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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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First Art Museum

First Art Museum

GRHC - March 14th, 2012

The first home of the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the failed venture of Port Sheldon have an interesting historical connection.



An unlikely tie exists between Port Sheldon and the first Grand Rapids Art Museum. Port Sheldon was laid out in 1836 as a lake-port town by wealthy Eastern capitalists. The town had 142 blocks, a lighthouse, a hotel furnished in splendid style, and two or three miles of railroad track. By 1838 there were 300 inhabitants, but the financial crisis of 1837 plus the discovery that the harbor filled up with sand with every strong wind doomed the venture.

When Abraham Pike, the last occupant of Port Sheldon, departed he brought with him to Grand Rapids several of the large pillars that had adorned the porches of the hotel. When Pike built his Greek Revival-style house on Fulton Street in 1844, the hotel pillars completed the facade.

The Grand Rapids Art Association, incorporated in 1893, occupied several downtown locations, but tragedy struck in January of 1919 when fire destroyed their home, the Monument Park building. The damage to the art collection was about $25,000.

The following year Mrs. Emily J. Clark offered the Art Association a gift of $50,000 if they could raise $25,000 by subscription. The plan was to purchase the Abraham Pike house, which would become the permanent Art Gallery, former name of the Art Museum. The Pike house, acquired in January of 1922, was home to the Art Museum for 56 years, until 1978. The house still stands as one of the city’s historic treasures.

Full Details

TitleFirst Art Museum
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; Port Sheldon; Abraham Pike; Emily J. Clark; Grand Rapids Art Museum;
Pubdate StringMarch 14th, 2012

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