Community Legends Statues — Who Are Those People?
If you have spent any time walking around in downtown Grand Rapids, you have probably noticed some of the statues. The individuals depicted in these statues are community legends -- people who have helped shape Grand Rapids into what it is today. Who are these people and what did they do?
The Community Legends Sculpture Project will eventually erect 25 bronze statues around the city. Currently there are 10 different statues, honoring various movers and shakers from our city.
Here is an alphabetical list of the statues and their locations, as well as a brief summary of what the person did.
Bishop Baraga -- Located outside the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. Bishop Baraga brought Catholicism to Grand Rapids. He is also known as the "Snowshoe Priest” for his trappings across Michigan’s wilderness and is mostly associated with missionary work in the Upper Peninsula.
Anna Sutherland Bissell -- Located on the Grand River side of DeVos Place. Bissell was the CEO, President, and Chair of the Board for the Bissell Corporation from 1846-1934. She took over as the CEO following the death of her husband Melville in 1889. She was one of America’s first female corporate CEOs.
Roger B. Chaffee -- Located on the northwest Corner of East Fulton St and Sheldon Ave. Chaffee was a NASA astronaut from Grand Rapids. He received his first spaceflight assignment in 1966 as the third-ranking pilot on Apollo 1. In 1967, he died in a fire during a pre-launch test for the mission.
Helen Claytor -- Located on the south side of Grand Rapids Community College. Claytor was an educator, civil rights activist, and the first African American president of the Grand Rapids YWCA and also became the first African American president of the national YWCA.
Stanley Ketchel -- Located at 438 Bridge Street. Ketchel was a professional middleweight boxer often called “Michigan Assassin”. He won the world middleweight championship in 1907 and held it until his untimely death in 1910.
Lucius Lyon -- Located at the end of Lyon Street outside the back entrance of the Amway Grand Hotel. Lyon was a pioneer in our city. He was also a surveyor and represented our state in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Chief Noonday -- Located near the Blue Bridge at Grand Valley State University-Eberhard Center. Noonday, also known as Chief Noahquageshik or Nawquageezhig, led the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians. When traders arrived to the area, Noonday helped welcome them.
Mayor Lyman Parks -- Located outside the Kent County Administration Building. Parks was first elected to the Grand Rapids City Commission in 1968, becoming the city's first African-American commissioner. In 1971, he was chosen by his colleagues to fill a mayoral vacancy. He served at the city's mayor until 1976.
William Alden Smith -- Located at DeVos Place at the exit from the Grand Gallery towards the river. Smith was a senator and he also chaired a committee that investigated the sinking of the Titanic. Back in 1916, he was also one of the few republican Presidential candidates.
Jay Van Andel -- Located outside Van Andel Arena. Van Andel was and Amway Corp. co-founder who founded an international medical research institute, provided major funding for the city’s public museum and with his partner, Rich DeVos, helped revive downtown with the redevelopment of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
To see a map with the locations of these statues, click here.
Now when you walk around the city and see these statues, you will know who these people are and what they did.