Week 25 – Rephotographing West Leonard

The west side of Grant Rapids has been going through a lot of changes, especially on major streets like Bridge and Leonard, with new businesses of a variety of sorts and Grand Valley State University doing a lot of building. The housing market also is changing, with pricey condos and apartments, or family homes being rented by room to students. No surprise, there’s been a lot of debate about whether this is “revitalization” or “gentrification.”

This weekend I thought I’d re-photograph a couple of places on the West Side. I looked through images that we have in Heritage Hall, found a couple, ending up on Leonard Street.

The first three are of West Leonard Christian Reformed Church. The black and white photograph dates to 1908. The second one–mine–is from this weekend. You can see that trees have been planted and matured in today’s image. The streets today are designed for automobiles. There are more utility poles and wires. And instead of a parsonage, which was sold moved (the house, literally, moved a few miles away) there is a meeting-education wing to the church.

The third image, from Google Maps, provides context–commercial development in the area, modern streets and cars, and a “Bibles for Missions” thrift shop across the street.

The second set is from the intersection of Leonard and Broadway. Here there are three. The postcard probably dates to the 1920s or later, in color form. But the black and white photograph the color postcard is based on (and perhaps an earlier B&W version of the postcard) dates to about 1908 or 1909.

I’ve also included a Google Earth shot of the intersection from a couple of years ago, in addition to my image from this weekend.

Until recently, As you can see from the Google Earth image, there was a building on the NE corner of the intersection. It has been removed and new construction is planned. It’s not clear, but it’s possible that the building taken down was a renovated version of the one there in the early 1900s.

It did not do any research for this post, and I just tried to get close to the framing of the original images. I got closer wit the images of the church; traffic prevented me from standing where I wanted in the Leonard and Broadway image. But even hastily done rephotography provides clues to a changing part of the city.

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