The future of our city will be meaningless if we forget the past. Nowhere in our city is the mission to recall our history given more importance than the Grand Rapids Historical Society – a society which hosts an ongoing lecture series featuring individuals from our community who have researched a topic and created a presentation for the public.
While the topics are diverse in scope, the GRHS has touched on subjects ranging from our vanished train stations to famous mug shots, and occasionally gives attention to informative place-making activities like how to research your own home’s history.
This month’s lecture, "Powers Theater: A Century of Entertaining Grand Rapids" will explore the years 1873–1979, when the Powers' Opera House/Midtown Theatre existed in our city. It was completely destroyed twice by fire but always rose like the phoenix until finally it was demolished to create a parking lot in 1979.
This visually rich program, created by local designer James Winslow of Nvisionet Design, will showcase the cultural programming this venue provided for the public. It is also the birthplace of our local theatre family dynasty, the John “Jack” Loeks family, who stepped in to show films at this theatre.
In those days, attending the theatre was a form of community building, so when you discover that the Powers Theater's premiere of "The Sound of Music" resulted in an impressive 78-week run, you just know that the place was full of community humming and singing…together!
“My research on the Powers' Theatre began as a genealogical study into my mothers' Powers' family lineage,” says Winslow, whose personal interest in this story stems from the fact that he’s a sixth-generation Grand Rapidian, whose Powers family began arriving in 1847. “I found it to be so rich in Grand Rapids and entertainment history that I had to share what I learned in my 30 years of research.”
To the best of my research, this is the first time such a presentation of this scope and depth has been presented on this venue.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Because the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is closed as part of the government shutdown the event has relocated to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, 272 Pearl St NW at Front Ave NW.