Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids' History
Women's City Club, 254 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 map
presented by Tom Logan
Heritage Hill has a long history. It was an early site of what might be thought of as “country houses” outside of the Grand River flood plain. Of course, the designation—“heritage hill”—was only applied at the time of its official designation as a protected historic district. Its boundaries include areas developed over at least 6 decades: large numbers of structures appeared from the 1880s through the 1920s. A few were built as early as the 1840s, and as recently as the 2010s.
The preservation movement was a national phenomenon, spurred on by the “Urban Renewal” program funded by the federal government in the 1960s. Physical deterioration and urban patterns which did not accommodate the automobile comfortably led to massive demolition of urban fabric and creation of more open (and often “dead”) urban spaces. Plans to extend this approach from the commercial and civic downtown area to the elegant residential area on “the Hill,” led to the preservation movement, which succeeded in historic designation around 1970.
While “preservation” is the goal, the theme of the presentation is the constant change that has characterized the Heritage Hill district over its history. Both before and since it gained “protected” status, there has been continuous change: increased density of buildings; additions to single-family homes; construction of duplexes and multi-family structures next to older buildings; conversion of single to multi-family use; adding “style” to simple vernacular buildings; in-fill development; re-conversion to fewer units per building—it has never stopped.
Influenced by its geography, surveyors and land sub-divisions, changing housing styles and esthetics, national economic cycles and world wars, the district presents a fascinating tapestry of life. The people who were important in it contributed significantly to the life of the larger community, through public offices held, professions practiced, and non-profit organizations founded and projects pursued.
Long-time resident and author of two books on Heritage Hill, Tom Logan will give examples of all of this, illustrating why he loves his neighborhood.
Presentation Only: Free and Open to the Public
The May 2018 Program: “Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids’ History”, begins at 7:30 pm, is free and open to the public following Grand Rapids Historical Society Annual Meeting & Banquet.
If you would like to join us for the Annual Meeting & Banquet prior to the May program a dinner ticket is required. [PURCHASE DINNER TICKET HERE]