East Grand Rapids is a city in Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city is a suburb of Grand Rapids and is located on the shore of Reeds Lake. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 10,694.
East Grand Rapids was first settled in the early 1830s by the Reed Family from New York, New York. It is one of the oldest suburbs in Kent County. Originally part of Paris Township, residents voted to establish the Village of East Grand Rapids in 1891. The Village was incorporated into a Home Rule City in 1926 when the population was approximately 1,300.
By the 1870s, the Reeds Lake area was a popular summertime day trip destination for the people of Grand Rapids and surrounding areas. Picnicking, boating, swimming and spending a leisurely day at the lake and park were enjoyable pastimes. The first lakeside pavilion was seen as early as 1879 on the west shore of Reeds Lake. Here viewers could take in a play or listen to a popular orchestra of the day. Originally, those who wished to reach Reeds Lake would do so by foot, stagecoach or by horse and buggy. In the middle 1870s, horse drawn cars became available. Passengers would board in downtown Grand Rapids, transfer onto the Grand Rapids & Reeds Lake Railway on Sherman Street SE and proceed to the lake down Wealthy Street. By 1877 a steam locomotive replaced the horse cars. Electric streetcars came into use in the early 1890s. Buses replaced them as a mode of transportation in 1935. Interurban also brought residents from nearby cities to Reeds Lake.
Ramona Park, an amusement park owned and operated by the Grand Rapids Street Railway Company, was a destination spot for thousands of families between 1897 and 1955. It was quite common in those days for a public transportation company to own such parks. They were known as trolley parks, and were placed at the end of the line to attract or encourage use of the public transportation system. The Ramona Theatre Pavilion was built in 1897 on the West Side of the Park on Lakeside Drive, overlooking Reeds Lake. It was an extremely popular summertime venue that could seat 1,700 people. Popular plays, musicals, Vaudevillian and burlesque acts, silent films, talkies and favorite local and national entertainers, such as Will Rogers, appeared at the theatre during its heyday. The theater was torn down in 1949 and the site is now occupied by the Lakewood Hills apartments. Into the 1950s, the Ramona Show Boat, a paddle wheel steam boat, circled the lake during live shows. When Ramona Park was replaced with a shopping center and apartment complex, the showboat was removed to Lowell, Michigan.
Reeds Lake itself was home to two bathing beaches. Manhattan Beach was located on the north shore of the lake at the end of Pioneer Club Road and was in service from the mid 1880s to 1927. In 1884 Charles Seidel, boat builder and harbormaster on Reeds Lake, thought the property would be a fine spot for a bathing beach. He leased the land for just this purpose. The property was then purchased and developed into a more substantial beach resort by Thomas Reed in 1905. His family continued to operate the facility after he died. His daughter and her husband, Katherine and Charles Morgan, ran the facility until it closed and the property was sold in 1927.
Rose's Bathing Beach and Swimming School located on the west shore of Reeds Lake on the north side of the boat launch, was established in 1901 by James Rose. German born Rose had his own unique style of teaching people to swim. Hundreds learned under his tutelage. In addition to the bathing school and beach there was a bathhouse and 'hamburger joint'. In the winter, when the lake was frozen, Rose's had a tobaggon run, skating rink and ice hockey league. In the winters the bathouse was crowded with skaters changing in and out of street shoes and indulging in Rose's famous carmelcorn. After the bathing beach closed in the late 1960s, most of the facility was demolished. One small building was left standing. James’ son John "Bub" Rose kept it open as a marina and an upscale restaurant noted for its hamburgers and carmelcorn. "Bub" eventually retired to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to pursue his passion for ice boating, selling the restaurant to the Gilmore Collection, owner of several area restaurants.
In 1974 East Grand Rapids came to national attention as the legal domicile of Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States, although, as a serving Congressman and Vice-President, Ford had, for all practical purposes, resided in the District of Columbia area for the previous twenty-five years.
Recently the downtown area known as Gaslight Village has been the focus of major reconstruction. A local developer (Jade Pig) has completed a new retail center as part of their $50 million project, which also is to include offices and multi-floor condominium buildings spread over a tract. In 2006 the City of East Grand Rapids performed a $3 million refurbishing of Wealthy Street with new paving, lighting and decorative features. A new community center and library were also completed, with a price tag of $9.4 million.
East Grand Rapids High School has over 110 state championships in almost all sports and activities.
Since 1916, Blodgett Hospital has been located in East Grand Rapids, so even though its mailing address is Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids appears on all birth and death certificates associated with it. (Before 1916 it was known as the Union Benevolent Association (UBA) Hospital, and was located at the intersection of Lyon Street and College Ave in downtown Grand Rapids.)