Grand Rapids is named such because it was built on the banks of the Grand River, in a location once known for it’s rapids. It’s 50 km east of Lake Michigan and a quick 30 minute flight from Chicago (as we discovered). It was originally inhabited by the Ottawa Indians until 1826 when the city was settled by French fur traders.
Grand Rapids is also known for many other things: being the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water, the first city in the U.S. to have a regularly scheduled passenger airline (1926), for it’s unique department stores (such as Herpolsheimer’s), and for being the home to Herman Miller and Amway. The main Amway headquarters were across the street from where we stayed.
The biggest thing Grand Rapids is known as is “Furniture City,” a name that they adopted during the later half of the 1800s and became an international moniker after the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. After the 1960s this identity started to fade away, however today Grand Rapids is known as a world leader in the production of office furniture.
When we flew out of Chicago it was hot and sunny and alive; it was very much in the final throws of summer and it seemed like there was something going on every second of our stay. As we came into Grand Rapids it was cloudy and dark and very much in the midst of fall; the leaves on the trees were starting to turn and there was a chill in the air. The streets were empty and only one restaurant was open (probably because it was Sunday). I felt like I had stepped into Sleepy Hollow and should be curled up in front of a roaring fire with a book and not in town on a business trip. I’m amazed at how two cities both located on Lake Michigan could be on different seasonal clocks.