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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Lost Theme Park

Lost Theme Park

GRHC - May 30th, 2012

An "Outdoor museum for houses" is what one magazine called the Homestyle Center planned for the 80 acres adjacent to where Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park stands today. Nationally known architects designed the planned homes, which would feature the latest in decoration and Grand Rapids furniture.



One magazine article of the 1950’s called the Homestyle Center an “outdoor museum for houses”. This theme park was to be located [adjacent to] the 80 acres where Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park stands today. It was expected to be a major tourist attraction, drawing over one million visitors and raising over $39,000,000 annually.

The first group of twelve homes would be built around the lake. Additional homes, added over next three years, would complete the Homestyle Center by 1960. Nationally known architects, including R. Buckminster Fuller, George Nelson, and Paul Rudolph, had already designed the first group of homes.

The design by Paul Rudolph, reflecting the open living style of the Gulf Coast, used plastic panels, lifted mechanically, which could convert the house into an enclosed or open pavilion.

George Nelson fashioned a home of identical cubes that could be put together in any manner the homeowner desired.

Each house would be decorated with furnishings as diverse as the architecture. Appliances and furniture would be replaced annually as newer models and designs became available.

In May of 1957, due to the lack of financial backing, Executive Director Arleigh Hitchcock announced that plans for the Homestyle Center would be dropped. Grand Rapids lost its opportunity to develop this original theme park idea.

Many of the chosen architects constructed their designed homes in other areas of the country where they became landmarks of mid twentieth century architectural design.


Full Details

TitleLost Theme Park
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; Homestyle Center; architects; furniture; Buckminster Fuller; George Nelson
Pubdate StringMay 30th, 2012

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