Historic Restoration of D.A. Blodgett Home for Children
by ICCF (Inner City Christian Federation)
published: December 19th, 2007
The D. A. Blodgett Home for Children was a stunning building when it was dedicated in 1908. Long before the ceremony started the site was thronged with people who were eager to view the many rooms of the facility, considered one of the finest and best equipped private philanthropic institutions in the state. Expressions of admiration were heard at every turn for the beauty of the building and the perfection of its furnishings. The funds expended to make the home safe as well as beautiful were unusual. (Find more information to your right in Related Items)
The expense was understandable because the donor for the building, Delos A. Blodgett, was unusually generous. At the ceremony his son John Wood Blodgett said, "Always attracted to the helpless, it was but natural that the sympathies of the father should go out to the orphan . . . He designed to give to this city a home for children that fire could not destroy, and of such sanitary construction that disease could be lessened and controlled."
Unfortunately Delos A. Blodgett died before the building was completed. But the realization of his plans was carried out in every detail by the tireless effort of his wife, Daisy Peck Blodgett. She determined the paint colors on the walls, the style of the furniture, and the design of the dishes used by the children at meal times.
This distinctive home functioned as an orphanage and became a national leader in the field of child welfare. First in the nation to begin placing children in the community through the practice of foster care, the D.A. Blodgett Home also developed Camp Blodgett on Lake Michigan to afford orphans and other underprivileged children a summer camp experience.
In 1949 the Blodgett heirs donated the building to the Mary Free Bed Guild and it became known as the Mary Free Bed Hospital. Despite removing the pillared porch and expanding the building with a large addition on the front, the hospital outgrew the facility and moved to a newer, larger site in 1976.
For eighteen years the building was only partially occupied by a variety of tenants. Completely empty and deteriorating for twelve years, it was close to demolition when ICCF purchased the building.
ICCF, a non-profit organization established in 1974, purposed to restore and use the building in its original appearance. With historic preservation and other tax credits and tremendous community support, ICCF hired Rockford Construction to oversee the building restoration.
After removing the 34,000 square foot additions built in the 1950s, ICCF moved forward to replace the original pillared porch, to strip and refinish the original woodwork, and to restore all the exterior terra cotta trim. The 22 month process has resulted in a remarkable architectural icon, an embodiment of ICCF's commitment to revitalize communities and restore hope. ICCF has functioned in the building since September 4, 2007.
Books Available at the Grand Rapids Public Library
Olson, Gordon. “In the Name of All Marys”: A History of the Mary Free Bed Guild and the Mary Free Bed Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. Grand Rapids, MI: Mary Free Bed Guild, 1991.