit), and the largest city in West Michigan. A historic furniture-manufacturing center, Grand Rapids is still home to five of the world's 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 contribute heavily to the health care, information technology, automotive, aviation, and consumer goods manufacturing industries, among others.

Grand Rapids was the hometown of singer and song writer Anthony Kiedis, 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 Grand Rapids.[6]


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.[7]

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 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 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.[7] Rival Lucius Lyon, who purchased the rest of the prime land, called his the Village of Kent. Yankee immigrants (primarily New Englanders of English colonial descent) 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 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 incorporated April 2, 1850[8] and 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).

In 1880, the country's first hydro-electric generator was put to use on the city's west side.[9]

Grand Rapids was an early participant in the automobile industry, serving as home to the Austin Automobile Company 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: 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.

Gypsum mining

An outcropping of gypsum, where Plaster Creek enters the Grand River, was known to the native American inhabitants of the area, and was commented on by the pioneer geologist Douglass Houghton in 1838.[10][11] This outcrop was first mined in 1841, at first in open cast mines, but later underground mines as well. Gypsum was ground locally for use as a soil amendment known as "land plaster." The Alabastine Mine in nearby Wyoming, Michigan was originally dug in 1907 to provide gypsum for the manufacture of stucco and wall coverings, notably the alabastine, favored by Arts and Crafts Movement architects. The mine has since been converted to a storage facility primarily used for computer servers and Kent County document storage.

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.[12] 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. Furniture companies included the Widdicomb Furniture Company. 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.

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 Railway 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.

Air transportation

Grand Rapids was a home to one of the first regularly scheduled passenger airlines 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.[13]



Grand Rapids sits 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. 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.[1]


Grand Rapids has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb), with very warm and humid summers, cold and snowy winters, and short and mild springs and autumns. Owing to lake effect snow from Lake Michigan, the city averages 75.6 in (192 cm) of snow a year. The area often receives quick and sudden lake effect snowstorms, producing significant amounts of snowfall. Summers are warm or hot and the occurrence of heat waves and severe weather outbreaks is not uncommon during a typical summer.

The highest temperature in the area was recorded on July 13, 1936 at 108 °F (42 °C), and the lowest was recorded on February 14, 1899 at −24 °F (−31 °C). During an average year, sunshine occurs in 46% of the daylight hours. On 138 nights, the temperature dips to below 32 °F (0 °C). On average, 9.2 days a year have temperatures that meet or exceed the 90 °F (32 °C) mark, and 5.6 days a year have lows that are 0 °F (−18 °C) or colder.

In April 1956, the western and northern portions of the city and its suburbs were hit by a violent tornado which locally produced F5 damage and killed 18.

Climate data for Grand Rapids, Michigan (Gerald Ford Int'l), 1981–2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Average high °F (°C) 30.7
Average low °F (°C) 18.1
Record low °F (°C) −22
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.08
Snowfall inches (cm) 21.2
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 16.0 12.2 11.8 12.7 11.2 10.1 9.7 9.6 10.7 11.8 13.2 16.0 145.0
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 15.2 10.8 6.4 2.0 .1 0 0 0 0 .5 4.1 13.3 52.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 86.8 115.8 167.4 210.0 257.3 288.0 297.6 263.5 207.0 151.9 81.0 62.0 2,188.3
Source: NOAA (extremes 1892−present)[14] HKO (sun only, 1961−1990) [15]


The city skyline shows the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel which reopened in 1981 after extensive renovations done by Marvin DeWinter & Associates including the addition of a 29 story glass tower. The Pantlind's designers Warren & Wetmore were inspired by the work of the Scottish neoclassical architect Robert Adam; in its prime the hotel was rated as one of the top ten hotels in the US. The hotel is home to several well-known restaurants in Grand Rapids, such as Cygnus and the 1913 Room, which was Michigan's only AAA Five Diamond Award restaurant, before being replaced in May 2011 by Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

The hotel is owned by Amway Hotel Collection, a subsidiary of Amway's holding company Alticor.[16]

Other prominent large buildings include the JW Marriott Grand Rapids, the first JW Marriott Hotel in the Midwest. It is themed from the array of Grand Rapids Sister cities: Omihachiman, Japan; Bielsko-Biała, Poland; Perugia, Italy; Ga District, Ghana; and Zapopan, Mexico. When the hotel was first opened, Amway Hotel corporation hired photographer Dan Watts to travel to each of the sister cities and photograph them for the property. Each floor of the hotel features photography from one of the cities and is unique to that floor. The cities repeat themselves up the 23 floors.

