loading background

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

loading media...
Television Arrives

Television Arrives

GRHC - April 10th, 2011

Leonard A Versluis puts WLAV-TV on the air as Grand Rapids' first television station. 



WLAV-TV, channel 7, became the city’s first television station in August of 1949, and the first in the state outside of Detroit. Television had been available in the city, but those signals were from Milwaukee and Chicago. That distance was beyond the normal range of reception in those days. Often viewer’s television screens were filled with snow and racetracks, terms for static and diagonal lines that distorted or obliterated the picture. Of course, the picture was in black and white.

The station’s initials stood for its owner’s name, Leonard Adrian Versluis, plus the W that is the first call letter of most stations east of the Mississippi River. Versluis had applied for the television license in August of 1947 and received the construction permit from the FCC in April of 1948. Versluis, with his station manager and chief engineer spent weeks and months selecting the equipment for the new station.

Already experienced in radio, Versluis had applied to the FCC for permission to erect the second radio station in Grand Rapids in 1936. Television was a natural next step. He  applied for the license in August of 1947 and received the construction permit from the FCC in April of 1948. That was one of the last issued before the FCC put a freeze on new television construction permits.

In 1951Versluis sold the TV station to Grandwood Broadcasting, owners of WOOD radio, the city’s first radio station. WLAV-TV became WOOD-TV, and in 1953 they moved from channel 7 to channel 8.


Full Details

TitleTelevision Arrives
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, WLAV_TV, Television, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringApril 10th, 2011

Like Us on Facebook
site by GRCMC