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Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Updated on September 1, 2016

Grand Rapids has 4 lakes within the city limits, plus the Mississippi River runs through it. I didn't know how beautiful it was until I moved away.


Incorporated in 1891, Grand Rapids is the county seat of Itasca County. Situated on the Mississippi River, its name comes from a succession of cataracts 3 1/2 miles long. When the steamboat was the only dependable feeder of supplies to the lumber camps of the North Country, it marked the practical head of navigation on the upper Mississipi River. Grand Rapids' biggest industry was/is Blandin Paper Company. At one time it was suggested to change the name to Blandin Rapids, but it was zilched.


Besides the River, Crystal (Ice) Lake, Hale Lake, Forest Lake and McKinney Lake are all within the city limits, which makes Grand Rapids not only a nice place to visit, but a nice place to live.

Grand Rapids 1890


Here you can see the Old Court House and the Pokegema Hotel.


Itasca County Court House 1890


This beautiful building was torn down in the mid 50's and replaced with....

This!


I had the pleasure... honor... joy... of placing 49 blinds in this building in 1985.

That was a trip.


Central School 1900


City Fathers had the fortitude to save this building. They did remove the bell tower somewhere along the line.

Grand Rapids being the home of Judy Garland, they have now themed this building around the Wizard of Oz. The original Judy Garland Museum was on the 3rd floor of the school, established by Jackie Dingman.

Just follow the Yellow Brick Road...



Jackie Dingman portrait of Judy Garland as Dorothy

1937
1937
Rotunda inside the school
Rotunda inside the school
1989
1989
Today
Today
The Yellow Brick Road
The Yellow Brick Road
Carved railings in Central School
Carved railings in Central School


I attended 5th grade here when it was still a school. I remember the March of Dimes... we actually marched around the Rotunda and dropped our dimes in a bucket at the bottom of the stairs.

Bird's Eye View of Grand Rapids 1900


It's rather amazing that they built such architecturally magnificent buildings, such as the school and Court House when the town itself was pretty spare... for want of a better word.


First School built where the Central School is, moved to Cohasset.

I literally did not know this.  I went to 1st through 4th at Cohasset, whether it was still this building, I don't know.  Cohasset is 5 miles west of Grand Rapids.
I literally did not know this. I went to 1st through 4th at Cohasset, whether it was still this building, I don't know. Cohasset is 5 miles west of Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Public Library

1909
1909
1942
1942
Library today.  I don't know what they did, or if this is even the same place.
Library today. I don't know what they did, or if this is even the same place.

New Library

Informants tell me this is a new library built on the banks of the Mississippi River just east of the Blandin Floundation... which I'm not even sure I featured here... However, it is just east of the Pokegema Avenue Bridge.


Pokegema Hotel 1897

Recent

Pokegema Hotel on left.
Pokegema Hotel on left.
Mickey's Cafe, 1950's... was in the building across from the Pokegema Hotel.  Corner of building.
Mickey's Cafe, 1950's... was in the building across from the Pokegema Hotel. Corner of building.

Blandin Paper Mill

1910
1910
1920's
1920's
1940's
1940's
1945
1945
Damn broke, Sept. 1948.
Damn broke, Sept. 1948.
1960
1960
1960 - Here you see the Blandin Family Home to the left of the damn.
1960 - Here you see the Blandin Family Home to the left of the damn.
No date
No date
2008
2008
Blandin Foundation - 2007.  This is across Pokegema Avenue from the Blandin Company on the same side of the river.
Blandin Foundation - 2007. This is across Pokegema Avenue from the Blandin Company on the same side of the river.

Leland Avenue

Leland Ave. 1909
Leland Ave. 1909
Leland Ave. 1910
Leland Ave. 1910


There is no longer a Leland Avenue. What you see in the first picture above is looking North, the second picture, looking South, where you see the Pokegema Hotel first shown in above the Blandin Paper Mill photos and the old Itasca County Court House. It is now called Pokegema Avenue.

Power's Hill - 2015

No longer Leland Avenue, now Pokegema Avenue, dubbed Power's Hill.
No longer Leland Avenue, now Pokegema Avenue, dubbed Power's Hill.

Kindred Avenue 1910

3rd Street

There is no longer a Kindred Avenue. It might be 1st Avenue... I don't recognize anything in the photo. But the 'feel' is more like 3rd Street. Yet, I can't justify changing an Avenue to a Street...