The city's tallest building, which postdates the above photo, is the River House Condominiums. Completed in 2008, It is a 34 story (123.8 m) condominium tower and stands as the tallest all-residential building in the state of Michigan.[17]


In 1969, Alexander Calder's 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.[18] It became the first federally funded work of public art in the United States funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.[19] Since then, the site has hosted an annual Festival of the Arts on the plaza, now known informally as "Calder Plaza."[18][20] 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 because it is organized and managed entirely by volunteers. 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 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 newly built art museum to achieve gold-level, LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The first ArtPrize, the world's largest art competition completely voted on by the public, 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. 1,262 artists exhibited their work for two weeks, with a total of 334,219 votes cast. First prize, including a $250,000 cash prize, went to Brooklyn painter Ran Ortner.[21] The second event, 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.[22]

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.B's Brewery, Brewery Vivant, Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Hideout, HopCat and Schmohz have created the culture necessary to win the award.[23] In 2013, Grand Rapids again won the competition for "Beer City USA," but this time it was an outright victory. Grand Rapids had more votes than the runner-up Kalamazoo, Michigan and the third place Asheville, North Carolina combined.[24]


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 and former First Lady Betty Ford. 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 directly east of downtown is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country. It was the first "neighborhood" of Grand Rapids and its 1,300 homes date from 1848 and represent over 60 architectural styles. Of particular significance is the Meyer May House, a prairie-style home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908. It was commissioned by local merchant Meyer May who operated a men's clothing store (May's of Michigan). The house is now owned and operated by Steelcase Corporation. Steelcase manufactured furniture for the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin, which was designed by Wright. Because of those ties, Steelcase purchased and restored the property in the 1980s. The restoration has been heralded as one of the most accurate and complete of any Wright restoration. The home is used by Steelcase for special events and open to the public for tours.

Grand Rapids is home to myriad 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 Theatre. The first megaplex in the United States is also located in Grand Rapids, Studio 28, which reopened in 1988 with a seating capacity of 6,000.[25] The theater ceased operations on November 23, 2008.[26][27] The Grand Rapids company also owns many theaters around West Michigan.

In Grand Rapids Township, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park combine 125 acres (1 km2) 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 acts as Jonny Lang, The Pointer Sisters, Lyle Lovett, Cowboy Junkies, and B.B. King. The Gardens were mentioned in Patricia Schultz's book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.[28]

Entertainment and performing arts

Grand Rapids has a number of popular concert venues in which a large assortment of bands have performed, including the Orbit Room, the DAAC, the Intersection, DeVos Hall, the Van Andel Arena, the Royce Auditorium, the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, and the Deltaplex.

The Schubert Male Chorus of Grand Rapids is considered the oldest independent continuing male chorus in America. Founded by Henry C. Post on November 19, 1883 they continue to perform today a variety of music.

The Grand Rapids Symphony, founded in 1930, presents more than 400 performances a year.[29]

The Grand Rapids Barbershop Chapter Great Lakes Chorus is an all-male a cappella barbershop harmony chorus including quartets and is one of the oldest chapters in the Barbershop Harmony Society (formally known as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America or SPEBSQSA). The Grand Rapids chapter organized on November 1, 1939 for quartet singers and is credited for holding the first society sanctioned quartet contest in the "Michigan District" (now Pioneer District) in March 1941. And in 1944 the Grand Rapids Chapter is credited with having the first International Quartet champions, The Harmony Halls. In 1947 the Great Lakes Chorus (then called the Grand Rapids Chorus) was founded. In 1953 the first International Chorus Competition was held and the Great Lakes Chorus took First Place with the title first International Convention Championship Chorus under the direction of Robert Weaver.[30] The chorus is still very active as a non-profit singing for community, competition, and contracted performances.

