Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Impressions of Grand Rapids

1. Gerald Ford Museum. Nice chronological account of Ford's life. The Hayes museum wasn't so chronologically ordered, IIRC.

2. Big river flowing right past downtown, just like in Wichita and Portland. Ford museum is right on the river, and along the river are bike paths and boardwalks.

3. Decaying downtown. Some new, mod-looking buildings downtown, but the overall impression is one of extreme decay.

4. Memorials honoring the war dead dominate the courthouse area. Every war dead is mentioned by name, like in the Vietnam Wall, and there is a special memorial park for civil war dead, including detailed biographies of significant civil war figures from the area. Seems odd that people in the north were so enthusiastic to support Lincoln's war on the south. Also is curious that, while in the north the civil war is celebrated, southern states get chastised whenever they try to memorialize their civil war heritage. Just yesterday there was an article in USA Today about states being prevented from using the confederate flag on license plates or elsewhere.

5. Very little parking. I had to pay a quarter per 15 minutes downtown, and a dollar per half-hour to visit the Ford Museum. To the extent this reflects an emphasis on other than private motorized transportation, I suppose it's a good thing. But a bad thing for the out-of-town visitor trying to get around in a car.

6. History of furniture manufacturing. One figure I saw said that at one time there were 70 furniture manufacturing companies here! A little park by the river described the strike in 1911 in which workers all struck. It was resolved peacefully when strike money from national unions ran out and the strikers returned to work, but the owners took the lesson to heart and raised wages, and the voters took the lessons to heart and elected more progressive leaders.

7. Calvin College. A huge private college, Christian Reformed, and plaque describes how this denomination was formed in Michigan by Dutch immigrants in 1857. Nice nature preserve on the huge campus. Great library hours, 7:30 A.M. to 2 P.M.

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