Grand Rapids History
A major part behind the history of Grand Rapids is the Grand Rapids River. In the beginning of the 19th century logging was a key component to the economy of the city. “Even after the arrival of railroads, steamboats continued to ply its waters, and each spring lumber companies sent millions of board feet of logs down stream to sawmills and furniture factories in Grand Rapids.” The income of logging allowed for the furniture industry to rapidly grow throughout all of Grand Rapids, nicknaming it the Furniture City.
“By the beginning of the 20th century, the city boasted more than 50 furniture factories, and as many as half of its labor force involved in furniture manufacturing and related industries such as sawmills, foundries making metal hardware, paint and varnish companies, and manufacturers of woodworking machinery.” The furniture industry in Grand Rapids was the main component of the cities economy throughout the early 1900’s. The 1925 Stock Market Crash took a large toll on the Furniture Companies in Grand Rapids and put over “25% of the city’s workers out of their jobs.” As the Great Depression continued to force many out of jobs throughout the country Grand Rapids continued to suffer due to the lack of money, lack of workers, and depletion of furniture purchases across the country.
The depression affected Grand Rapids and its furniture companies until the the outbreak of World War II when men and women were being called upon to help manufacture goods for the men and women fighting for our country. The once vacant Furniture Warehouses were now being used to help build “gunstocks, gliders, parachutes and bullet molds where once they had made beds, dressers, dining tables and chairs.” Not only did the men and women of Grand Rapids help build and manufacture goods for the war, they also volunteered for the Army and fought alongside many other American’s during the war. The war brought along many changes for Grand Rapids in both appearance as well as amenities. Grand Rapids became West Michigan’s center for health care and education, as well as a new haven for post-war families to begin to settle down and make a home. Due to the post-war population increase Grand Rapids is now home to all different types of industries and people.