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Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand River, Grand Rapids, Michigan, c. 1905
Grand River, Grand Rapids, Michigan, c. 1905

Grand Rapids, also known as the Furniture City or the Second City of Michigan, is a city in the United States. It is the county seat of Kent County, Michigan, in the southwestern region of the state. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 197,800.



The Grand Rapids area was first settled in the 1820s by missionaries and fur traders, who generally lived in reasonable peace alongside the Ottawa tribespeople who had their settlements near the Grand River.

The official founder of Grand Rapids itself was Louis Campau, who arrived in November 1826 to trade with the Indians. Yankee immigrants and others began immigrating from New York and New England in the 1830s.

The city of Grand Rapids was 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.

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. The city also became a center of Dutch immigration in the 19th century.

In 1881, the country's first hydro-electric plant was put to use on the city's west side. In 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water.

Law and Government

Title Name
City Mayor: George Heartwell Image:grcl.jpg
City Manager: Kurt Kimball
Mayor of Grand Rapids:
George Heartwell

The Commission-Manager plan

Grand Rapids voters adopted the Commission-Manager form of municipal government in 1916. Since its adoption, the political reponsibilities have been divided between an elected Mayor, and a hired City Manager. The members of the City Commission are elected and serve as policy makers for their community. The City Commission is responsible for hiring the City Manager and other appointed officials. Source: [1]

George Heartwell, current Mayor

George Heartwell was elected to be the next mayor of Grand Rapids after former Mayor John Logie stepped down. 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 city decided to keep the position part-time, and Heartwell was elected.

Heartwell assumed office on January 1st, 2004. Prior to being mayor, Heartwell was also a City Commissioner, for the third ward, 1992-2000. He is Director of the Community Leadership Institute at Aquinas College, where he is also a professor in the Community Leadership undergraduate study program. Mayor Heartwell is also an ordained minister, for the United Church of Christ, and served for 14 years at Heartside Ministry, a program for the homeless in Grand Rapids. He was also the president at Heartwell Mortgage Corporation. Source: [2]

See also: List of mayors of Grand Rapids, Michigan


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.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 117.4 km² (45.3 mi²). 115.6 km² (44.6 mi²) of it is land and 1.8 km² (0.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 1.50% water.


Grand Rapids has long been a center for furniture and automobile manufacturing. More recently the city has attracted more bio-tech companies to the city with the addition of the Van Andel Medical Institute, and the new Cook-DeVos Medical Training Facility, which is a part of Grand Valley State University, along with a new medical school in association with Michigan State University.

The new DeVos Place is expected to continue the growth of the city, which has seen a significant increase recently. Other future projects in the city include a new art museum.

Grand Rapids is home to Gerald R. Ford International Airport.


Since 1970, Grand Rapids has been host to an annual festival of the arts downtown, known to locals simply as "Festival (insert year here)". The first weekend in June, several blocks of downtown surrounding the Calder stabile next to City Hall 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. Also in Calder Plaza, Grand Rapids hosts a variety of country-specific ethnic festivals throughout the summer season.

In mid-2004, Grand Rapids 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 Rosa Parks Circle.

Grand Rapids is home to several colleges and universities. Aquinas College, Calvin College, and Cornerstone University are private, religious schools, each with a campus on the east side of the city. Grand Rapids Community College maintains an extensive campus downtown. 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. Kendall College of Art and Design, which became part of Ferris State University in the early 2000s, also operates downtown. Davenport University , a state-wide educational institution, has one of its main campuses in downtown Grand Rapids.

Other cultural links:

Sites of Interest

Notable Natives

Local Sports Teams

External links

Regions of Michigan
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Last updated: 11-07-2004 17:43:55