Week 44 – Rephotographing the Madison Campus

Calvin University’s current “Knollcrest” campus–named after the farm it once was–is the fourth for an institution whose history goes back to 1876. Earlier campuses were on Spring Street, Madison Avenue, and Franklin Street. This rephotograph post focuses on the Madison campus, at the corner of what is now Franklin and Madison.

The Madison campus was used by the Theological School and Calvin Junior College from 1892 to 1917. Here is an early black and white of the Madison campus, paired with a photo I took this week.

And, in very similar images, a color postcard, color photo from this week, and a photo of students at the Madison campus in 1910.

As I noted above, the Madison campus was located at what is NOW Madison and Franklin. In the 1890s it was Madison and Fifth Avenue; by the 1910s, Fifth had been renamed Franklin.

Here’s a series of maps that compare the neighborhood now to then. First a map of Grand Rapids now and then a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1895, with the campus of the Theological School circled in red. Calvin Junior College did not yet exist in 1895.

The next four images are details maps from Sanborn, showing the campus in 1895 and 1913. The first two images, from 1895, show the Madison Public School (in the lower right corner) and the Theological School (lower left corner). The second two images do the same for 1913. You can see that the neighborhood was filling in with more houses and that the Theological School and Calvin Junior College had added two buildings, one of them labeled as a Chemistry Lab.

Here’s a photo of the Madison Public School and the parking lot today where the school used to be.

The Theological School and Calvin College moved to a new, larger campus to the east on Franklin Street in 1917. In 1920, the new Grand Rapids Christian High School took over the old Madison campus. It made a series of additions to the Calvin campus and then razed several buildings and built a new facility.

Here are a series of pictures from 1925, 1937, and 1956, taken from Grand Rapids Christian High School yearbooks. The building in 1956 is recognizable as the one at the corner today. The second building in the 1956 image is the old Madison Public School building, which had become part of the Christian School system by 1956.

Here is the old Grand Rapids Christian High School building today. In 1972, the school sold the property to Kent County, which renovated it and used it as a Department of Social Services facility until 2009. In the pictures you can see the building today, undergoing remodelling, and two old red brick buildings. They are dorms from Calvin’s Madison Campus days. Today they are apartment buildings.

In 2009, Ed DeVries, a Grand Rapids Christian alum and local developer, bought the property and the parking lot where the Madison Public School once sat. In 2015, he donated it to Madison Church, which is renovating the building.

Madison Church is returning the building to its Christian roots. “Our vision of using the first floor for community and church and providing housing on the second and third floor is becoming a reality by partnering with Inner City Christian Federation and the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative,” explains Madison Church’s website for the project.

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