Thursday, June 4, 2015

DeVos Place & Grand Rapids: 10 Years Strong-Part 3

Before DeVos Place was built, the land was home to the Kent
 County Courthouse, Hall of Justice and the Grand Rapid Police Department.

#TBT: A "Grand A-Fair"

DeVos Place® wasn’t always the grand convention center in the heart of Grand Rapids that it is now. The ground upon which it was built was once treaded on by Native Americans, ironmongers, factory workers, retailers and shoppers. With such an important part in Grand Rapids history, the land and area that DeVos Place is built upon has a vibrant history all its own.

A Home for the Performing Arts

When the Great Depression hit Grand Rapids, it hit hard. With a decline in industry, jobs and residents, Grand Rapids was in need of relief, and that is what then City Manager, George Welsh, set out to bring to the city. The Civic Auditorium was constructed in 1932 as a relief project for the city and the people. It created jobs, cultural influence and more importantly, a home for the performing arts. The Civic Auditorium housed dances, films, theater and the Grand Rapids Symphony. It would later be renamed the George Welsh Civic Auditorium (name shortened to Welsh Auditorium over time) in 1974, in memory of George Welsh. In 2003, it would be demolished to make way for the ballroom in the newly expanded DeVos Place convention center, keeping its exterior face intact.

A Home for Justice

In 1962, the land beside the Welsh Auditorium was cleared for a new kind of facility. No longer in the land of factories and retail buildings, the cleared ground would be the home for the Hall of Justice, Kent County Courthouse, and the Grand Rapids Police Department. These structures were ultimately demolished in 2002 after the facilities were relocated.

A Grand Reprise

After much planning and fundraising, the convention center was built alongside the Welsh Auditorium, and was named the Grand Center. With fundraising efforts led by the DeVos and Blodgett families and the Grand Rapids community, the convention center was completed in the fall of 1980. The first annual “Celebration on the Grand” welcomed the opening of the Grand Center with a week full of events. An expansion of the facility would come years later.

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 third 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 as its impact on the community. Check back next Thursday for Part 4.