"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.
Looking at Grand Rapids today, there are signs of its industrial past, though most of the buildings that built that industry are gone, or repurposed for apartments, offices and restaurants. One of the many buildings that are gone are those of the Valley City Milling Company. The location along the Grand Rivers made for an ideal location for a mill. The area now contains the Grand Rapids Public Museum and part of the Grand Valley State Campus, but a marker remains to touch on the story of the mill. History Grand Rapids has an interesting photo of the site before the buildings were destroyed by fire.
Looking east, directly across the river you can see law offices (to the left of The Blue Bridge), and the Courtyard by Marriott hotel (I recommend it!) and The Plaza Apartments (to the right). And all around is that familiar West Michigan winter site, snow.
Valley City Milling Company
In 1884 William N. Row, Conrad G. Swensberg, M.S. Crosby and R.M. Lawrence founded the Valley City Milling Company in Grand Rapids. The company, which at first milled flour, expanded to include horse feed in 1893. Incorporated in 1894, it remained in Grand Rapids until 1923, when fire destroyed its facilities. In 1924 the company moved to Portland. It began producing dog food in 1931. Company brands included Lily White Flour, Rowena Dog Diets, Rowena Quality Feeds and Rolling Campion Self-rising Flour. Manufacture of commercial feed and dog food ceased in 1958. The company continued to make flour until it sold its flour brands to a Nebraska firm in 1970. In 1973 the Valley City Milling Company opened a mobile home park in Portland.