Grand Rapids Ballet Company was founded in 1971 and remains as Michigan's only professional ballet company.[31] They are currently located on Ellsworth Avenue in the Heartside neighborhood, where it moved in 2000. In 2007, they expanded their facility by adding the LEED-certified Peter Wege Theater.[31]

Opera Grand Rapids, founded in 1966, is the state's longest running professional company.[32] In February 2010, they moved into a new facility in the Fulton Heights neighborhood.[33]

A January 21, 2011 Newsweek article listing Grand Rapids as a "dying city" prompted director Rob Bliss and producer Scott Erickson to film a vigorous, 5,000-person community response. The Grand Rapids LipDub, released May 26, was the first-ever city-wide lip dub video and was dubbed by film critic Roger Ebert "the greatest music video ever made."[34] The video held the world record for largest lip dub for two years and has amassed over 5 million views on YouTube; PRNewswire awarded its producers the "Earnie Award" for Best Use of Video in Social Media.[35]


Several professional sports teams call the Grand Rapids area 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 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; AHL Calder Cup Champions: 2013

Each year the Fifth Third River Bank Run is held in downtown Grand Rapids. It draws participants from around the world; in 2010 there were over 22,000 participants. The Grand Rapids Marathon is held in downtown Grand Rapids in mid-October, usually on the same weekend as the Detroit Marathon.

Amateur sporting organizations in the area include the Grand Rapids Rowing Association,[36] Grand Rapids Rugby Club,[37] and the West Michigan Wheelchair Sports Association.[38] The West Michigan Sports Commission is the host organizing committee for the inaugural State Games of Michigan, which will be held in Grand Rapids from June 25 to June 27, 2010.[39][40]


The Grand Rapids Press is a 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,[41] which covers music and the arts, and RECOIL, which covers music and offers Onion-style satire. The Rapidian is an online-based citizen journalism project funded by grants from the Knight Foundation and local community foundations[42] that is reprinted or cited by other local media outlets.[43]

Grand Rapids, combined with nearby Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, was ranked in 2010 as the 41st largest television market in the U.S. by Nielsen Media Research.[44] The market is served by stations affiliated with major American networks including: WOOD-TV (channel 8, NBC), WOTV (channel 41, ABC), WZZM-TV (channel 13, ABC), WXMI (channel 17, Fox), WXSP-CD (channel 15, MyNetworkTV) and Kalamazoo-based WWMT (channel 3, CBS), along with surrounding stations based from Muskegon and Battle Creek. WGVU-TV is the area's PBS member station.

The Grand Rapids area[45] is served by 16 AM radio stations and 28 FM stations.[46]


Top Employers based in Grand Rapids
Source: The Right Place
Rank Company/Organization #
1 Spectrum Health 18,000
2 Axios Inc. 8,000
3 Meijer 7,725
4 Spartan Stores 4,258
5 Johnson Controls 3,900
6 Grand Rapids Public Schools 3,297
7 Steelcase 3,227
8 Fifth Third Bank 2,729
9 Saint Mary's Health Care 2,672
10 Grand Rapids Community College 2,254
11 City of Grand Rapids 2,050
12 Lacks Enterprises Inc. 1,750
13 Kent County 1,668
14 U.S. Postal Service 1,633
15 Consumers Energy 1,493
16 Hope Network 1,436
17 GE Aviation 1,400
18 Pine Rest Christian Hospital 1,390
19 Holland Home 1,275
20 Amway Hotel 1,233
Further information: List of Michigan companies

Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Spectrum Health is the largest employer in West Michigan with 16,000 staff and 1,500 physicians.[47] Spectrum Health's Meijer Heart Center, Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, and Butterworth Hospital, a level I trauma center are located on the Grand Rapids Medical Mile which has world-class facilities focusing on the health sciences. These facilities include the Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Valley State University's Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, and the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine medical school's Secchia Center. Along with Ferris State University's College of Pharmacy. Nearly a billion dollars has been invested in the Spectrum Health Cancer Pavilion, the Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and the expansion to the Van Andel Institute. These facilities have attracted numerous health science businesses to the area.

Grand Rapids has long been a center for furniture, automobile, and aviation manufacturing; American Seating, Steelcase, Haworth and Herman Miller, major manufacturers of office furniture, are based in the Grand Rapids area. The area serves as an important location for GE Aviation Systems.

In 1880, Also since 1912, Kindel Furniture Company,[50] and since 1922, the Hekman/Woodmark Furniture Company,[51] have been designing and manufacturing traditional American furniture in Grand Rapids. All of these companies are still producing furniture today.

