Page Six of Our Village Walk

Some Village History

Used with permission from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Brochure

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The head of the great rapids of the Maumee has been a strategic gathering place for centuries, attracting early aborigines along with heroes and villains of the settlement period.  It is a place of great natural beauty, as well as an ideal location for commerce to develop.  The Howard family settled the site in 1822, while Peter Manor laid the foundations for Providence across the river.

Gilead was first platted in 1833 but was overshadowed during the canal period by Providence.  Disease and fire ravaged Providence and left Gilead to grow and prosper.  To gain a more sophisticated name, the village was renamed Grand Rapids in 1868. The railroad arrived a decade later and soon Grand Rapids became a commercial hub for settlers in the surrounding area.

Fire destroyed nearly the entire downtown at one time or another, and spring floods posed an annual threat.  The 1904 and 1913 floods were especially destructive, and in 1959 water filled the downtown in five minutes and left men to scramble atop the roof of the Ludwig Mill visitor center.

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Special events highlight the year in Grand Rapids.  The flood watch of Spring draws thousands to view in awe the power of Mother Nature.  Rapids Rally Days add fun and frolic to mid-summer.  The fall season brings color tours to the river valley and the very successful Applebutter Fest.  Finally, the Christmas Season brings festive decorations, the Open House Celebration, and a glimpse of Christmas long ago.

The visitor will also find an array of activities geared to people of all ages.  Providence Metropark offers the Isaac Ludwig Mill, a restored water-powered saw and grist mill.  Also at the park one can take a trip through time on an authentic mule-drawn canal boat ride through a working, original canal lock.   Just down the road from the village proper is Mary Jane Thurston State Park and Marina, which provides a beautiful location for a picnic, camping or a walk along the canal towpath.

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Since 1976, a slow but steady pace of restoration and renovation has begun in the village, returning the face of downtown to its turn of the century beauty.   Today shops, stores, emporiums and restaurants fill the street of the restored, working village.

Grand Rapids is the perfect blend of the past with the present and promises you a nostalgic visit any time of the year.  Come visit historic Grand Rapids.  South and west of Toledo, Grand Rapids is easily accessible from many directions.

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