Week 43 – Rephotographing Grand Rapids

Last weekend I was at the Western History Association meeting in Las Vegas. I went to a panel on rephotography (or repeat photography). The practice goes back to the 1800s. It’s a way to track and visualize changes in natural and built environments.

rephoto Herp GRAM

I thought I’d try this in West Michigan. I took a postcard from the archives at Calvin University, one that caught my eye as I scanned our collection. (I took this dual picture with an iPhone rephotography app called Photobond.)

The postcard (1920s?) depicts Herpolsheimer’s store on Monroe Center NW, where the Grand Rapids Art Museum is today. Herpolsheimers moved to a new location in the 1950s, in what is now the Grand Rapids Police headquarters.

It’s not just the buildings that have changed, and Rosa Parks Circle park added. The streets have been reconfigured.

Here you can see where the first Herpolsheimer’s store was located, on a couple of maps from Sanborn Fire Insurance company maps from 1912. In both maps, I’ve circled in red where Herpolsheimer’s was.

I started by stepping back and taking pictures of the intersection of Pearl Street, Monroe Avenue, and Monroe Center Street. The Amway Grand Hotel was to my left and the Grand River was behind me. The McKay Tower was directly in front of me. I was looking southeast.

Here are several images of the corner in the past and the present, two from the past, and one from me.

As you can see, I’ve processed most of my images as black and white to match the images from the past. The color postcards were taken as black and whites and then hand-tinted. The view of McKay Tower, Pearl Street, and Monroe was taken from a building. I did not bother seeing if I could get a similar view from the Amway Grand.

Here are a couple of images from the past and present from a little closer. The old-timey image is from a parade. The trees in the right foreground of my image hide Rosa Parks Circle. The sign on the Herpolsheimer’s building says “Wurzburg’s” on it. Wurzburg’s purchased, remodeled, and took over Herpolsheimer’s when the latter moved to its new location at the corner of Monroe and Division in the early 1950s.

And in a final comparison–a shot of Herpolsheimer’s and two of the present-day look of the street with Grand Rapids Art Museum and a bit of the park on the right. As noted above, the postcard is part of a collection in the Heritage Hall archives at Calvin University, purchased this summer.

Rephotographing Grand Rapids is not something I plan I do on this blog every week. But I expect to do one of these little projects once a month or so. The last two images, then, are more what I normally do. They’re reflections in the window of the art museum’s shop. It’s little like I imagine a person looking into a Herpolsheimer’s display window to shop.

2 replies to “Week 43 – Rephotographing Grand Rapids

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