06 April 2018

History of the Pantlind Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Source: This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice. Found at wikipedia commons images.

One of the hotels for the upcoming National Genealogical Society "Paths to Your Past" family history conference is the Amway Grand Plaza hotel.  It has a rich Grand Rapids history.  You may hear people referring to it as the Pantlind hotel, which it was known as for years.

The Amway Grand Plaza (Pantlind) hotel is the best of both worlds. Modern conveniences are combined with old world charm.  The hotel is comprised of two sections: the original hotel section known first as Sweet's Hotel (1900), then the Pantlind (1913) and now Amway Grand Plaza.  The original section of the Pantlind and the newer Glass towers, which were added in 1983, make up the Amway Grand Plaza.

You enter the lobby and immediately see the architectural charm. The Pantlind was created by the same designers as the New York City Grand Central Station and Biltmore Hotel.  It was named "one of the ten finest hotels in America" in 1925.

The Amway Corporation purchased it in 1981.  Amway restored the Pantlind to its original opulence and added the luxurious Glass Tower.  If you are lucky to get a room with a view, you will overlook the Grand River.

Many architectural details should not be missed.  Three Czechoslovakian chandeliers grace the lobby, made of Austrian crystals and weighing 4000 pounds each.  The domed gold leaf ceiling is a sight to see.  Arched windows, brass molding, wired electric gaslight torches complete the ambiance of the place.

If you want to know more about the historical details of the hotel, check the tour brochure available at the hotel's website. The Amway Grand Plaza is part of the Historic Hotels of America, a program of National Trust for Architecture History Preservation.

04 April 2018

Fun Things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids was listed as number 20 of 52 places to go worldwide by the New York Times.  See the article here.  It is a great place to have a conference and a great place to visit. There are wonderful museums, gardens, shopping venues, restaurants, neighborhoods and more. If you have the time to come early or stay late you will have lots to see and do in Grand Rapids.  Here are my favorite things to do in Grand Rapids.

  1. Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.  This is one of my favorite places to go when I am in Grand Rapids.  The Marketplace is a great place to grab lunch, a snack, or a simple dinner.  A variety of food options are available including sushi, thai, tacos, barbecue, ice cream, coffee and three bakeries!  It is located about a mile from the DeVos Place.  Hours are Sunday-Thursday 10-7; Friday 10-8; and Saturday 9-8.
  2. Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525.  If you have a few hours to explore this beautiful area, I highly recommend it, but wear your walking shoes!  It is early for flowers to be blooming in Michigan, but you may see tulips and daffodils in bloom.  The sculpture garden is home to the famous 24 foot "American Horse" inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and many other sculptures. There is an indoor viewing area with a caterpillar room and tropical plants and more.  Other things to see include a farmhouse, kids garden, plants, and much more.  It is about 5 1/2 miles from the DeVos Place, but public transportation is available. Hours are Sunday 11-5; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9-5; Tuesday 9-9.
  3. Beer City USA.  There are over 80 craft breweries in the area for you to explore, many of them with great food.  I am not a beer drinker so I can't attest to the quality of the beer, but if this is of interest to you, you won't be disappointed.
  4. Grand Rapids Children's Museum, 11 Sheldon Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.  This is a wonderful museum for children and adults.  There are many hands on exhibit to explore including bubbles, music, farm and a fort.  The museum is .8 mile from the DeVos Place.  Hours are Sunday 12-5; Monday Closed; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 9:30-5 and Thursday 9:30-8.
  5. Grand Rapids Public Museum, 272 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. This museum is a wonderful place to visit.  A carousel, wurlitzer organ, exhibits, habitats, and my favorite, The Streets of Old Grand Rapids are a few of the highlights of this museum.  It is a quick walk, .3 mile, from DeVos Place.  Hours are Monday-Friday 9-5; Saturday 10-5; and Sunday 10-5.
  6. Fish Ladder Although the salmon won't be running this time of year, this is a relaxing spot in the city.  
  7. Heritage Hill Neighborhood One of the oldest neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, this well kept area is rich in beautiful homes with architectural features.  There is a self guided walking tour available here.
  8. Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, 300 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.  NGS will be having an event here Thursday night of the conference, but if you want to explore the museum on your own it is rich in history.  It is within walking distance of the DeVos Place.  Hours are Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sunday 12-5.
These are just of a few of the attraction available for your visit to Grand Rapids.  To see attractions near the DeVos Place check here.  Experience Grand Rapids is the tourism website to check out.

03 April 2018

Talk Like a Michigander

No matter what part of the world you are from there are words that only locals know.  The same is true for Michigan.  If you are visiting Michigan for the upcoming NGS Conference, in Grand Rapids Michigan these terms will help you speak like a Michigander, the word for those living in Michigan.