The Grand Rapids area is home to a number of well known companies that include: Alticor/Amway (a consumer goods manufacturer and distributor), Bissell (a privately owned vacuum cleaner and floor care product manufacturer), Highlight Industries (an industry leader in stretch wrap equipment), Spartan Stores (a food distributor and grocery store chain), Foremost Insurance Company (a specialty lines insurance company), Meijer (a regional 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), Universal Forest Products (a building materials company), and Schuler Books & Music, one of the largest independent bookstores in the country.

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

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 2010 Grand Rapids was named the "most sustainable midsize city in the U.S." by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Civic Leadership Center and Siemens Corp. Grand Rapids was chosen over finalist cities Davenport, Iowa and Hoover, Alabama.[52]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2011 estimate

2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 188,040 people, 72,126 households, and 41,015 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,235.1 inhabitants per square mile (1,635.2 /km2). There were 80,619 housing units at an average density of 1,815.7 per square mile (701.0 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 64.6% White, 20.9% African American, 0.7% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 7.7% from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.6% of the population.[53] Non-Hispanic Whites were 59% of the population in 2010,[54] compared to 86.9% in 1970.[55]

There were 72,126 households of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.5% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.1% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.20.

The median age in the city was 30.8 years. 24.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 14.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.6% were from 25 to 44; 21.2% were from 45 to 64; and 11.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.7% male and 51.3% female.

As of the 2007 American Community Survey, the largest ancestry groups in Grand Rapids include: German, 23.4%; Dutch, 21.2%; English, 15.9%; Irish, 11.4%; Polish, 6.5%; French, 5.1%; Swedish, 2.7%; Scottish, 2.0%; and Scots-Irish, 1.3%.[56]

Those citing "American" ancestry in Grand Rapids are of overwhelmingly English extraction; most English Americans identify simply as having American ancestry because their roots have been in North America for so long, in many cases since the 17th century.[57][58][59][60]

2000 census

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 age distribution of the population shows 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.


The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) has a large following in Grand Rapids; its denominatonal offices are located on the southeast side of the city. The CRCNA has over 230 congregations and almost 100,000 members in Michigan as of 2010.[61] The denomination is concentrated in the western part of the state, where a substantial number of immigrants from the Netherlands settled; a majority of them were followers of the Reformed faith.[62] As of 2012, the Christian Reformed Church in North America has nearly 1,100 congregations and over 250,000 members nationwide.[63]

The Reformed Church in America (RCA) has about 154 congregations and 76,000 members mainly in Western Michigan,[64] heavily concentrated in the cities in Grand Rapids, Holland, and Zeeland. The main office of the denomination is also in Grand Rapids.[65]

The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA) traces its roots to the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids whose pastor was Herman Hoeksema, the founder of the church.[66] Majority of the PRCA's Classis East congregations located around Grand Rapids.[67][68]

Grand Rapids is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, which was created on May 19, 1882 by Pope Leo XIII. The Diocese comprises 176,098 Catholics in West Michigan, 102 parishes, and four high schools: Catholic Central High School, Grand Rapids; Muskegon Catholic Central High School, Muskegon; St. Patrick High School, Portland; and West Catholic High School, Grand Rapids.[69] Walter A. Hurley is the current Bishop of Grand Rapids.

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 is currently represented by libertarian Republican Justin Amash. Former President Gerald Ford represented the district from 1949 to 1973, and is buried on the grounds of his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. The city and its suburbs are home to several major donors to the national Republican Party, including the DeVos family and former Ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia.

The city proper tends to elect Democrats. Both of its representatives in the Michigan State House of Representatives are Democrats, and in the six most recent presidential elections Democratic candidates Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama won a majority or plurality of votes in the city of Grand Rapids. The last Republican candidate for President to carry the city was 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.[70]


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 and assumed office on January 1, 2004.[71]


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.[72] National Heritage Academies, which operates charter schools across several states, has its headquarters in Grand Rapids.[73]

Grand Rapids is home to several colleges and universities. The private, religious schools Aquinas College, Calvin College, Cornerstone University, Grace Bible College, and Kuyper College each have a campus within the city. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, a private institution, also has a campus in Grand Rapids. Northwood University, a private university with its main campus in Midland, Michigan, has a satellite campus located downtown near the "medical mile." The for-profit vocational school ITT Technical Institute has one of its 105 campuses (located across 37 states of the US)[75] located in Grand Rapids as well. Davenport University, a private, non-profit, multi-location university with 14 campuses state-wide, has its main campus just outside of Grand Rapids.

