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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

The Home at 473 East Fulton Street


The property on the northwest corner of Fulton and College has a complicated history.  A house with the address 159 E. Fulton was built on the lot by Wilna Cole in 1867.  Cole and his brother, Edwin, early pioneers, were purveyors of boots and shoes.  Wilna’s home was a large Italianate residence that still stands today, but now has a College Street address; another home occupies the front of the lot. The newer home, closer to Fulton Street, was erected some time before 1910 when it appeared in city directories with the address 437 E. Fulton. At that time it was owned by William S. Thomas of the Thomas Canning Company, who remained there until 1920. 

In 1922, Mrs. Julia March became the next owner of what was then 473 E. Fulton. Thrown upon her own resources by the death of her husband many years before, Mrs. March had cast about for the means of livelihood. Possessed of an artistic taste and the knack of “making something out of nothing”, and with a capital of less than $5, she finally hit upon the idea of starting a little shop where small articles used in furnishing a room could be purchased. Her success came by creating unique and attractive items for ladies' desks, dressers, and kitchens that had previously been kept hidden away. She eventually included items for men in her shop at 58-60 Division Ave. Her talent and success led her into decorating and designing lampshades; hiring fifteen employees to help manufacture the shades. She remarried, to Edward Hart, in 1934, but remained in the home until 1938. She died in 1947 at age seventy-three.

Howard E. Sherman, of Hazletine & Perkins Drugs, owned the home from 1939 to 1985, when it was sold to Davenport. Sherman was the grandson of Wilna Cole. The Lettinga Center opened here in 1986. 

The 1912 Sanborn Insurance Map shows the Cole house, at the far right, circled.

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