Constructing Furniture City

This project combines traditional narrative history with mapping and statistics to examine how Grand Rapids, Michigan achieved industrial success during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Chicago and other major metropolitan areas dominated the Midwest, leaving small cities like Grand Rapids to forge their own path of urban development. Achieving fame by producing high-end furniture, Grand Rapids made capitalism local to survive the turbulence of industrialization and urbanization. The success of Grand Rapids as “Furniture City” reveals this alternate way to navigate industrial change. The city’s decline during the Great Depression, however, underscores the fragile nature of relying on a niche economy.

See the archived project here.