As for public tertiary institutions, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) maintains a campus downtown and facilities in other parts of the city and surrounding region. Grand Valley State University, with its main campus located in nearby Allendale, continues to develop its presence downtown by expanding its Pew campus, begun in the 1980s on the west bank of the Grand River.[74] This downtown campus currently consists of 33 acres (13 ha) in two locations and is home to 11 buildings and three leased spaces.[76] Ferris State University has a growing campus downtown, including the Applied Technology Center (operated with GRCC) and the Kendall College of Art and Design, a formerly private institution that now is part of Ferris. Ferris State also has a branch of the College of Pharmacy located downtown on the medical mile. Western Michigan University has a long-standing graduate program in the city, with facilities downtown and in the southeast. The Van Andel Institute, a cancer research institute established in 1996, also resides on the medical mile; the institute established a graduate school in 2005 to train PhD students in cellular, genetic, and molecular biology.

Clinical Pastoral Education is also offered at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in nearby Gaines Township, Michigan.

MSU College of Human Medicine

Grand Rapids is home to the Secchia Center medical education building, a $90 million, seven-story, 180,000-square-foot (17,000 m2) facility, at Michigan Street and Division Avenue, part of the Grand Rapids Medical Mile. The building is home to the Grand Rapids Campus of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. This campus trains medical students through all four years of their medical education. The state-of-the-art facility includes clinical examination rooms, simulation suites, classrooms, offices and student areas.[77]


Major highways

Further information: Roads and freeways in Michigan

Template:Jct/extra I-96 runs along the northern and northeastern sides of the city, linking with Muskegon to the west and Lansing and Detroit, Michigan to the east
Template:Jct/extra I-196, also named the Gerald R. Ford Freeway, runs east–west through the city, connecting to I-96 just east of Grand Rapids and I-94 in Benton Township
Template:Jct/extra I-296, an unsigned route running concurrently with US 131 between I-96 and I-196
business spur of I-196 that follows a section of Chicago Drive
Template:Jct/extra US 131 runs north-south through the city, linking with Kalamazoo to the south and Cadillac to the north
Template:Jct/extra BUS US 131, a business loop traversing downtown Grand Rapids
Paul B. Henry Freeway running along the south side connecting I-96 and I-196
Template:Jct/extra M-11 runs along Ironwood/Remembrance Road, Wilson Avenue, and 28th Street
Template:Jct/extra M-21 is Fulton Street to the east
Template:Jct/extra M-37 follows Alpine Avenue to the north, I-96, East Beltline Avenue and Broadmoor Avenue to the south
Template:Jct/extra M-44 is East Beltline north of I-96
Template:Jct/extra M-44 Conn runs along Plainfield Avenue
Lake Michigan
A-45 is Old US 131 south of 28th Street

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. There are plans in the works to add more express routes, secondary stations, a streetcar and dedicated (exclusive) highway lanes.[78]
  • In the Summer of 2012, Megabus started service from Grand Rapids to Chicago, Detroit, East Lansing, Indianapolis, and Columbus.[79]


Commercial air service to Grand Rapids is provided by Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR). Seven airlines operate over 150 daily flights to 23 nonstop destinations across the United States and to Toronto in Canada. The airport was previously named the Kent County International Airport.

The first regularly scheduled air service in the United States was between Grand Rapids and Detroit (actually Dearborn's Ford Airport) on a Ford-Stout monoplane named Miss Grand Rapids, which commenced July 26, 1926.


Amtrak provides direct train service to Chicago from the passenger station via the Pere Marquette line.[83][84] Freight service is provided by CSX, the Grand Elk Railroad, Marquette Rail, the Coopersville and Marne Railway, and the Grand Rapids Eastern Railroad.

Sister cities

Grand Rapids has city partnerships with the following cities:[85]

See also


Further reading

  • Fernández, Delia, "Becoming Latino: Mexican and Puerto Rican Community Formation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1926–1964," Michigan Historical Review, vol. 39 (Spring 2013), pp. 71–100.
  • Todd E. Robinson, A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013.

External links

  • Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand Rapids Historical Commission Online Archive