Grand Rapids is a relatively old town, and we’ve kept a lot of the original buildings in the city from the late 1800s and early 1900s, which I’ve always appreciated. We’re a city that values our heritage. Whenever I get the chance to take my time strolling around downtown, I’m always amazed by the beautiful architecture of yesteryear.
When I first moved here, there were free blues concerts held downtown every Wednesday night. These concerts were called Blues on the Mall. I was always confused by the term of “mall.” I assumed it was like the mall in Washington, D.C.–not a shopping mall in the way that I’m used to thinking of it but more as a public area with a lot of pedestrian traffic. Turns out that Monroe Avenue used to be the Monroe Mall, a pedestrian-only street full of department stores (so I guess it matched both definitions in that way). It has always been a shopping center for the city, the focal area of downtown Grand Rapids where residents would come buy their wares. And although it seems like it’s all one connected building, each store (or nowadays, restaurant) has its own unique facade.
Apparently, the building which houses Flannagan’s, a rather crappy bar usually reserved for frat boys from the local college, is also one of the oldest buildings in Grand Rapids and the only building to showcase the Victorian Gothic style of the late 1800s. Originally a rooming house, it has recently been restored and converted from office space back into living space.
I had the honor of working in McKay Tower when I was fresh out of college. Its inner walls are lined with marble and the old-fashioned mail chute greets you as you wait for the elevator. Originally a 3-story bank when it was built in 1911, it is now an 11-story office building that is recognizable in Grand Rapids’ skyline. Its big columns on the original bank structure reminds of Gringott’s in Harry Potter’s magical world.
It’s not easy finding information on the history of these buildings, which really only makes me want to dig deeper and learn more about these historic treasures that I passby on a regular basis.