View original article here: Launch of self-guided walking tour commemorates Juneteenth
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Juneteenth falls every year on June 19 and commemorates the arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas to deliver the news that black slaves were to be freed.
Leaders from the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives are trying to revive an official observance of Juneteenth in Grand Rapids. Part of that plan includes a walking tour of black history in the city.
The GR Walks app was recently developed by Calvin College and on Thursday, June 15, a self-guided walking tour of African American history in Grand Rapids was added to the app.
The tour covers 11 points of interest over two miles, beginning in Lyon Square. It was created with the help of GRAAMA and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.
"For us, it's all about African American history and culture and any way that we can support other groups doing things here or institute things ourselves, we will do it," said George Bayard, the executive director of GRAAMA.
The app is a free download in the Apple App Store and Android's Google Play.
See original article here: 'GR Walks' app adds self-guided tour of black historical landmarks
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - LaTarro Traylor has lived in Grand Rapids since she was 1 years old.
But the community relations coordinator for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) says she did not know how much history the downtown area held for black residents until she worked on a self-guiding walking tour for GR Walks, a smartphone app.
"I know this town like the back of my hand," said Traylor, a graduate of Creston High School, Aquinas College and the Cooley Law School.
"I now consider myself a much more cultured resident," said Traylor, who estimates she spent 60 hours of research at the Grand Rapids Public Library's archives, the city's archives and Fountain Street Church's archives.
Narrated by 2nd Ward City Commissioner Joe Jones, the 11-point Black History Tour starts in Lyon Square, where "General"John Scott arrived in 1834 after walking 160 miles from Detroit with a group of laborers to build canals in the Grand River that powered the furniture industry.
From Lyons Square, the tour winds through the downtown area for about two miles, including theaters where blacks were banished to the balconies; Comstock's Row, where freed slaves were offered housing after the Civil War; and points of interest featuring civil rights leader Helen Claytor and the city's first black mayor, Lyman Parks.
The tour was released by DGRI this week to coincide with the observance of Juneteenth Independence Day, the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States recognized annually on Monday, June 19.
Former City Historian Gordon Olson, Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives Executive Director George Bayard, Women's Lifestyle Magazine Publisher Victoria Upton and local blues historian Kim Rush also were involved in creating the tour.
A group of community leaders plan to gather at 11 a.m. on Monday at Lyons Square to walk the route together. Traylor said she expect up to 20 persons to participate in the walk.
The tour is available anytime for free on GR Walks, a free smartphone app that also offers self-guided tours along the Grand River, the story of beer in Grand Rapids and the Heritage Hill and Roosevelt Park neighborhoods.
View original story here: Smart phone app lets users take walking tours of Grand Rapids
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.–A smart phone app created by a local man is helping lead walkers through history as they make their way through the city.
‘GR Walks’ is a free program that lets you pick a walking trail in the city, then gives you historical facts as you follow it. It was created by Josh Leo, who said he received help from students at Calvin College who created paths to be added to the map.
“The app is really made to bring history to the physical locations that it happened, and so getting people to learn more about their cities–getting them to really understand what made the city what it is–is really important. And I think a great way to do that is by walking through the neighborhoods, learning about the history, seeing historical photos,” said Leo.
Leo wants to keep the app growing by adding more trails to explore different areas of Grand Rapids. Within the next couple of months, he said tours of East Grand Rapids, Ramona Park, the Reeds Lake area, and a history of beer within the city will be added.
“My goal is to just have the entire city of Grand Rapids be covered in walking tours that feature architecture and history and art and culture.”
View original article here: GR Walks: An App to Explore Grand Rapids.
From an Eastown mansion that has been home to lumber barons and monks to a Heritage Hill home rumored to have several resident ghosts, "GR Walks"—a new walking tour app—tells the stories of Grand Rapids neighborhoods through their buildings.
Calvin alum Josh Leo '06 developed the app and put it together with assistance from Calvin students working for the Service-Learning Center (SLC). The first two tours, Eastown and Heritage Hill-North, are available for download on Apple and Android devices.
GETTING STARTEDNoah Kruis, SLC associate director, had plans to use the tours for service-learning programs like StreetFest and dorm partnerships. He received a grant to pay several students to research and write histories for the stops.
The students' research on Heritage Hill uncovered surprising details: "There's one stop on Crescent Street... The family that lived there were all great artists—particularly the women," Josh said. One of those women was considered the finest ceramic artist in the Midwest.
But it was the evolution of the Eastown neighborhood as a whole that stood out to Owen Selles '13, who worked as an SLC research coordinator last year.
"There's definitely a theme of urban revitalization [in the tour]. It's interesting to see how much change—both good and bad—has come about in Eastown even over the last 10 years," he said.
To increase public appeal, Owen also added neighborhood staples such as Yesterdog, a locally renowned hot dog joint. He knew those neighborhood mainstays well—he was living in Eastown at the same time he was researching it.
"It was cool investigating the place I was living in," he said. "You look at it differently when you know the history."
