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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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East Side Canal

East Side Canal

GRHC - December 1st, 2010

The East Side Power Canal was started in 1835 and completed in 1842.    



The east-side power canal, begun in 1835, was pioneered by Lucius Lyon and N. O. Sargeant to provide waterpower for sawing lumber and operating a grist mill. The canal, eventually a mile long, 80 ft. wide, 5 ft. deep, ran from the head of the rapids north of Leonard St. almost to Michigan St., and was completed in 1842. A stone wing dam near Eleventh St. diverted the current into the canal.

In the mid 1840s an attempt was made for the canal to serve navigation purposes. In 1849 a dam constructed of logs, brush, stone and gravel was built, the canal made wider and deeper, excavation for a 200 sq. ft. basin begun just below the Bissell factory, and the locks started near Lyon St. That digging displaced one of the log buildings of Louis Campau’s trading post. Financial difficulties finally caused the project to be abandoned in 1851.

In its day the canal was the sole source of power for many of the city’s early industries, and it was still in use by the Bissells, Leitelts, and several other owners when it was closed in 1925.

In February of that year the city highway department placed a charge of 25 sticks of dynamite under a portion of the head gates creating a gaping hole, which drained the east-side canal forever. The reclaimed property furnished the location for a major link of the city’s new sewer system, and prevented the tearing up of busy Monroe Ave., the alternative site.

Full Details

TitleEast Side Canal
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, radio, East Side Canal, Lucius Lyon, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringDecember 1st, 2010

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