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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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GRHC - September 23rd, 2009

Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center present "Glance at the Past", a local history radio project. This week's episode tells of twin riverboats that cruised the Grand River at the turn of the century.



The Grand and the Rapids, were two classic steamboats built in 1905 by the Grand Rapids-Lake Michigan Transportation Co., formed by several prominent local businessmen. These gentlemen thought they could compete profitably with the Interurban rail system by transporting people and goods from “the rapids” to “the haven on the Grand” or Grand Haven as we know it today.

The hulls were built at the boatyard located on the west bank of the Grand River just north of Wealthy St. As soon as the shell was complete it went into the water and the steamer was finished as it floated on the river. The wooden ships were identical in size, 134 ft long by 28 ft wide.

The machinery to operate the boats was built by the Clinton Novelty Iron Works of Clinton, Iowa, a city on the Mississippi known for riverboat building. All of the machinery and iron-work for the boats was built there and shipped to Grand Rapids. When completed each ship was registered at Grand Haven.

But alas, these riverboats could not compete with faster rail service and soon were out of business. By 1908 both were in Marquette, and a year later they were on the Mississippi at Memphis. The twin sternwheelers came to unhappy ends; the Grand burned in 1921 in Lousiana and the Rapids was crushed by ice and sank in the Ohio River in 1917.


Full Details

KeywordsGlance at the Past, riverboats, Grand River, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringSeptember 23rd, 2009

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