2018 Conference: Discover Grand Rapids!

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan and is located on the Grand River, 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. It’s a city on the leading edge of art, culture, dining, and entertainment with a very walkable downtown packed with more than 90 restaurants, clubs, craft breweries, coffee shops, theaters, and museums...

 2018 Conference: Discover Grand Rapids!

submitted by Audrey Farrell




Get ready for the 2018 APMM Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan!


Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan and is located on the Grand River, 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. It’s a city on the leading edge of art, culture, dining, and entertainment with a very walkable downtown packed with more than 90 restaurants, clubs, craft breweries, coffee shops, theaters, and museums.

Did we mention BEER? Grand Rapids is known as BEER CITY, USA. The Beer City Ale Trail has 40 plus breweries which means more craft beer per square mile than anywhere else!


Beer City, USA (photo credit: Experience Grand Rapids)


Where are the rapids in Grand Rapids? Sorry, they no longer exist. The city of Grand Rapids developed on the banks of the Grand River, where there once was a set of rapids at an altitude of 610 feet above sea level. More than one hundred years ago, the fast moving water was dammed to control the flow of water and now the river is relatively serene.


1868 Historical Map of Grand Rapids (Wikipedia)


Grand Rapids is a historic furniture-manufacturing center and was once called “Furniture City.” It started out as a big lumber town where logs were floated down the river, but the city eventually became known for its fine wood furniture.  In 1876, Grand Rapids furniture manufacturers exhibited their products at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Hundreds of thousands of people visited the Exposition. There, Grand Rapids was recognized as a leader in furniture production, sparking the Colonial Revival movement in furniture. Colonial Revival featured well-made reproductions of American and English 18th and early 19th century styles. Grand Rapids is now home to five of the world’s leading office furniture companies.


Historical Photo of Grand Rapids Chair Factory (credit: www.furniturecityhistory.org)

Grand Rapids has one of the largest urban historic districts in the US. HERITAGE HILL is the first “neighborhood” of the city, containing 1,300 homes of more than 60 architectural styles dating from 1848. 


Victorian House in the Heritage Hills Historic District (photo credit: Kent county at English Wikipedia)


The most architecturally significant house in the Heritage Hill neighborhood has to be the MEYER MAY HOUSE. The Meyer May House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908. It was commissioned by a local merchant, Meyer May who owned a men’s clothing store named, “May’s of Michigan”. The Prairie-style house has original furnishings and faithfully executed reproductions. It is a rare opportunity to experience a Prairie House exactly as Frank Lloyd Wright intended. The house has 108 leaded glass windows and skylights designed by Wright in his very distinctive creative style. It is the most completely restored Frank Lloyd Wright house including landscaping, light fixtures, carpets, and linens… all designed by Wright.



Art Glass Windows by Frank Lloyd Wright  (photo credit: Meyer May House, Steelcase)

The Meyer May House was bought and restored by Steelcase in 1987. Steelcase, originally called Metal Office Furniture Company, had consulted with Frank Lloyd Wright in 1936 to develop new forms of desks and chairs, or “modular units” for the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin. The house is now open to the public for tours on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Meyer May House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright  (photo credit: Meyer May House, Steelcase)


Modular Unit - collaboration between Frank Lloyd Wright and Metal Office Furniture Company (photo credit: Steelcase)

The GRAND RAPIDS PUBLIC MUSEUM is located downtown and on the waterfront overlooking the Grand River. The museum showcases art and artifacts from different historical periods and cultures. They even have a vividly painted 1928 antique Spillman Carousel. The carousel is one of only three of its style produced by the Spillman Engineering Company and is made up of forty four hand-carved wooden horses, two chariots, and six menagerie animals: a giraffe, whale, deer, goat, tiger, and a camel. Have you ever seen a WHALE on a carousel?


Grand Rapids Public Museum on the river (photo credit: Experience Grand Rapids)

 The 1928 Spillman Carousel (photo credit: Grand Rapids Public Museum)

According to garden and art aficionados, FREDERIK MEIJER SCULPTURE GARDEN is one of the top 30 must-see museums on the planet. They have an internationally renowned sculpture program and always-changing gardens. Enjoy 20 acres of indoor and outdoor gardens, a tropical conservatory, and nature trails.


Frederick Meijer Sculpture Garden (photo credit: www.creatinghome.net)

Another art favorite is a sculpture by Alexander Calder, known for his mobiles and stabiles. Calder’s LA GRANDE VITESSE was the first work of public art in the US funded by the National Endowment of the Arts in 1969. When installed, people were outraged by the modern sculpture and wrote irate letters to the local newspaper but over the years, the sculpture has been accepted and loved by most Grand Rapids residents. It can be found in Vandenberg Plaza.


Alexander Calder, "La Grande Vitesse" (photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids)  

Do you like bridges? Grand Rapids is also known as RIVER CITY with many bridge crossings. Blue Bridge is one of the longest truss bridges in Michigan. Originally a railroad crossing over the Grand River, it’s been converted to a pedestrian walkway connecting downtown with the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, and Grand Valley State University (where the APMM will be holding its conference!). Pearl Street Bridge is Michigan’s 3rd longest concrete arch bridge, Fulton Street Bridge is a concrete arch bridge lit up at night, and Sixth Street Bridge is an old wrought iron bridge built in 1866. Plus, there are 4 covered bridges within 20 miles of Grand Rapids!


Blue Bridge (photo credit: Nathan Holth, Experience Grand Rapids)

If you have time and a car, a 30 minute drive from downtown Grand Rapids will take you to the Lake Michigan shoreline – one of the best 25 in the world. OVAL BEACH is one of the most beautiful West Michigan beaches, with crystal clear fresh water, clean sugar-sand, colorful sunsets, dunes, and hiking trails. Climb 279 steps to Mt. Baldhead at Oval Beach for a spectacular view.


Oval Beach (photo credit: www.saugatuck.com)

Did you know that Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state? GRAND HAVEN LIGHTHOUSE is 51 feet tall, is fire-engine red, and can be found on a walkable pier in Grand Haven State Park 35 miles from Grand Rapids.


Grand Haven Lighthouse (photo credit: takomabibelot, Wikipedia)

Now that you know so much about Grand Rapids and the surrounding area, make your reservations for the 2018 APMM CONFERENCE. Bring a friend, a spouse, or make new friends, visit with old friends and take advantage of a chance to explore a beautiful part of the country… Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA!!!


 Find more about Grand Rapids here:  http://www.ExperienceGR.com          

 Find info about the 2018 APMM Conference here: http://www.modelmakers.org/



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