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Grand Ledge, Michigan
Location of Grand Ledge in Eaton County, Michigan
Location of Grand Ledge in Eaton County, Michigan
Country United States
State Michigan
Counties Eaton, Clinton
Area
 • Total 3.91 sq mi (10.12 km2)
 • Land 3.81 sq mi (9.87 km2)
 • Water 0.10 sq mi (0.25 km2)
Elevation
833 ft (254 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 7,786
 • Estimate 
(2019)
7,896
 • Density 2,072.44/sq mi (800.09/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
48837
Area code(s) 517 Exchanges: 622,627
FIPS code 26-33420
GNIS feature ID 0627094
Grand ledges
Sandstone ledges in Grand Ledge

Grand Ledge is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city lies mostly within Eaton County, though a small portion extends into Clinton County to the north. The city sits above the Grand River 12.7 miles (20.4 kilometers) west of downtown Lansing. The population was 7,786 at the 2010 census. The city is named for its sandstone rock ledges that rise 40 feet (12 m) above the Grand River and are used by recreational rock climbers.

History

Native American Settlement

Native Americans who lived in the vicinity of the Grand River near the ledges were of Pottawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa ancestry. They dug clams in the river, mined coal on the river banks, and hunted for deer, turkey, fox, and bear. They also fished for black bass. Their name for the ledges translated into English as "Big Rocks".

White Settlement

Based on early records, Hugh Heward was the first white man to explore this area by river and record his findings. His journal describes the sandstone ledges as having high banks, some pine trees and heavy woods with the finest places possible for making syrup and several small islands. In 1847 Henry Trench settled in what would later become downtown Grand Ledge. However, after a few years he returned east. In 1850 settlers named their village Grand Ledge, and erected a Post Office. By 1869, a railroad reached to the north end of the village. In 1871, the village was incorporated by the state of Michigan.

Resort Era

The 1870s saw the rise of Grand Ledge as a Michigan resort destination. Following the arrival of the railroad, John Burtch founded the Seven Islands Resort in 1872. The resort opened with the Dolly Varden steamer and a small boarding house on Second Island. Several mineral wells were also drilled and a local physician expounded on the medicinal qualities of the water. In 1877 S.M. Hewings purchased the Seven Islands Resort and the following year built the Island House Hotel on Second Island. In 1880 Julian Scott Mudge purchased the Seven Islands Resort. To minimize the flood damage from the Grand River, Mudge built a new dam in 1887. In 1888 the Railroad Trestle or High Bridge was built to bring the railroad south of the river and Grand Ledge became the second city in Michigan, after Lansing, to get electric lights. By that time an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 visitors come to the Seven Islands Resort each year.

Golden Age

In 1891 Mudge built a roller coaster on the Islands. This is believed to be the first coaster in Michigan. Located on the first island below the bridge was an animal park with bears and deer. The second island became the centerpiece of the resort activities and hosted a hotel with a square Victorian tower, picnic area and fountain. The second and third islands were joined together by means of a causeway and a large pavilion was constructed which served as a ballroom and theatre for first run Vaudeville acts. The Resort also featured a merry-go-round and a bandstand. Mudge’s most notable improvement was the construction of the building he called “The Round House”. This three-story pagoda tower was built right on the edge of Second Island; half of the tower foundation was on the island and half was built out into the river. During the construction he kept the purpose of the unusual structure secret. This caused much speculation in the local community. Mudge eventually revealed his grand plans behind the design of his Round House. The tower was designed to have the second story rotate at a slow speed, while the third story rotated faster and was topped by a centrifugal swing that would whirl the adventurous rider out over the river. The fourth, fifth, and sixth islands were left wild and the seventh was a favorite picnic spot by boaters. As many as 75 boats plied the Grand River at Grand Ledge and side-wheel river boats steamed up and down the river between the second island and the dam. The dam, constructed in 1887, ensured the proper water level for the operation of steamboats. As many as nine hotels provided accommodations for visitors and the Pere Marquette Railroad offered excursion rates to the Seven Island Resort which, according to early records, was second in popularity only to Petoskey.

The Spring Flood of '93 and Mudge's Folly

A devastating flood damaged the Round House in 1893. At the very final stages of construction during a devastating spring flood large chunks of winter ice pushed the building off its foundation and it nearly toppled over. Although the building was saved, the mechanics of theatroyed and the potential of the building never came to be. The Round House remained however and became the most recognizable symbol of the entire resort era. “The building has come to be called Mudge’s Folly. This has a double meaning. While a folly can be a costly and foolish undertaking, it can also describe a picturesque structure built as an ornament, but without a real purpose.”.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.65 square miles (9.45 km2), of which 3.57 square miles (9.25 km2) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.21 km2) is water.

Transportation

Highways

  • M-43 – runs east to its intersection with Interstate 69, WNW of downtown Lansing.
  • M-100 – runs north–south, to connect Grand Ledge with Interstate 69 on the south and Interstate 96 on the north.

Airport

Abrams Municipal Airport (FAA LID: 4D0) is a city-owned, public-use airport located two nautical miles (3.7 km) north of the central business district of Grand Ledge. The airport is accessible by road from Eaton Highway and is located 2.1 miles (3.4 km) south of Interstate 96, just east of M-100.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,387
1890 1,606 15.8%
1900 2,161 34.6%
1910 2,893 33.9%
1920 3,043 5.2%
1930 3,572 17.4%
1940 3,899 9.2%
1950 4,506 15.6%
1960 5,165 14.6%
1970 6,032 16.8%
1980 6,920 14.7%
1990 7,579 9.5%
2000 7,813 3.1%
2010 7,786 −0.3%
2019 (est.) 7,896 1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 7,786 people, 3,357 households, and 2,063 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,181.0 inhabitants per square mile (842.1/km2). There were 3,656 housing units at an average density of 1,024.1 per square mile (395.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.4% White, 0.9% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.6% of the population.

There were 3,357 households, of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 13.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.5% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.93.

The median age in the city was 38.8 years. 24.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.7% were from 25 to 44; 27% were from 45 to 64; 14.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.7% male and 52.3% female.

Rock climbing

Grand Ledge Climbing 2008
Popular rock climbing route Doug's Roof

Oak Park in Grand Ledge is one of the few places to climb in Michigan, making it a popular destination for local climbers. The sandstone cliffs along the river have nearly 100 routes ranging from basic (5.2) to very difficult (5.13).

Education

The Grand Ledge school district was established in 1886. It comprises an area of 125 square miles (320 km2) centered 10 miles (16 km) west of Lansing, Michigan's state capital. Within the school district are the City of Grand Ledge, the communities of Delta Mills, Mulliken, Wacousta and Eagle, as well as a large portion of Delta Township. The school district, which is mainly in Eaton County, also covers portions of Clinton and Ionia Counties. The schools of Grand Ledge district consists of two early childhood and kindergarten center, four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. The Grand Ledge High School mascot is the Comet. The total population of the district is 31,000.

Notable people

  • Paul Baribeau, musician
  • Reid Boucher, NHL player
  • Frank Fitzgerald, Governor of Michigan
  • Frank M. Fitzgerald, lawyer and legislator
  • John Warner Fitzgerald, jurist
  • John Wesley Fitzgerald, businessman and legislator
  • Matt Greene, NHL player
  • Al Horford, NBA player
  • Deborah Diesen, Children’s book author
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