Grand Rapids Street Changes

 

The Street Name Change file was submitted by Barbara Vander Mark who spent several years, working in the City Assessorís Office, bringing together the various historical sources for Grand Rapids, Michigan.I have taken information from several of her emails to present additional information for researchers in this city.

 

In 1912, the City of Grand Rapids established the current house numbering system and changed a number of names.They also attempted to delete duplicate names, particularly for streets whose name, if not the actual physical street, ended at the Grand River(i.e. separately existing streets named , First, Second, Third etc. on each side of the Grand River).

 

The 1912 issue of the City Directory publicly printed the resultant changes with one error.They mention a Wren street that doesn't seem to have existed.But the City Directory did not have any legal authority and was not the source of the name changes. The City Commission was the source and the City Engineer was the one responsible for keeping track of these changes.

 

As the City grew, it annexed lands and tried to make the newly annexed, existing street names fit existing City streets and names.That often necessitated changing the names of the newly acquired streets, e.g.Dosker Street was changed to Baxter Street in 1892 after it was annexed in 1891.Baxter Street had only existed for two blocks in the City until then, and was made longer by the annexation of the adjoining Dosker Street.

 

The City made another attempt in 1920 by giving the same name to different streets.Now if you see an older street stop and then start up again, or jog, it was probably composed initially of different street names.Paris and Prospect are good examples.They used to be lots of different named streets.

 

The building of the freeways through the old part of the city added to the confusion by ending streets that used to go through where the freeway is,and by creating strangely configured service drives.Names of the chopped up portions were often re-attached to a different street and given its name.Industrial Parks have added to the confusion as have condominiums.

 

In addition, streets were sometimes named without any regard for past traditions.The former simple rules of roads going east and west being called a street, north and south called an Avenue, short streets going north and south called Places, east and west called courts, were sometimes ignored and Drives, Circles, and other street modifiers were added to street names.

 

This is a compiled list that Barbara produced from information from City Engineers, Assessors, Police, Fire, library, archives, her fatherís memory as a hawker, her own memory as a child growing up in central Grand Rapids, and as a city employee working with old sewer maps with the old names still on them and out in the field where she sometimes found street signs that were wrong.Researchers should know that old changes prior to 1912 may need to be verified by checking the original plat maps located on microfilm in the County Register of Deeds and on the web: http://www.cis.state.mi.us/platmaps/sr_subs.asp

 

Quirks:

 

Ann Street - it appears that Ann street did not go to the river but ended as it curved into Broadway. Ann's counterpart across the river was called Victoria.Eventually Ann was run straight across the river.The curved left-over portion was renamed Broadway.

 

Grandville/Ellsworth/Summit

Curved Grandville ended at Bartlett.Then most of Ellsworth running north to south formerly Summit was renamed asa straight continuation of curvedGrandville except for the two blocks between Wealthy and Bartlett which remained Ellsworth.It doesnít help that Cherry Street SW used to be called Ellsworth.

 

Bridge Street

Before the 1912 establishment of the quads, streets were referred to as east or west or north or south but not based on the quads boundary line Fulton/Division.So East Bridge, east of the river, was renamed Michigan St.Then there is Michigan Street NE and Michigan Street NW.Both used to be East Bridge.

 

On behalf of all genealogists who will benefit from this database, I thank Barbara.

 

Joel Weintraub