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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Naming Streets

Naming Streets

GRHC - January 6th, 2010

Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center present the local history radio project, "Glance at the Past". Today, the scoop on Grand Rapids streets.



Our first residents took a practical approach to naming the city’s streets. They were often named for plat owners, early settlers, or features of the landscape.

Campau St. was named for fur trader, Louis Campau, as was Louis St.. Butterworth led to Richard Butterworth’s plaster mines on the west side. Two streets near Butterworth, Gunnison and Deloney, recognize Lt. John Gunnison and his son, who was named for his mother, Martha Deloney. Judge Morrison named Wealthy St. as a tribute to his wife. Bridge St. was not named for the span that crosses the Grand River, but for Henry P. Bridge, a pioneer.

Practical names identify streets along three of the city’s boundaries; West, became Garfield Ave; East is now Eastern Ave; and North, we know as Richmond St. State St. was where the old State Road entered the village; and Lake Dr., an early Native American trail, led to Reeds Lake.

Environmental features were reflected in names; Beech trees grew near Beech St., Black Cherry trees near Cherry St; and a Tamarack swamp was close to Tamarack St. Springs were located at Spring Street, now Commerce Ave. and Fountain St.

Names of many streets have changed over the years as well as the way we number them. A more systematic method replaced an older, cruder version around 1873. Street numbers began at the Grand River on both the east and west side, but north/south numbering began at Fulton St. on the east side, and Bridge St. on the west. The intersection of Fulton St. and Division Ave. became the baseline in 1912 when the system of numbering Grand Rapids streets changed again; it’s the plan we still use today.


Full Details

TitleNaming Streets
KeywordsGlance at the Past, streets, Butterworth, Cherry, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringJanuary 6th, 2010

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