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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Civic Auditorium

Civic Auditorium

GRHC - January 5th, 2011

Grand Rapids built its first public auditorium in 1933.    



Though desired for many years, Grand Rapids finally obtained a public auditorium during the Great Depression. Hoping to put the city’s unemployed to work on the project, City Manager George Welsh coordinated a one-and-a-half million-dollar public bond effort in 1930 to fund the construction project.  The building committee selected the riverfront site of the old interurban station at Lyon and Campau. 

Local architects Robinson & Campau produced a design that combined Renaissance and Art Deco elements.  The building included an exhibition hall, meeting rooms, a concert space, and the main arena for a total capacity of over 8,000 spectators.  The vast lobby reflects the sleek, polished metal and marble of the Art Deco style.  The exterior front facade featured reliefs by artist Corrado Parducci, one entitled “Fine Arts” on the left and “Music” on the right. 

When construction started in 1932, building contractor Owens-Ames-Kimball hired hundreds of local, unemployed workers who were paid in scrip. Tons of Detroit-made steel for the framework, and Indiana limestone by the Grand Rapids Cut Stone Company went into the structure. 

The Civic Auditorium opened in January of 1933 and for fifty years housed a broad array of events from furniture shows, concerts, and circuses.  Renamed the George Welsh Civic Auditorium in 1975, the building escaped demolition in 1982. The expansion of DeVos Place convention center resulted in the July 2003 implosion of the original auditorium.  The new structure integrated the front facade and lobby as a part of the Steelcase Ballroom in February 2005.




Full Details

TitleCivic Auditorium
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, radio, Civic Auditorium, Welsh Auditorium, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringJanuary 5th, 2011

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