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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

How the Raniville Power Building Became the Fine Arts Building

The Fine Arts Building did not rise on vacant land as a new building. It was transformed by Gustav A. Hendricks from a former power plant into a showplace for the furniture industry.

Felix Raniville and Simeon R. Sikes of Buffalo, New York, formed a partnership to manufacture leather belting for Michigan’s sawmills. They established a base in Grand Rapids in September, 1874 as leather belting was in demand by the sawmills, and Grand Rapids was logical center for supplying them. In the fall of 1883 Raniville purchased property on Pearl St. and in 1884 erected a three-story building with fifty feet of frontage. In the summer of 1885, due to growing business, he erected another building, just to the east of the first one. In 1886 Samuel Lyon became his partner, and the firm of Raniville & Lyon continued until December 1, 1888, when the partnership was dissolved. In 1890 Mr. Raniville built a red-brick building near the Grand River and next to his other properties. Some of this building was leased to tenants. In the autumn of 1901 Mr. Raniville purchased the land and building formerly owned by the Grand Rapids Street Railway Company at the corner of Lyon and Campau Sts. He rebuilt the structure on this site and converted it into a building of 80,000 square feet of floor space. The Raniville building had a 265 ft. chimney with a twenty-foot interior diameter at its base. This smokestack was highly visible both for its height and it black smoke. It was razed when the building was converted to the Fine Arts building in 1925.

The Grand Rapids Press of August 30, 1924 noted that Gustav A. Hendricks has purchased the Raniville Building from Francis R. Raniville for $190,000, and will add two or three stories to the four-story mill-construction brick building. The building was originally two stories and used by the Consolidated Street Railway Co. as a power plant. Francis R., son of Felix, added two stories to the building in 1904. Improvements are expected to run $300,000. Hendricks already owns the seven-story Nelson Matter Building across Lyon St.

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