In his book, The Story of Grand Rapids, Z.Z. Lyden described the early transformation in Grand Rapids from a city of trade to a city of commerce:
“The rapids were a focal point for early trade and a meeting place for the Indian…With the coming of the white man, the rapid in the Grand assumed greater importance as a trading center…As more pioneers came into the area, need of supplies arose, and the Grand Rapids community was a focal point at which to obtain them. At first the trade consisted of an exchange of goods for service between white men. Some of the pioneers came with money, and there began an exchange of goods for cash. Merchandising remained for a time in the “general store” category… But as the area population expanded, the citizens became more sophisticated in their tastes, and merchandising moved into greater specialization” (Lydens, 238-239).
Thus sets the stage for the Ledyard Block, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a series of three of the oldest historic buildings in downtown Grand Rapids. The Ledyard Block consists of a triangular shaped city block located in the heart of downtown, and is bounded by Ottawa and Monroe Center. The landmark site includes the Flat Iron Building, located at 102-104-106 Monroe Center, as well as 112 Monroe Center and 114 Monroe Center. The buildings’ Italianate architectural style, age, and integrity of historic fabric have been recognized as historically significant.
The Ledyard Block is significant for its contribution to the commercial activity in the history of Grand Rapids commerce. The Flat Iron Building was originally constructed in 1860 to house a bank. The adjacent buildings to the west, 112 and 114 Monroe Center, were also constructed circa 1860 to encourage retail in the downtown. Since the buildings were constructed, numerous retail businesses have occupied the main floors, while the upper floors have housed primarily professional practices. Over the last century, the majority of the upper floors have been vacant.
Several long-standing businesses that began as specialty stores from the early era of Grand Rapids’ development have occupied the storefronts in the Ledyard block, including the current tenant Groskopf’s Fine Luggage and Gifts. Most notable is the single retail business, Herkner’s Jewelers, that occupied 114 Monroe Center from 1890 to 2008.