The History of Heritage Hill Grand Rapids

Heritage Hill Grand Rapids

Are you ready to walk through the streets of one of Grand Rapids’ most cherished neighborhoods? That’s right, we’re talking about the historical Heritage Hill neighborhood. This neighborhood is fantastic, and we’re going to take you through some of the most popular properties in the neighborhood.

The History of Heritage Hill

Heritage Hill is a very unique and historical neighborhood. In 1968, 75% of the neighborhood was due to be demolished, but current residents at the time banned together and decided to preserve the historical significance of the neighborhood, and fight mortgage redlining and urban development projects. So in 1968, one of the main goals for all of the neighbors, when they banded together, was to secure the historical significance of the neighborhood. They went ahead and presented the National Preservation Legislation to stop the bulldozer from demolishing 75% of the neighborhood, and maintaining the historical charm of their neighborhood at the time.

Once legislation’s passed and the preservation of the neighborhood had been secured, fast forward to 1988, where the Association is formed, and a master plan is developed, becoming Grand Rapids’ first neighborhood to develop its own master plan still in effect today. Heritage Hill is listed as one of the nation’s largest urban historical districts, featuring all different styles of American architecture, from Greek revival to gothic, to prairie; it covers it all.

The Meyer May House

Arguably one of Heritage Hill’s most famous properties is the Meyer May Home. In 1908, this home was commissioned by Meyer May himself, then president of the May Clothing store at the time. It was also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If you’re familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, he had a very unique set of tastes when designing his home. The Meyer May Home is a perfect example of the Frank Lloyd Wright style. When you’re driving down Madison Avenue, you’ll notice that the Meyer May Home sticks out just a little bit in contrast compared to other homes in the area, which was designed in the Victorian style of architecture known for its time period. So Frank Lloyd Wright was just way ahead of his time and designed some beautifully timeless homes.

The Meyer May Home has exchanged hands over the years but is currently owned by the Steelcase Corporation. Back in 1985, Steelcase took ownership of the home and commissioned to have the home completely restored to its original state. To this day, it’s open to the public for public tours. We definitely encourage people to take advantage if you’re visiting the area. If you want to see Heritage Hill, take a look at their website and the times they offer for free Walking Tours, and you can finally get inside and see one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic homes. The Heritage Hill Association offers many different ways of getting involved in viewing the properties along Heritage Hill, from free Walking Tours to planned events throughout the year, take a look at their website for more information and take advantage of some of these fantastic tours around.

The Brayton House 

One of the other homes featured on the free Walking Tour offered through the Heritage Hill website is the Brayton House. Built in 1889, this Gregorian revival-type home has so many features and it’s very unique to the neighborhood. Built by James Brayton, who was at the time nationally known to be an expert on the value of standing timber, he put a lot of detail with that timber into his home. As you approach the Brayton House, the one thing that really stands out like a sore thumb, but looks absolutely beautiful, is the Adam shell detailing hanging above the front door where it curves in. And just the detail alone and the woodwork of that time period was way ahead of its time.

Who Lives in Heritage Hill 

In the 1800s, these homes were built to house some of Grand Rapids’ most elite figures. From bankers to judges, to politicians, these figures are what helped make Grand Rapids and shape it into the city that it is today. The historical district features over 4,000 homes located within the district, and the actual historical society has done a fantastic job of preserving this history. You will find an eclectic and diverse group of people living in the homes today, from students to doctors, nurses, and carpenters. There are a lot of different housing options if you’re looking to consider living in an older home.

If you’re looking to make a move to Grand Rapids and a historical district is up your alley, give us a call. We’d love to talk with you a little bit about the options available in the historical district.