Thursday, May 21, 2015

DeVos Place & Grand Rapids: 10 Years Strong-Part 1

The grounds on which DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall are currently
located was the home of an assortment of Grand Rapids factories. 
#TBT: the 1800’s

DeVos Place® wasn’t always the grand convention center in the heart of Grand Rapids like it is now. The ground upon which it was built was once treaded on by Native Americans, ironmongers, factory workers, retailers, and shoppers. The land and area in which DeVos Place currently stands had a crucial role in the beginnings of the city of Grand Rapids and has a vibrant history all its own.

Grand Rapids roots

When French fur trader Louis Campau, nicknamed “the Fox” by the natives living in the area, bought his land on what is now the grounds for DeVos Place, he would become the “father of Grand Rapids.” The Campau trading post would be the pinnacle for city development. Campau laid out his village streets in the spoke style, an imitation of the ones used in France. The boundaries of his village were along the Grand River, Fulton Street, Division Avenue, and what is now Michigan Street, the heart of city today. Campau named his main street after President James Monroe, who had died in 1831.

The Fox vs. the Lyon

When Lucius Lyon, a land surveyor from New York, saw the value of the land next to the Grand River, he bought a large chunk of land just north of Campau’s. Lyon set his land with streets in the standard grid format, using compass directions instead of the radial setting that Campau used. The two settlers feuded over the name of the city, Campau insisting on keeping the name “Grand Rapids” versus Lyon, who wanted to rename the city “Kent.” With settlers attracted to the land, Lyon wanted to reconcile with Campau and connect their two settlements through Pearl Street.

Grand Rapids Business District

Canal Street through Pearl created an intricate intersection, with Monroe and Canal not meeting perfectly due to a variety of buildings that stood in the way. Ultimately, the buildings either burned down or were demolished, creating a public square that would be known as Campau Square, and today is known as Rosa Parks Circle.

Celebrating 10 Years

Celebrate Grand Rapids history and DeVos Place at the DeVos Place 10th Anniversary Open House on Saturday, June 13th from 10AM-5PM! It’s free and open to the public. Join us for fun, family-friendly activities, entertainment, prizes, food, and more!

This is the first of a four part series celebrating the 10th Anniversary of DeVos Place. The series will focus on the history of Grand Rapids and DeVos Place, as well its impact on the community. Check back next Thursday for Part 2.