13 October 2023

UPDATE: Pantlind Hotel, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Previously, I had written about the Pantlind Hotel's history. Sometime later I received an email from Tamara and she added a lot more to the history. This is from Tamara's email.

"I am assisting Sweet House Foundation Historian Carol Dodge to write a book about Martin Sweet and the home he had built at the address now known as 254 Fulton Street East.

In 1861 Martin bought the first real bank in Grand Rapids from Daniel Ball, who set his bank up in 1858. It was located on the corner of Canal Street (now known as Monroe Avenue) and Pearl Street. Martin named the bank the M. L. Sweet & Company Exchange Bank. It merged with First National Bank and then became Old National Bank in 1864. (After Martin’s death, Old National Bank merged with Kent State Bank and became Old Kent Bank. Old Kent Bank was acquired by Fifth Third Bancorp in 1994.) The building in which Sweet’s Bank, First National Bank, and Old National Bank operated was surrounded by Sweet’s Hotel when Martin completed building that elegant edifice in 1869. To finance other ventures, Martin placed a mortgage on the hotel with Old National Bank and the bank acquired it in 1898. J. Boy Pantlind bought the hotel in1902. Pantlind rebuilt the hotel part and opened it as The Pantlind in 1916. In 1981 the hotel was sold to the Amway Corporation. A 29-story addition was added and the building opened as the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in 1982. The old bank part remains is now known as the Imperial Ballroom. The Old National Bank sign hangs in there today.

Perhaps you would like to add to your history. We hope to have Carol’s book published by March of 2023.

Martin Sweet had many businesses and held many positions including miller, first Republican Mayor of Grand Rapids, banker, hotel owner, railroad investor, huge contributor to First (Park) Congregational Church, lumber baron, furniture manufacturer, cattle breeder, farmer, owned the first grain elevator in Grand Rapids, and invested in plank roads, plaster, carriage and harness hardware, iron, and more.

We are disappointed that no mention of Martin Sweet or his bank or hotel appears in the history of the Pantlind or the Amway Grand Plaza and we hope to gain some support for remedying this with the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

Martin was the richest man in Grand Rapids for many years and the 5th richest in Michigan. Unfortunately, he eventually over-invested and that did not work out well in the end. The only thing he had not mortgaged was his home and furnishings so at least he had a place to live. The city gave him the menial job as gatekeeper of the city market which involved cleaning, taking care of the trash, and burning the garbage at this open-air market. He worked faithfully morning until night until the last few months of his life, and he had an indomitable spirit until his demise. He died in his home on his his 86th birthday in 1905.

Perhaps it is because of his lack of success at his end that memory of him is obscured. We hope the book by Carol Dodge, The Mayor, the Musician, and the Mansion, will educate Grand Rapidians and promote understanding and appreciation for this wonderful man’s amazing contributions to this city.

Martin’s home is now known as the Sweet House and the Sweet House Foundation is responsible for keeping the legacy alive."

Carol Dodge's book, "The Mayor, the Maestro, and the Mansion" was published May 13, 2023. An interesting article and interview of Carol Dodge where she talks about the book and Grand Rapids history can be found here.

Thank you to Tamara for sharing the wonderful history of the Pantlind Hotel and Martin Sweet's connection to it.

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