How Grand Rapids Streets Got Their Names
It's always fun to figure out what certain streets are called what they are. A lot of them are named after people who have a history in the area. Others are named for unique reasons. Let's look an see why some Grand Rapids streets have the names that they do...
Some of them are pretty easy to figure out. They were named after early settlers here in the Grand Rapids area. For example...
- Campau - Named after Louis Campau, the city's founder, who came here as a fur trader back in 1826.
- Louis - Also named after Louis Campau
- Lyon - Named after Lucius Lyon who was also one of the founders of the city. He bought the land north of Campau’s.
- Baldwin - Simeon L. Baldwin was an early settler who in 1856 killed a wild bear weighing 324 lbs. near Fulton & Union.
- Ball Park - Named after lawyer John Ball, who left 40 acres to the city of Grand Rapids for the park which would eventually become land for John Ball Zoo.
- Bostwick - Named after Edmund Bostwick who platted the land in this area.
- Bridge - Many think this street is named for its bridge over the Grand River, however it was actually named after Henry P. Bridge. He was responsible for building the first sawmill on the old Grand River canal.
- Griggs - Named after a wealthy and benevolent man named George W. Griggs. He ended up dying penniless because of bad investments.
- Robinson - Named after Rix Robinson. He was recognized as the first white man to settle in western Michigan. The Amway Corp. headquarters in Ada is on the site of what was originally Robinson's trading post. Robinson Road connected East Fulton with Lake Drive.
- San Lu Rae Drive (East Grand Rapids) - Named for the first three children of Frederick P. and Caroline Wilcox -- Sanford, Louise, and Raymond.
- Wealthy - Judge Jefferson Morrison's wife's first name was Wealthy. He named the street in her honor.
Other names came about for different reasons...
- Cherry - Named after the many black cherry trees that grew in the vicinity.
- College - Named after St. Mark's College, which didn't last long.
- Fairview - Likely named because of its "fair view".
- Fountain - There was a natural spring at the head of the street, near what is now Ransom Avenue.
- Market - The city market was once located on this street. Farmers had permanent sales stalls on the street.
- Prospect - Residents could come to this hill to get a good view of the city.
- State - Named because it was where the old state road entered the village.
And this is my favorite...
- Veto - City fathers couldn't agree on a name for this street. Proposed names were repeatedly vetoed by the Common Council. Finally it was agreed to call it “Veto Street” as a last resort -- a name that it still has today.
If you'd like to read more on the history of street names in Grand Rapids, Father Dennis Morrow put together a more extensive list of street name origins for the website HistoryGrandRapids.org. You can find his list here.