Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hillmount Part 2: Sundial Park

In a previous post, I discussed the Hillmount - an elegant modern structure built from 1949-1952 as an innovative new apartment building and now a popular downtown condominium development. The Hillmount was built on the former site of the Moses Aldrich home which was built originally about 1860. A footprint of the home is shown in the 1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps shown above.

In 1926, when the Aldrich house was still standing and would have been about 66 years old, the city was deeded a small portion of the Aldrich property for a park. This park was on 125 square feet at the northeast corner of College and Cherry SE.

Katherine Aldrich, daughter of Moses V. Aldrich, former Grand Rapids mayor (1868-1870) commissioned a statute for the new "Sundial Park." It was designed by Anna Coleman Ladd, a Boston sculptor. The dedication ceremony took place on July 30, 1925.

Sadly in 1939, the house was demolished, according to the Grand Rapids Press, to make room for a Catholic women's residence although there is no evidence that any such building was ever erected. In 1942, the Sundial Park statue had sustained some damage. It could have been related to the demolition of the house, vandalism or just plain neglect. The city determined that it was best to move the statue and one reason given was the possibility that city officials were afraid it would be stolen for scrap during WWII

The statue was finally returned to it's rightful position on the slab still located on the park property in 1952 when the new Hillmount Apartments opened. It had nearly been commandeered for use in at least two different locations, the Zoo and the old public museum! The slab is still there and on it is a beautiful modern sign erected there after the developers began renovating the building as condominiums in 2006. But the statue is gone.

Three mysteries exist related to this house: 1. Why are there no photos anywhere in the historic records located at the Grand Rapids Public Library; 2. How did the City Assessors Office lose the assessor card on this property which would have had a picture of the residence (!); 3. What happened to the statue -- it has disappeared again and was reportedly last seen at the Zoo but now cannot be located?

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