LOOKING FORWARDNoah hopes the tours have a similar effect on the SLC students. "We believe understanding the city has an impact on how you go about serving," he explained.
Josh urges everyone—not just Calvin students—to explore local history. He hopes "GR Walks" makes that history more accessible.
"In order to understand the place you're living in, you need to understand why it is the way it is. It makes the experience so much richer," Josh said. "You value a place a lot more."
See original article here: Calvin alumnus and Service-Learning Center partner to develop GR Walks app
This summer, Calvin alum Josh Leo, in partnership with Calvin’s Service-Learning Center, released GR Walks, a free smartphone app that provides historical information on the different neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.
The app currently has two tours: “Eastown and East Hills” and “Heritage Hill North.” Once a tour is downloaded, users can read through slides that include historical information and pictures for that location. If the user gets lost, the tour has a map of the area to get the user back on track. The Heritage Hill tour also includes audio. Both tours take about 90 minutes to complete.
Since its summer release, GR Walks has been downloaded more than 500 times from the Google Play Store. The explosive popularity may be due, in part, to the ability to access information immediately, a feature that was previously not readily available.
“I’ve always been interested in local history and making it accessible,” said Leo, a Calvin alumnus and the founder of GR Walks. “Most of the history lives in books and online. I wanted to bring the history to the places where it happened. I wanted to be able to learn about a house, a building, a person, while standing in front of that location.”
Leo hopes that GR Walks will not only help inform residents of Grand Rapids about their city, but also foster a sense of community and a desire to discover new areas of Grand Rapids.
“Not only will [GR Walks] help solidify a sense of place for a person, but it will also encourage people to explore other neighborhoods in the city,” Leo said.
This desire to engage with Grand Rapids and take ownership of the city is what attracted the attention of Noah Kruis, associate director of Calvin’s Service-Learning Center.
“The Service-Learning Center has been working on developing walking tour guides to neighborhoods in which Calvin students participate in service-learning. When I heard about Leo’s project, I saw an obvious opportunity for mutual benefit,” Kruis said.
“I quickly learned that I couldn’t do the whole project by myself,” Leo said. “I approached a few different local organizations [with the idea], but no one was interested. When Noah Kruis at Calvin offered to partner, I jumped at the opportunity.”
However, the project got off to a slow start.
“I got a grant in 2011 to begin the process [of developing the app], expecting that by spring of 2012, we would have a product to show for our work. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until June of 2013 that the app was finally launched. When we did launch and could show people the potential of GR Walks, we were blown away by the interest in the app from all over Grand Rapids.”
Several tours are in the works, including one that covers the history of Calvin. In addition, the Service-Learning Center is in communication with the history department about developing tours as a service-learning component of some courses this fall.
Recently, the Service-Learning Center received money from the student employment office’s contingency fund to hire a student to research and develop tours specific to neighborhoods where Calvin students frequently engage in service-learning.
What did that building used to be? Who used to own that mansion? Thanks to the curiosity of Josh Leo, the answers to Grand Rapids' historical secrets will be right at your fingertips. Leo and friends created GRWalks, an audio tour app highlighting various neighborhoods. download the Heritage Hill or Eastown tour and look for more coming soon. For more info, go to grwalks.com.
GR Walks app brings local history to your fingertips
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Have you ever admired the beautiful architecture in Grand Rapids and wondered about the city's past?
A new app puts local history at your fingertips.
GR Walks guides users on walking tours of three neighborhoods. The smartphone and iPod app highlights 39 landmarks in Heritage Hill, Eastown, as well as East Hills and uses audio and historical photos to tell their story.
Creator Josh Leo says he was inspired by Rick Steves' audio walking tours while traveling in Europe and wanted to learn more about Grand Rapids when he returned home.
"People are really interested in the history of this city and some of the buildings they walk past every day and didn't know anything about. Now they get a fuller back story and it helps people feel a sense of place and a deeper connection to the city," said Leo.
Leo spent two years researching historical sites in Grand Rapids and another year writing. He and partners at Calvin College hope to expand GR Walks to other neighborhoods soon.
The app was a winner of the Rick DeVos' inaugural 5x5 Night in 2011.
GR Walks is free and available in the Apple iTunes Store and Android Market. (http://grwalks.com/)
Grand Rapids Press - Historical Grand Rapids walking tours provided by mobile app created by Calvin College alum
View original Article here: Historical Grand Rapids walking tours provided by mobile app created by Calvin College alum
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - As Josh Leo makes his way through Grand Rapids, he’s often struck by – and eager to learn more about – the historic buildings and homes that dot the city’s neighborhoods.
Who, he wondered, built the ornate mansions and other structures found in the city’s Heritage Hill and East Hills neighborhoods? How did they accumulate their fortune?
The Calvin College graduate has chronicled the answers in a free mobile app known as GR Walks. The app guides users through walking tours of the northern portion of the city’s Heritage Hill neighborhood and the Eastown and East Hills neighborhoods.
