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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Eagle Hotel

Eagle Hotel

GRHC - February 8th, 2012

The Eagle Hotel, built in 1834, served the residents and visitors of the city for ninety-nine years. It had many landlords during its tenure, but one was remembered for killing a guest.


The first hotel in Grand Rapids, and certainly its most enduring, was the Eagle. Built in 1834, at the corner of Louis and Waterloo (later Market St.), it closed ninety-nine years later in 1933, at the same location. Joseph Potter, built the hotel, a one and a half story frame house, which was enlarged over the years.

William Godfroy was its first landlord, but turnover was high in those early days. At least eleven men and one woman had been in charge of the hotel by 1863 when George Evans took over.

Evans tenure was short-lived. In February of 1863, Coban Balch of Barry County stopped at the Eagle while tending to business in the city. His behavior upset Evans to such a degree that the landlord violently struck Balch with his fists, knocked him to the floor where he continued beating and kicking him. Two days later Balch died, leaving a wife and three daughters. One account said Balch had made inappropriate advances to one of the women employees; another said that he made loud, rude comments about the quality of the beefsteak he was served for dinner. Either way, Evans was sentenced to three years in Jackson Prison where he died.

Fire struck the Eagle in February of 1883; nothing remained of the old wooden building. By early November a banquet, complete with congratulatory speeches, celebrated the opening the new $25,000 brick-block Eagle, ready to serve for another fifty years.

Full Details

TitleEagle Hotel
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; Eagle Hotel; fire; William Godfroy
Pubdate StringFebruary 8th, 2012

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