3rd Street

3rd St. looking West 1920
3rd St. looking West 1920
3rd St. looking West 1925
3rd St. looking West 1925

This is AT Pokegema Avenue. In fact, the first photo above shows the Pokegema Hotel on the left. The Railroad Depot is on the right.

1st National Bank 1930's

The First National 'Building', as it says on it, is on the corner of 3rd Street and 1st Ave W.

1939
1939
1942
1942

The first photo above is 3rd St. looking East. You can see the old Court House in the distance. The 2nd one is 1st Ave. looking South.

There's Rail Road tracks roughly behind where the camera man is standing.

Forest Lake School 1930's.  My children's father attended grade school here.
Forest Lake School 1930's. My children's father attended grade school here.
Grand Rapids Junior High.  I went to 7th and 8th grades here.
Grand Rapids Junior High. I went to 7th and 8th grades here.
Another picture of the Jr. High.
Another picture of the Jr. High.
Source
High School 1960.  I graduated from here.
High School 1960. I graduated from here.

The Forest Lake School and the Jr. High were torn down. The High School was across the street from the Jr. High and connected by an underground tunnel. It was changed to a Middle School by the time my kids were going to school and a new High School was built. I don't have a picture of it, but it was called 'Joe's Prison' by the kids. There is now a new Middle school I will show later, so I don't know if the old High School is still in use.

Joe's Prison

Ah, I found a picture of the current High School.
Ah, I found a picture of the current High School.

Robert J. Elkington Middle School - 2002

Not sure where they parked this, but I think it is near the High School.
Not sure where they parked this, but I think it is near the High School.

Location

Ah, the Middle School is near the Fairgrounds, rather than the High School. Now I'm not sure that's to the east, or somewhat northwest... I can't recognize anything from the picture.

City Hall - 1930

Not changed much. City Hall Today

The top floor is a ballroom.  We had Teenage Dances there every Friday night.  The Police Station is housed in the lower right corner.  We had the cops watching us all night!
The top floor is a ballroom. We had Teenage Dances there every Friday night. The Police Station is housed in the lower right corner. We had the cops watching us all night!

Arial View of the Airport

Hmmm... I lived at the base of that little loop on the right. At least, the last time I moved...before I moved completely away. (1988)

Railroad Depot

1971
1971
Recent
Recent

Blandin Beach on Forest Lake - 1955

I once lived in the little white house you see just above the swing set.  In-Laws house was at the top of the hill on the street going past.  If not the white one, just past it behind the trees.
I once lived in the little white house you see just above the swing set. In-Laws house was at the top of the hill on the street going past. If not the white one, just past it behind the trees.
New and improved playground?
New and improved playground?
Beach and Beach house.  Probably still 1955 because the road is not tarred.
Beach and Beach house. Probably still 1955 because the road is not tarred.

More Playgrounds...

Kremer's Ben Franklin 5 & Dime Store.  1960. They had a fountain with the best Barbeque sandiwches in the world.
Kremer's Ben Franklin 5 & Dime Store. 1960. They had a fountain with the best Barbeque sandiwches in the world.
Redding's Cafe, 1950.  There was a small bowling alley below, and the Bus Depot was on the right.  Rapids' Cafe was across the street right of the photographer.
Redding's Cafe, 1950. There was a small bowling alley below, and the Bus Depot was on the right. Rapids' Cafe was across the street right of the photographer.
Current wall at the Bus Depot.  I believe this was painted by Greg Waite, a friend of my son, Tracy.
Current wall at the Bus Depot. I believe this was painted by Greg Waite, a friend of my son, Tracy.
The Harbor, 1960's.  South of town on 169.  I worked here for a spell.
The Harbor, 1960's. South of town on 169. I worked here for a spell.
Playmor Roller Rink. I950.  I didn't go here much, but a lot of the kids did.
Playmor Roller Rink. I950. I didn't go here much, but a lot of the kids did.
It's Minnesota, Y'all.  I had to show this one first...
It's Minnesota, Y'all. I had to show this one first...

