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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Madison Square

Madison Square

GRHC - September 21st, 2011

The 40 acre development south of Hall St. and between Jefferson and Madison Avenues became a commercial hub at the turn of the 20th Century.



The Kent County Agricultural Society purchased 40 acres south of Hall St. between Jefferson and Madison Avenues, in 1855, to be used as a fair ground. This area eventually became known as Madison Square.

The Square, the first outlying shopping center, began to emerge as a full-fledged neighborhood shopping area in the mid-1880s, due, in part, to the location of the fair grounds, but also to a boom in home building. As new houses sprang up and roads improved, more merchants came to the corners to set up shop. In the year 1898, Madison Square boasted a drug store, two dry goods stores, shoe repair, barbershop, bakery, and no less than six grocery stores.

A sentimental look back to the 1920s recalls a Square that had greatly expanded from the 1880s to include: John Vrieland’s Wall Paper Emporium; Madison Square Furniture Exchange; John Sullivan, a cigar manufacturer; Ira Rosenburger’s jewelry store; Peter Ronan, the undertaker; the Grand Rapids Savings Bank; Peoples Savings Bank; Clare Mattason, printer of the Madison Square Advertiser, and the Madison Theater.

Shopping areas like West Bridge Street, Eastown, Burton Heights, and Madison Square, with their once bustling community of doctors, lawyers, and merchants, served their surrounding neighborhoods for decades prior to the advent of suburban shopping malls. Many old-timers miss the convenience and sense of community that was part of shopping in the neighborhood.


Full Details

TitleMadison Square
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, Madison Square, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringSeptember 21st, 2011

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