The Grand Rapids Public Museum is a place of never-ending inspiration and discovery, with a focus on science, history and culture.
Imagine yourself in Grand Rapids in 1890. A bustling community with 80,000 residents, Grand Rapids over 100 years ago was different in many ways, though still similar to how we know it today! This exhibit presents a 3/4 scale detailed re-creation of Grand Rapids in the 1890s, with eleven shops based on actual businesses and buildings.
The storefronts and interiors are stocked with real merchandise from the past. Hear street sounds as you walk through the exhibition and learn about the era and artifacts from trained guides.
The Detroit and Milwaukee Railway was the first railroad to arrive in Grand Rapids in 1858. This route used Grand Rapids as a stop and continued to Grand Haven before its supplies were transferred to ferries in order to cross Lake Michigan into Wisconsin.
Many railroads such as those pictured above helped make Grand Rapids a growing destination in the 1890s and contributed to the creation of Union Station in 1900.
If you were to arrive in Union Station today, it would be located at the corner of Ionia and Oakes, near where the Van Andel Arena is today.
The storefront of this grocery store can still be found at the corner of 11th Street and Davis Ave.
John Kaminski, owner of the Kaminski Grocery Store originally came to Grand Rapids in 1889. Upon his arrival, he worked as a laborer until he was able to open his own store on the West Side in 1893. Although there were many grocers in Grand Rapids, people preferred to shop in their own neighborhoods. Like many small business owners at the time, John Kaminski and his family lived above their store.
Although no known images exist of the Kaminski Grocery Store in the 1890s, above is an image from the era that was used to help GRPM recreate what the store would look like.
Shortly after the Civil War, James C. Craig left Washington D.C. in 1868 to make a living in Grand Rapids and open a barber shop. He was one of the earliest African American business owners in Grand Rapids.
In 1883, Craig became the first barber shop to be equipped with electricity and advanced instruments. By 1895, his business was located at 72 Canal Street in the heart of Grand Rapids, which is now known as Monroe Street.