The Streets
of Old
Grand Rapids

Stroll through a 3/4 scale detailed re-creation of Grand Rapids in the 1890s, 11 storefronts based on actual businesses and buildings. The storefronts and interiors are stocked with real merchandise.

Enter near the streetcar through the Union Depot railroad station. Pedal the high-wheeler bicycle. Visit the Opera House. Ponder life in a different era.

Two visitors look at printed materials in the Van Dort Print Shop

Storefronts of Streets

Of the 11 storefronts, four feature well-versed volunteers when they’re available. They have lots of stories and fun facts to share with guests. Check the following shops on your visit to see if a volunteer is present to answer your questions about Grand Rapids in the 1890s! 

Two volunteers in Van Dort print shop, one at the printing press

Van Dort Print Shop

Mr. Anthony Van Dort ran a print shop that did small jobs. If you wanted to get calling cards, hand bills, or invitations he was the man to see. The print shop was not hooked up to electricity yet, even though it had been available in Grand Rapids since the early 1880s. 

If Van Dort’s Print Shop existed today, it would be seen right across from the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, and just a block southeast from the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

If a volunteer is in the shop, ask about the antique printing press. Run on the power of humans alone, this press still works! You’ll find examples of printed materials from this machine inside.

Two men in pharmacy jackets in the Rudell Pharmacy

Rudell Drug Store

This store is the only business in the exhibit not originally based in Grand Rapids, but it is also the only store featuring all original fixtures. In 1969, when the Rudell Drug Store closed, the entire interior of the building was disassembled and shipped to Grand Rapids to become part of the Public Museum.

William Rudell owned the Rudell Drug store in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan and displayed his certificate showing that he was a registered pharmacist. His daughters, Frances and Marjorie attended Pharmacy School and became the first registered women pharmacists in the Sault. 

A woman in the Herpolsheimer department store

Voigt Herpolsheimer Department Store

William G. Herpolsheimer and C. G. A. Voigt met while working as clerks in a dry goods store in Michigan City, Indiana.  The two decided to open their own competing store, which was established in 1865.  After 5 years of doing business in Michigan City, they moved to the growing city of Grand Rapids.  In 1902 the two principles decided to part ways with the Herpolsheimers continuing to run the dry goods store while the Voigt family moved into the milling business. 

With a large storefront and interior, furnishings for the home, and carpeting each had their own department at Voigt Herpolsheimers & Company. They had a wholesale address on Ottawa and a retail address on Monroe for each side of the street they touched. Herpolsheimer’s Firm continued to operate department stores until it was sold in 1987 making it one of the longest-running retail establishments in West Michigan.

A volunteer stands by the old horse drawn, steam powered fire engine.

Fire Station

Buildings were being built higher by the 1890’s so the fire department invested in a steam pumper. It forced water up several stories high with significant pressure and helped with the numerous fires that occurred throughout the city. By 1900 there were 124 firefighters and 56 horses located in 13 different fire stations across Grand Rapids.

If Engine House #2 were to exist today, it would be located in the Musculoskeletal Center on Barclay Avenue, right across from the Meijer Heart Center associated with Spectrum Health.

The Coinola Orchestrion

Visit the Powers’ Opera House to hear history come alive. Place a quarter in the slot of our Coinola Orchestrion to hear a band play without a musician in sight. You can watch a video of this incredible instrument playing. “There’s Everything Nice About You,” a song from 1927.

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