On the app, users will find pictures and written histories of homes, businesses and other landmarks in the two neighborhoods. The idea, Leo said, is to give walkers an opportunity to see how the neighborhoods and structures have changed over time.
“I wanted to bring the history to the locations where they happened so you could compare the past to the present all while you’re on bike ride,” said Leo, 29, a marketing manager at Word of Hope, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit.
Created with the help of students at Calvin, Leo estimates that 400 people have downloaded the app since it was launched this week. Five students worked on the project over a two-year period, providing writing and research.
It was funded through a $3,500 grant from the Michigan Campus Compact, with the college contributing about $4,000 for wages, equipment and other expenses.
“Higher education can be seen as this ivory tower where people just think about ideas,” said Noah Kruis, associate director of service-learning at Calvin. “This is one tangible way that the work that we’ve done will contribute to broader society.”
Leo has long been interested in the city’s history. His first apartment was in the city’s Heritage Hill neighborhood, and he was immediately drawn to the homes, many of which were built in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century.
He sensed others were curious as well. While plenty of history exists documenting the story of the city’s historic buildings, he said a mobile app brings to life the stories of the structures in a more accessible way.
“It almost feels like a secret society at times,” he said. “You need to know the right people to talk to; you need to know the right books.”
Creating easier access to the material, he hopes, will help strengthen residents’ relationship with the city. Leo plans on adding an audio component to the app in coming weeks, and he hopes to add additional neighborhood tours in the future.
“The more you know about where you live, the deeper connection you have to it,” he said.
$5,000 for good ideas in Grand Rapids
Tonight two Michigan entrepreneurs will give away $5,000 in a competition devoted to creating buzz around good ideas. Rick DeVos and Bill Holsinger-Robinson are trying to help make the best ideas a reality.
Listening...On the last Tuesday of each month, Pomegranate Studios (a business incubator DeVos and Holsinger-Robinson founded in Grand Rapids two years ago) offers 5 people 5 minutes to pitch their idea for a business, an organization, art project, anything really.
A panel of 5 judges then awards up to five thousand dollars to those with the best ideas.
Bill Holsinger-Robinson says they want to give people a platform for their ideas to grow.
“The event is really less about the grant making and is more about people sharing ideas and then getting people to act on those ideas within a community.”
Unemployed “mercenary” chef Brian Gerrity’s underground supper club idea got the most money. He wants to offer a temporary venue where chefs don’t have to worry about normal constraints like food costs holding back their creativity.
“Every chef has those dishes that just don’t work. They just don’t work and when we sit around and talk about them you know it’s always kind of this game of one-up-manship – ‘oh yeah well what about this dish? What if we did this? Well what if we did this?’ – and it grows to this point where it’s completely nonsensical. It doesn’t make sense in a restaurant, but it would be so fun to do for people.”
Benefits beyond the money
Holsinger-Robinson suspects even those who don’t win the cash will benefit from the process of fleshing out their idea.
“If in this process we can help those thinkers and dreamers connect with people who are you know more skilled on the execution side of things it means more cool stuff gets done in the city.”
Holsinger Robinson hopes the monthly event will make people more open to sharing their ideas and less afraid of rejection and failure. He thinks some people just need a little confirmation that they should go for their dreams.
Josh Leo competed in the first “5x5 night” last month. He did not win $5,000, but the judges did award him $750.
At a party after the contest, Leo flashes the business cards he picked up from people who want to help him create the smart phone app he pitched. He imagines people downloading his ‘Grand Rapids walking tour app’ and spending an afternoon exploring downtown neighborhoods and learning the history of the city.
Leo says the contacts could prove better than cash.
“You know the money is just the start, especially for my project. It’s people power, its time and just, passion and interest.”
Inspiration from similar projects elsewhere in the U.S.
The Awesome Foundation, Sunday Soup, and TED conferences have been operating similar programs for years. They all offer micro-grants to help fund grass-roots projects and ideas.
DeVos says “5x5 night” is just one way to build a culture of entrepreneurship in West Michigan.
“I think the Midwest struggles with thinking very monolithically and kind of big about things and we lose sight of the individual and the power of the individual to create products, services, non-profits, whatever, that can be really transformative.”
Entrepreneurship is in DeVos’s family’s DNA. His grandfather started Amway – one of the world’s largest direct selling businesses.
Join the conversation during "5x5 night" in person, or online
Tonight, 5 different people will present their ideas. Among them is Nicole Infante.
“I didn’t think anyone would actually think my idea was a good idea and so I’m very excited that of all those ideas they picked me.”
Infante’s idea – without giving away too much – is a challenge to area chefs to come up with a signature sandwich tasty enough to put Grand Rapids on the culinary map.
Right now, Infante is unemployed and she’s never considered becoming an entrepreneur. But if she wins, she’ll likely warm to the idea.
The public is welcome to attend tonight’s “5x5 night”. It starts at 5p.m. at the Grand Rapids Arts Museum. You can stream it online live and check out the other pitches from the event last month at 5x5night.com.