I really liked Fort Wayne as well. From my last drive-through in 1997, I remembered it as being sort of dowdy and unpleasant, but after spending a day or two exploring, my opinion has changed. There are some really dumply and abandoned areas, but Fort Wayne has largely been spared that whole Rust Belt depopulation thing as well, and the city is a treasure trove of older commercial architecture (despite the destruction of much of the older part of its downtown core).
There were just great little surprises every time I turned a corner. I could take pictures there for days.
Because of the amazing public library city directory collection I mentioned before, I’ll probably be back, and it’s nice to know there’s an interesting town to explore. And shawarma.
Grand Rapids is known as “Furniture City.” So is High Point, North Carolina.
Grand Rapids is known as “Beer City.” So is Asheville, North Carolina.
Grand Rapids is very different from either place. It sort of fascinates me, because it’s never really seen the depopulation that most other cities in the Upper Midwest have. There have been decades where the population declined a bit, but current estimates show that the city is currently at its highest population ever. And it reads like a much bigger city than it is, in some ways. The downtown area is aided by the presence of a major medical facility and several universities and colleges.
There are a ton of craft breweries and some interesting neighborhoods. The main public library rocks.
This is the first time in quite a while that I’ve spent a significant amount of time in a city I’d never visited before. And best of all, I got to hang out with a friend I hadn’t seen in almost 13 years. Bonus all the way around.
Never said I wasn’t fickle. I now have a tremendous crush on Milwaukee.
But April can be harsh:
Other random things to talk about at some point:
- My very odd hotel in Cleveland
- The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
- Changing a tire in the snow at dusk two blocks from Lake Michigan
- I’ve never been to Grand Rapids
Big road trip a-comin’
Since I’m doing a conference presentation in Cleveland the second week in April, I decided it would be a good jumping off point for a midwestern road trip where I’ll visit some old friends, do a big chunk of research, spend time in a city I’ve been wanting to explore more extensively for twenty years, and cover some new territory.
- Cleveland: Conference presentation and sadly not much else, but Cleveland is (relatively) close by and I get there somewhat regularly anyway.
- Milwaukee: First visit since 1998. I’ve been threatening to spend some time there ever since and this is my chance. I’ll also be visiting a friend who recently relocated about forty miles away. I’ll also put in some time at the library for Groceteria.
- Grand Rapids: I’ve never been there despite the fact that there was one point where we almost moved there when I was a youngster. I’ll be visiting an old friend from san Francisco I haven’t seen since 2006 or so.
- Fort Wayne: This will be the hardcore research portion of the trip. There is a wonderful place there called the Genealogy Center. I don’t do genealogy, but I use many of the same tools for Groceteria. This place has a massive collection of print city directories (my primary tool) that fills in many of the (very numerous) holes in Ancestry’s collection. I’ve planned two days. I am a big geek. Plus I haven’t been there since 1997 either.
I’d also planned to spend a few days in Detroit/Windsor, but I’m backing off on that for now because I have too much going on here to be gone for that long and because I’d like to spend more time there. Thus I may merge this with the annual Thanksgiving road trip to Canada this year.