The second largest city in the State of Michigan, Grand Rapids (population 197,800) is the seat of Kent County and encompasses an area of approximately 45 square miles. It is located in west central Michigan, roughly 30 miles east of Lake Michigan.
The Grand River, a major State waterway, runs through the city's center. The metropolitan area has a population of more than one million residents.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Hopewell Indians, known for their large burial mounds, occupied the Grand River Valley. About 300 years ago, the Ottawa Indians moved into the area and lived in several villages along the river.
When the British and French arrived, the Ottawa traded fur pelts for European metal and textile goods. A French trading post was established here in 1826, and the settlement incorporated in 1838.
After an international exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Grand Rapids became recognized worldwide as a leader in the production of fine furniture. Today, Grand Rapids is considered a world leader in the production of office furniture.
Recently, Grand Rapids has experienced an amazing rebirth through restoration, adaptive reuse of existing buildings, revitalization programs, specialized zoning, and tax credit programs.
The city created the first Historic Preservation Ordinance in the State of Michigan in 1971. Since then, the city has designated six local historic districts and 70 local landmarks, and nominated 55 structures to the National Register of Historic Places, totaling approximately 2,000 properties.
Several major streetscape enhancement, façade improvement, and restoration programs have proceeded with a significant mix of public and private investment. In 2002 alone, 47 projects used Federal and State preservation tax credits for rehabilitation and adaptive use projects.
Grand Rapids is a Certified Local Government, and the Grand Rapids Public Schools have devised a local heritage curriculum for third graders, with the theme of immigration to Grand Rapids. A downtown Festival of the Arts celebrates the city's diverse heritage each June, using the talents of 20,000 volunteers and attracting more than half a million people.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2004.