A Grand Rapids Getaway

by Josh on August 16, 2007 · 6 comments

in Uncategorized

Ah, summer vacation! A time to relax on the beach, sip cool drinks… and check out some great arts & crafts homes.

And where would be better to partake of these summer delights than Grand Rapids, Michigan?

Pasadena, you say?

Hmmmm… well, yes. Touche, Dear Reader– but the west Michigan city of Grand Rapids is still pretty swell– and not just because some of my best friends live there. Or because I went to college there.

The opportunity to visit friends is the reason we chose to drive to Grand Rapids for our summer vacation, but, house geeks that we are, there were plenty of sights to see right outside our friends’ door.

Today, Grand Rapids looks a bit like the town that Amway built with many notable buildings and institutions bearing the names of the multi-level-marketing company’s founders, Van Andel and De Vos. But 100 years ago it was names like Limbert and Stickley Brothers that helped put GR on the national map as the “Furniture City.”

Glassed Porch Foursquare Much of the furniture produced during that time was arts & crafts-styled to meet popular demand across the country. The homes in Grand Rapids followed suit and many lovely, generously-sized arts & crafts homes fill the city’s older neighborhoods. (The house at the right was one of Ms. Bungalow’s favorites.)

During our visit, we enjoyed several walks through the neighborhoods and on a couple occassions I took some pictures of the nice houses we saw. Compared to Minneapolis, Grand Rapids seems to have a higher proportion of foursquares and fewer bungalows. The friends we stayed with on our weeklong trip have one of those foursquares that they are gradually renovating and restoring to great effect.

A set of thirteen of my Grand Rapids house photos is now on the “Photos” page of the site. The photos all come from a relatively small part of the southeast quadrant of the city stretching from the historic Heritage Hill district near downtown through East Hills and into Eastown. There are a pair of Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the batch, one of which (the Meyer May House) is professionally restored and open to the public.

So what about the relaxing beach I mentioned? We spent a day on the sandy eastern shore of Lake Michigan, just a 45-minute drive from GR. That big lake is close enough to an ocean for this midwesterner.

And the cool drinks to sip? We had mojitos around the table playing Settlers of Catan with good old friends while a pair of baby monitors hummed on a ledge nearby.

It was an excellent vacation.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dulcie August 20, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Great pics! You’ve certainly found your fellow “house geeks” over at houseblogs.net.

I can’t help but say… “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” Sigh.

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Josh August 23, 2007 at 9:32 am

The real kicker is that the housing market in Grand Rapids is significantly less expensive than what I’m used to in Minneapolis. Every place with a for sale sign looked like a steal to me.

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Terry August 24, 2007 at 6:48 pm

I really enjoy the pics, especially Craftsman 2storey. Very cool.

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Josh August 24, 2007 at 9:25 pm

Thanks, Terry. One nice thing about using a digital camera is that you can keep taking pictures until you catch something good.

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Joan August 30, 2007 at 10:29 am

I just came across your blog, very nice pictures! As a Grand Rapids resident I can say that you are correct; there are more foursquares than bungalows. Grand Rapids has always had good housing market prices. With the way our economy is suffering, it really is a buyers market right now. Another nice thing about the area is that it is still quite easy to find arts & crafts furnishings at reasonable prices (this is Grand Rapids, after all, home of Stickley Bros., Limbert, Lifetime, Berkey & Gay, and a host of other furniture makers). I’ve often wondered why the major Arts & Craft magazines don’t ever do a spread on the Grand Rapids area.

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Josh August 30, 2007 at 10:50 am

Thanks for the local perspective, Joan. I agree with your assessment that GR doesn’t seem to get much pub in the Arts & Crafts magazines, despite providing the furnishings to homes all across the country and having many fine homes in the city itself. That oversight is a shame.

And the next time I’m in GR I’ll have to take your advice to look around for some of those good furniture bargains you mentioned.

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