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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Comstock's Row

Comstock's Row

GRHC - May 19th, 2014

A young woman reporter visited and reported on Comstock's Row, C. C. Comstock's long tenement building built to house the mostly African American workers employed in his factory. 


Miss Edith May, young reporter for the Grand Rapids Evening Leader, knew of Comstock’s Row, had heard it laughed at and derided, but the realities of the old tenement landmark were little known. She decided to pay a visit.

Comstock had purchased the land where the row stood for railway purposes. Failing in those intentions he erected the long tenement building in 1874 at a cost of $3,000. The architect, so the story goes, immediately hanged himself. Built on the plan of a large old-fashioned barn and divided into 20 different compartments, each one was dignified with the name of ‘house’.

Miss Carrie Washington, the 18 year-old daughter of George Washington, invited Edith inside and cordially agreed to provide what information she could. The small parlor, about 8 x 10 ft., had a low ceiling; an open door showed a small kitchen containing a stove, table, two chairs, and a wash-bench. Two bedchambers occupied the second floor.

George Washington moved to Comstock’s Row when it was new, in 1874, and occupied ‘house’ number 20 at the end of the row. He died at the age of 71 in 1891, the year after Edith met Carrie.

A summary of her visit closed May’s article, “Comstock row is, to all appearances, a quiet, orderly and decently behaved place and certainly has a far more moral class of inhabitants than many of our big downtown blocks.”

From Grand Rapids Evening Leader, 4/9/1890, pg 1 col 3

Full Details

TitleComstock's Row
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; history; Historical Commission; C. C. Comstock; African Americans
Pubdate StringMay 19th, 2014
Locationlocation on map

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