The Mitten: Lower Michigan is shaped like a mitten.  If you ask someone where they are from and they point to a place on their hand, that is why!  We use our hand as a map.

U-P: If you hear the word U.P. (You Pea) it means the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Thumb:  A part of Michigan that looks like a thumb in the mitten.  I grew up in the thumb.

Yooper: Someone who lives in the U.P.

Trolls: What Yoopers call those who live under the bridge, or in the lower peninsula.

The Bridge: Refers to the Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac: Pronounced Mack-i- naw!

Fudgies: Tourists are called this by Northern Michigan residents.

Party Store: It is a place that sells all things alcoholic.

Michigan Left: It is a U-turn when left turns are not permitted.

Pop/Soda: We drink pop and bake with soda.

Great Michigan Food Items:

Faygo: A brand of pop popular in Michigan.

Superman Ice Cream: A fruity creation of red, yellow, and blue swirls, well know throughout Michigan and the Midwest.

Better Made Chips: A Michigan made potato chip.

Traverse City Cherry Coffee: Traverse City is known for its cherry growing and this flavored coffee is one of the best.  Also, Traverse City Cherry is made into ice cream

Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream: Deliciousness you must try. It is vanilla ice cream with chunks of fudge.

Coney Dogs: A hot dog in a bun with a special sauce and other condiments.  If it is a Koegel hot dog, all the better.

Other Tips:
  1. If you don't like the weather, just wait, it will change.  Michigan has been known to be warm one day and snow the next.  Hopefully, we won't have to worry about snow in May.
  2. We have a tendency to chop letters off words.  Example: Grand Rapids=GranRapids
  3. We add 's' to words.  Example: Meijer (a local grocery store)= Meijers
  4. We have two seasons: Winter and Construction!
I hope you have a great time in Grand Rapids and get to see a little of our wonderful state.  

01 April 2018

Archives of the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan

Archives of the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids is the place to contact for Catholic records in the eleven county area in west Michigan.

Map of Diocese of Michigan

The Archives of the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids, MI, 300 Division Ave, S, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616 459-4509. The diocese was established in 1883.  Currently, it consists of 81 parishes in the Michigan counties of Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa.  

I contacted Fr. Dennis W. Morrow, Archivist of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, and he was very helpful and answered my many questions.  The number one thing I would like to iterate is that the Archives doesn't have staff to accommodate on site research.  Fr. Morrow stated, "We are happy to answer any reasonable requests from researchers. These are best received by U.S. Mail, or by phone at (616) 459-4509, or at this e-mail address, ssppbulletin@gmail.com." Notice the use of the word "reasonable". The archives is willing to do look ups, but doesn't have the staff to do your research for you." A well written query that includes names, dates and places will make your request more successful.  A query that states I would like all the information on the Smith family won't.

Fr. Morrow wrote about the condition of the records.  He writes, "The sacramental records that are in the possession of the Archives are some of the oldest records from some of our oldest parishes.  We do not allow researchers to peruse these records due to our lack of staffing, but also because the records themselves are very fragile. Many of them are difficult to read and interpret, written in Latin and in nearly illegible script.  So it is generally far more fruitful for us to receive the requests and then search the records for results."

If you have Catholic records research to do while you are in Grand Rapids, you can view pre-1900 sacramental records on microfiche at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Sacramental records include baptisms, confirmation, first Communions, marriages, and deaths.  Fr. Morrow states, "The drawback is that the fiche can be difficult to use, and can only show what is in the original register, which is often hard to read.  We are happy to assist researchers in making sense of what they find."

Other records that the Archives holds include all the student records of St, Joseph's Seminary in Grand Rapids from its opening in 1909 to its closure in 1981.  Extensive historical materials on all the parishes and institutions of the Diocese are available, too.

Fr. Morrow also shared, "Researchers are often happy to find that we have begun to transcribe, translate, and index some of our oldest sacramental records for the benefit of all.  We also have scanned the records from a number of our parishes.  This not infrequently makes it possible to look up a family name and provide an immediate "Yes" or "No" as to whether a family name might be found among some of the oldest parish records."

The Archives is near St. Andrew's Cathedral and Catholic Central School.  The piazza area around the cathedral is a beautiful, peaceful setting. If you get a chance to visit while in Grand Rapids, it is a place to see and within walking distance of the National Genealogical Society's conference center, DeVos Place.

Church records can be some of the richest resources a genealogist can find and the Archives at the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids can be a repository you want to use for your Catholic church records in West Michigan.