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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Laying the Cornerstone

Laying the Cornerstone

GRHC - June 30th, 2010

A celebrity guest attends the laying of the Federal Building cornerstone.    



The one-hundredth birthday of Abraham Lincoln, Feb. 12, 1909 was an auspicious day for Grand Rapids. A great celebration was held by the Lincoln Club for laying the cornerstone of the new $500,000 Federal building at the corner of Division and Pearl St.

It housed the federal courts and the post office; eventually the courts moved on but it remained the home of the post office for many years, followed by the Art Museum, and in 2009 it displayed many of the exhibits for the first ArtPrize event.

The building was claimed to be the most modern and up-to-date, the most perfectly constructed, and the most nearly fireproof of any building in the city. Vermont granite blocks covered this finely knit mass of steel framework.

Neither Lincoln’s birthday nor the new building caused the real excitement that day; rather it was a lovely twenty-five year old young woman, famous throughout the nation; she was Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt. Perhaps because her birthday coincided with Lincoln’s, she had been given the honor of laying the new Federal Building cornerstone.

Alice and her husband were wined and dined by the best of Grand Rapids society and politics. One wonders if Alice shocked her hosts with a display of her cigarette smoking, a habit she had indulged in since she was eighteen. Independent, outspoken, and known for her wit, Alice died at the age of 96, fondly remembered by her nickname, “the other Washington monument.”  


Full Details

TitleLaying the Cornerstone
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, Alice Roosevelt, Federal Building, cornerstone, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringJune 30th, 2010

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