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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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West Side Power Canal

West Side Power Canal

GRHC - January 9th, 2013

William T. Powers built the West Side Power canal in 1866-67 to provide power to his factory, the Powers & Ball sash and door operation. The power canal was used until 1955.


Unlike the east side power canal, largely built by the state, William T. Powers built the west side power canal in 1866-67 on riverfront land he had acquired, which ran from Seventh St., NW to the present-day Blue Bridge, approximately three quarters of a mile.

Not surprisingly, Powers & Ball constructed the first factory on the canal, a planing mill, and sash and door operation. The Grand Rapids Light and Power Co. was just one of many operations lining the canal to take advantage of waterpower. But by 1949 only Consumers Power and the Voigt Milling Co. still obtained power from the west side canal, now jointly owned by both companies.

Ralph Voigt, milling company president, opposed the city’s 1954 plan for filling the canal to gain additional parking space. Voigt stated, “Our plant was built to use to the fullest extent the potential power of the canal, and it is our exclusive source of power.” Consumers Power stated they would not be adversely affected.

By May of 1955 Consumers Power had offered to sell the city its ownership and rights to the West Side Power Canal property for $1000; at the same time additional property was acquired from New York Central RR.

In March of 1956 the city accepted the quitclaim deed from Consumers Power for land and interests it held in both the West Side and East Side Water Power Facilities.

Full Details

TitleWest Side Power Canal
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; West Side; canal; industry
Pubdate StringJanuary 9th, 2013

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