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: http://grandrapidsbuildings.com/contact/. Thanks!
Mulick Park-School Exterior on Rosewood was taken January 2017 and shows that the main change in the building is the removal of the original windows.
Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center
The parks were popular year round as shown in photo circa 1950's. My husband remembers that he would bring his skates to school. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center
Mulick Park steps lead down from building down to the various age-appropriate playgrounds. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center.
Mulick Park had a beautifully arranged Park-Playground desgiend by the City Park's Department as shown in this long-veiw circa 1950's. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center
The Mulick Park-School model was created by the City Parks Department. Fred See, Park Superintendent, the man who introduced this idea to the City Commission and School Board, brought the model to the convention of the American Landscape Architects and won first place, the blue ribbon in 1955. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center.
The Brookside Park School Exterior today shows little change over the years. Photo taken December 2016. Brookside was designed by the Louis Kingscott Firm from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Louis Kingscott was chair of the Architects Collaborating Committee.
This photo taken in May, 2015 shows the expansive Brookside Park-School Playground.
Another view of the expansive park-playground at Brookside School.
Park-School Model created by City Parks Department. Photo Courtesy City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center
Riverside School on Coit NE had been empty and was already sold to Vista Springs when this photo was taken in May 2014.
Photo City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center
Interior of Riverside School on Coit, taken through the window, May, 2014.
This photo of the interior of Riverside School on Coit NE was taken through the window, May, 2014.
This interior photo of Riverside School was taken through the window May 2014. Shows the beautiful built-in shelves typical of the mid-century schools.
Riverside School on Coit NE, a view behind the school, May 2014.
Riverside School was purchased by Vista Springs and remade as shown, opening in 2015. This photo was taken, January 2017.
As part of the Park-School Development Program, older schools that were not replaced received new park-playgrounds. This drawing by the City Parks Department shows a beautiful park with basketball, baseball and tennis courts. It has areas for recreation activities as well as and track and field area. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center.
This Parks Department utility vehicle parked at Harrison School in the 1950's is ready to work on the new park-playground showed in the schematic drawing in the previous Parks-Progress photo. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center.
Lighting and shaded benches were special features at new Grand Rapids Park-Playgrounds surrounding the Park-Schools in the development of efficient year-round park-playgrounds designed for all ages. Harrison Park-Playground. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center.
Campau Park School was constructed in the middle of a beautiful but declining older park off Division that was once the Antoine Campau farm. This photo taken in 1959 shows students enjoying the basketball court with the new school in the background.
Campau Park-School playground already had this awesome pool for the neighborhood children to enjoy. 1959 Photo. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center.
The City Parks Department added this wading pool to the Campau Park-School playground. Photo 1959 - Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center.
Photo of Madison Park School, completed in 1956, was designed by the J. &. G. Daverman. It replaced the old Madison on a site adjacent to Madison Park after several lots were puchased. School was replaced Gerald Ford Academic Center on the same site. Photo Courtesy of City of Grand Rapids Community Archives and Research Center