2011 Baxter Award Recipient
Each year the Albert Baxter Award is presented at the Annual Meeting and Banquet in May to someone who has contributed to the preservation and interpretation of the history of the Grand River Valley. This year the Board of Trustees honors Rebecca Smith-Hoffman.
Historic Preservation is Rebecca Smith-Hoffman’s vocation and avocation. For more than thirty years she has been involved in issues arising out of maintaining the built environment of Grand Rapids and other Michigan communities. She believes that our buildings are what shape us as a community – they provide people with a necessary sense of place and time.
Her first action to save a building was in the late 1970s when she joined her Heritage Hill neighbors in picketing Calvary Undenominational Church, which was then located on Michigan Street, to protest the destruction of houses for church parking.
From that time on she has worked with many other dedicated people in the following areas:
Heritage Hill Association
- Zoning and planning issues, helping to stabilize the neighborhood
Kent County Council for Historic Preservation
- Saved the Peck Building
- Saved Brookby – the Blodgett mansion
- Saved the Berkey and Gay Furniture Factory
- Saved the City Hall/County building/Calder Plaza
- Worked to combat urban renewal mentality generally
South East Economic Development Corporation (a community-based economic development organization focusing on the redevelopment of Wealthy Street)
- With Jennifer Metz wrote the Wealthy Street Historic District Study Committee Report leading to the designation of the historic district
East Hills Council of Neighbors
- Assisted with the Cherry Hill Historic District Study Committee report leading to the designation of the historic district
- Assisted with the Fairmount Square Historic District Study Committee Report leading to the designation of the historic district
Rebecca and friend Jennifer Metz formed Past Perfect in 1995. The firm provides consulting services for Historic Preservation Tax Credits, National Register of Historic Place nominations, historic resources surveys, project planning, historic research, and photographic documentation. They are proud to have had the opportunity to participate in the redevelopment of many of the city’s historic buildings, both large and small, including the Berkey & Gay Furniture Factory, the American Seating Factory, the Monroe Avenue Water Filtration Plant, the Winchester Building, the Aldrich Building, and many, many more.
Rebecca Smith-Hoffman continues to offer her voice to preservation. She was quoted recently regarding the vandalism issues in the revitalized areas along Wealthy and Cherry Streets and was very vocal in the fight to save the St. Andrew’s School building. We will hear from Rebecca for many years to come when a neighborhood or building needs to have someone speak up before it is too late.