DOWNTOWN ON LYON STREET
This tour starts at the base of Lyon Street at the Grand River. Check out the Fine Arts Building, the stunning facade of the Civic Auditorium, and the mid-century modern bank and civic buildings on Lyon and Monroe and Ottawa Streets resulting from 1960's urban renewal. Scroll down to find out more about the buildings.
Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium. Date: 1933. Design: Smith Hinchman & Grylls of Detroit working with Grand Rapids Architects Robinson & Campau. Details: Neoclassical style with art deco details. The building is located at the base of Lyon Street on the banks of the Grand River. It is a monumental building. The portico, with its massive columns, is approached from a classical style steps the width of the building. History: This building was completed during the Depression years in Grand Rapids. City Manager George Welsh worked to combat the effects of the Depression with then Mayor John D. Karel. The “scrip” program was developed to pay construction workers with scrip that could be exchanged for food and other goods at city scrip stores. Today: The façade and lobby are the only remaining intact portions of the original building. Link here for more information.
Exhibitor's Building. Date 1923. Design: Designed in the Renaissance style by architect Benjamin Hertel. The contractor was Owens, Ames, Kimball. Details: Added to the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1982, the imposing yellow brick building with elaborate detailing was also known as the Fine Arts Building. The location by the popular Pantlind Hotel (and later across from the Civic Auditorium) made it an ideal exhibition space and marketing too for the furniture industry, especially from 1923-1949. Today: The Exhibitors Building is an extension of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
Michigan Consolidated Gas Building. Date: 1967. Design: Daverman Associates, Minoru Yamasaki & Associates and Peter Petkoff, structural engineer. Today: Owned by CWD.
Old Kent Bank Building. Date: 1965. Design: Daverman Associates. Today: Fifth Third Bank.
Grand Rapids City Hall and Kent County Administration Building. Date: 1969. Design: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with Associate Architects O'Bryon & Knapp, later O'Bryon & Nachtegal. Details: These two complimentary buildings are rectangular modern steel structures clad in brown Canadian granite and bronzed glass. They are set back from the street on a raised concrete plaza. The buildings were embellished by the extraordinary Calder Sculpture "La Grand Vitesse." added to the plaza. The two modern buildings remain controversial with city residents, linked as they are with the tragic demolition of the old Romanesque style city hall and clock tower. The Calder sculpture, on the other hand has become the symbol of Grand Rapids.
Calder Painting on Kent County Administration Building Roof. Date: 1974. Design: Alexander Calder. Details: After the Calder sculpture installed on Vandenberg Plaza, Nancy Mulnix Tweedle asked one last thing from Alexander Calder, to paint the roof of the 3-story County Administration Building. Calder agreed to recreate one of his abstract paintings in red, black and white on the County Building roof, and painted gratis. Tweddle also secured funds from Warner, Norcross & Judd for installation and maintenance of the painting. Today: Interestingly, the existence of this painting is not well know among residents.
Transamerica Title Company. Date: 1964 Designer: Daverman Associates, E. John Knapp, AIA. Details: Details: Small Brutalist style commerical building with a clamshell design with large glass curtain walls and a floating stairway. Initially featured parking underneath the first level on the Ottawa Street side. The building is located in the heart of the urban renewal district where Federal funds were made available to the community to demolish older buildings in favor of more modern structures. Today: Kent County Government Building
Frey Building. Date: 1970. Design: Carson, Lundin & Shaw of New York City. Details: Modern Commercial style, built following the demolition of older buildings on the street during urban renewal. Today: This modern commercial building is now owned by CWD.
Grand Rapids City Hall. Date: 1880. Design: Elijah Meyers designed this iconic structure. Architect Meyers designed the state capitols of Michigan, Colorado and Texas. Designed in the Victorian era, the gothic style City Hall building was a mix of towersand sharp gables, crowned with a soaring clock tower that historic preservations sought to save at the time of demolition. The building cost the huge sum (at the time) of $314, 800. My father-in-law's courtroom and chambers were located on the third floor. The building was in rough shape prior to tear down, but that is generally considered to have been a case of neglect that supported the case for demotion in 1969 at the height of urban renewal in Grand Rapids. This was despite the efforts of early historic preservationists in "a wave of civil disobedience" according to Grand Rapids Press writer Garret Ellison, "and the public shaming by noted New York Times architectural writer Louise Huxtable." Today: The building is gone and widely mourned. Photo from US GenWeb Archive.
Furniture Temple. Date: 1911. Design: Architect George L. Stone. Details: Designed as one of the early important exhibition buildings supporting the furniture industry. Today: The Loft Apartments at 5 Lyon.
Union Bank Building. Date: 1970. Design: The 11-story "low-rise" structure of designed in the International style with a steel frame structure and glass curtain walls by Carson, Lundin & Shaw of New York City. History: This modern bank building was a result of the Urban Renewal period demolition on Ottawa NW and was located next door to the site of the old Grand Rapids City Hall, now gone. Today: Owned by CWD.