"Furniture City" is one of the less-cool nicknames that Grand Rapids has - I prefer "River City", but the best of all is "Beer City U.S.A." Still, there is no historical marker that I know of regarding beer in Grand Rapids. Yet.
Still, Grand Rapids really came about because of the furniture industry. As the loggers floated the fallen trees down the Grand River, much of the lumber was milled in the city and shipped over the Great Lakes. Some of that processed lumber stayed in Grand Rapids to be shaped into pieces renowned for its craftsmanship. Though the industry has declined since its high points in the early to mid-20th century, several important furniture design firms remain in West Michigan.
If you're a fan of furniture, the Furniture City History site is sure to interest you. The historical marker included in this post is located at the Grand Rapids Public Museum on the west side of the river. I've been there several times, usually when they have interesting ancient history exhibits such as Egyptian artifacts or the Dead Sea Scrolls. But they do have several nice permanent exhibits, my favorite being "Streets of Old Grand Rapids", though the carousel is a big hit with the kids. And me, too.
The first cabinet maker in Grand Rapids was William Haldane, who in 1837 set up a shop in his home at the corner of Pearl and Ottawa Sts. During the ensuing decades Grand Rapids attracted increasing numbers of furniture craftsmen. Under able business management Grand Rapids had developed into the furniture capital of America by the 1880's. Buyers the world over came for the furniture markets, first held in 1878. Grand Rapids today ranks among the leaders of the industry in quality, style, and design.
The weekend plans were an anniversary surprise, and I was glad to see that we ended up in Grand Rapids instead of a Jerry Springer taping session. I vowed to myself that if ever I heard the words "Hey, let's go see Jerry Springer", I would instantly file for divorce - nothing good seems to come from that show, or did when I watched it twenty years ago. Is it still on? Maybe I should have checked that before I wrote this. Oh well.
We pulled in to the Courtyard by Marriott on Monroe and Fulton, a pleasant hotel where we have stayed before. Like the past stays, it was quiet, interrupted only by a knock at the door from someone at the wrong room. I didn't mind, and hopefully she didn't mind that I didn't stop brushing my teeth to chat with her. But the room looked over the B.O.B. and the new theater right next door. One of the things I like about GR is it's constant change - there seem to be new building going up all the time.
We didn't linger long before my wife's second surprise of the day. We trudged through the snow to Founders. But the surprise was not Founders, it was the white van parked outside - the Grand Rapids Beer Tours van. I love Grand Rapids, and I love beer, so combine these things, and you have the makings of a great afternoon. We were the last ones to arrive - but we were still early - and we were off to our cerveza-soaked day.
Stop numero uno was The Mitten Brewery. Located in an old firehouse, complete with pole - unfortunately inaccessible from the second floor - which had quite a beer list. Brian, our guide, passed around pitchers with which to fill our sample glasses. The IPA, A League of Their Own, and a coffee stout were brought out way. I enjoyed the IPA the most, and since it was early in my drinking day, I had no witty sayings to write on the bathroom chalkboard.