Monday, December 6, 2010
The Hillmount Story
The Hillmount is located at 505 Cherry SE in the Heritage Hill area of Grand Rapids, Michigan on the corner of College and Cherry, a beautiful art deco moderne style apartment building designed and built by Albert Rosa. It is now a condominium development that is part of the downtown renaissance housing empty nesters, young professionals, law school and medical school students. The Hillmount, a 1,000,000 six story apartment structure with 101 units, saw it’s first tenant move in on Friday, December 7, 1951--a Miss Portia H., the personnel director for a local department store . The first tenant wasphotographed by the Grand Rapids Press Building as she moved into her sixth-floor unit. The occasion caught the attention of The Grand Rapids Press as it was the first large apartment building constructed in downtown Grand Rapids for more than 25 years.Ground was broken in 1949 but construction took longer than expected due to materials shortages during the Korean War and initial objections of neighbors. The building is located in what was established in 1970 as The Heritage Hill neighborhood, a national historic district comprised of stunningly graceful and beautiful homes, many of which were built in the late 1800's and early 1900's by leaders in the Grand Rapids furniture trade so it was most likely looked upon with some trepidation by home owners wishing to maintain a single family ambience to the neighborhood.
What came before the Hillmount? If only we had a photo of the house that graced this spot at College and Cherry Streets. Moses Aldrich, Mayor of Grand Rapids from 1868-1870 built his family home on the current site of the Hillmount sometime around 1860. The 1895 edition of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show the Aldrich home as a two story brick structure. A Grand Rapids Press article regarding its demolition in July 1939 describes a red brick home with a “cupola surrounded by an iron railing...and "14 rooms." The stable was one of the largest private stables in the city and the garage portion is still standing in the parking lot of The Hillmount. So far I have been unable to find a picture of the Aldrich home. The block where it was located is bounded by College on the west, Fulton on the north, Cherry on the south and Union on the east was home to the homes of many of the significant families in Grand Rapids history. These included the Pantlind, Bissell, Ledyard homes. The Waters Mansion is still standing in the midst of the large apartment complex on Fulton and College.Moses Aldrich built one of Grand Rapids important early commercial buildings, the Flat Iron Building at the corner of Ottawa and Monroe in 1860 described in an earlier posting. It is currently being renovated for use as law offices for the firm of Smith, Haughey, Rice and Roegge. Aldrich was known as a civic minded man who had great compassion and worked to improve the conditions of the poor citizens of the city.