Grand Rapids Mid-Century Park-Schools 1951-1962.  

from the presentation "Grand Rapids mid-century park-school development program" by Pam VanderPloeg.  Text and photos copyright 2017 unless otherwise noted.

Grand Rapids has a unique collection of mid-century modern park-schools completed between 1951 - 1962, the first phase of a major construction project funded by a Grand Rapids Public Schools Millage.   The schools were designed to be child-friendly in their size and design.  This is a finite group of modern schools in  expansive park settings, and it is fun to imagine what they must have seemed like to families when they were first constructed in that time of post-war optimism.  

Here is a bit of the story.    After World War II, Grand Rapids Public Schools were in desperate need of building maintenance,  new classrooms, and revenue.   The school board commission a survey by the University of Chicago's Field Service team, and based on the results, went out for a successful 20-year building millage.   City Parks Superintendent Fred See proposed an innovative project to build the schools in expansive neighborhood parks.  The result was a collaborative agreement between the City Commission and the Grand Rapids School Board that is still in effect.  The agreement called for a committee of architects to develop common solutions to the design challenges, but each architect was assigned separate schools to design, based on the unique neighborhood and typography.  The School Board was not seeking "cookie-cutter" schools.  

The schools in the first phase include Mulick Park, Brookside School, Kent Hills School, Hall School (gone), Madison Park (gone), Maplewood School, Westwood Hills, Ridgewood Junior High, Hillcrest School, Palmer School, Riverside Elementary, Riverside Junior High, Campau Park, East Leonard, Crestview School, Shawnee Park, Buchanan, and a GRPS Service Center (demolished to build I-196).  

If you have any information to share about the park-schools or would like to contact me about this presentation, please use the "Contact" form here:  Thanks!