The Historic Gilbert Mansion


  • The Historic Gilbert Mansion

Rates

  • Admission: Adults - $10 Children under 12 - $7

It's been called "The Jewel of Itasca County." Built in 1904 and once home to one of the most prominent families in Northern Minnesota, the Gilbert Mansion has been a private home for more than a century. Finally, its doors have been opened to the public for tours. Step inside and you are transported back in time. Your one hour tour includes 17 rooms of the mansion. Experience the opulence and grandeur of a by-gone era as you learn about the Gilbert family and early Grand Rapids history. Don't miss this opportunity to see a rare Itasca County gem!


I found the above in the Herald-Review.

Upon digging I found the current owner, Christie Gaupman, and her husband, Tim, raised their 6 children there, while restoring it to the opulence it began with. Come to find out, she is the daughter of my Chiropractor who treated me and my son, Tracy, when he was 2 years old to 8. I honestly think he saved his life. It was a time when no one knew of Rhyes Syndrome, but he treated him instinctively. It wasn't until 12 years later I learned of the disease, that usually took the lives children who developed the complications after the flu or Chicken Pox. Tracy had just had Chicken Pox before his convulsions.

Anyway, let me show you more pictures and the inside.

The Gilbert Mansion in her summertime grandeur.
The Gilbert Mansion in her summertime grandeur.

My Discovery...

I found the Gilbert Mansion when I was going to Jr. HIgh. We would walk past on our way uptown on lunch hour. I was fascinated with it, even though at that time it was in a very run-down condition. Not quite vacant, we heard there was an old woman living in one of the rooms in the back. One time I braved creeping up on the front porch and looking in the windows on the door.

I saw what I thought was a large hall that looked nearly empty except for newspapers scattered around. Now that's pulling from a really long ago memory...

Stairway detail.
Stairway detail.
Music Room from below
Music Room from below
The other side of the Music Room.
The other side of the Music Room.

Interior

The first photo shows some magnificent detailing.

Stained Glass Window
Stained Glass Window
Parlor
Parlor
Dining Room
Dining Room
A Bedroom
A Bedroom

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

I had difficulty locating a photo of St. Joe's... then I ran across a photo showing demolition of it. I cannot imagine WHY ! It was a beautiful building and I have no details about when it was built.

Demolition - 2013

The Great River Road

Looks like somebody took the G out of Grand.
Looks like somebody took the G out of Grand.

...and Everybody Knew Where The Pink Elephant Was.

I believe it is still standing.  The property it is on was up for sale about 2015...
I believe it is still standing. The property it is on was up for sale about 2015...

On The River Road

The Pink Elephant was near here.
The Pink Elephant was near here.
My children's father worked here when we were first married.
My children's father worked here when we were first married.

Rialto Theater

She wasn't only Dorothy... but she started on the stage of the Rialto Theater.

Home of Judy Garland

Head of Navigation

Andy Gibson Riverboat
Andy Gibson Riverboat

The GRAND Rapids...

Here Comes the Showboat!

Mississippi Melodies

Wedding! Aug 12, 2006

Randy and Ruth Ann
Randy and Ruth Ann
Bon Voyage
Bon Voyage

Yes, Bon Voyage...

A good place to depart and publish this historic article...

I forgot to mention, I also had the pleasure and the honor of being a Showboat Cast Member in 1987, the year before I moved away.

I just found out The Harbor has a new name and, of course, I can't remember it.... but if I find out I'll let you know. Having left Grand Rapids in 1988, a LOT has changed and I have been able to include some of that, but the history of the town is elegant. I hope you enjoy this.

Aha! The new name of the Harbor is ...forgot again... I'll be back.

Pickled Loon Saloon! See why I couldn't remember it? Haha...


Tiana Dreymor

Today's date is July 23, 2016, but I have been working on this for several years.

MORE! With some newer pictures.

Central School from the North... 5th Street.
Central School from the North... 5th Street.
I'm not sure what this is... it was called National Night Out.  Maybe some sort of Mock Emergency.
I'm not sure what this is... it was called National Night Out. Maybe some sort of Mock Emergency.

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      Lois lussier 12 months ago

      Very well done!!! Proud of you for putting this together. SOme of the history I knew and some I didn't. Now you will have to do. Cohassets history!!!! Thanks for this, I really enjoyed it.

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      Tiana Dreymor 12 months ago from Columbus, OH

      Oh, Lord...! The only think I know about Cohasset is it means 'Bend in the River' in Indian.

      Glad you liked it... I just found more pictures I forgot I had... so I may be adding to it. Keep on the look out.

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