Our firm is located in a historic carriage house which was built for the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters used it as their carriage house adjacent to the convent. It is hard to imagine that the carriages were stored in our conference rooms and the attorneys’ offices upstairs were the hayloft! Upstairs we still have the beam used to hoist the hay inside.
The Little Sisters of the Poor originate from France. In 1883, Bishop Richter appealed to the Sisters to come to Grand Rapids and open a home for the poor. Six Sisters arrived in May 1884 and opened a home.
The Grand Rapids Herald (forerunner of the Grand Rapids Press) reported on April 29, 1934:
On May 1, 1884, Sister Marie Claire came, bringing five Sisters to open a home in a residence at Bridge and Fremont Avenue, N.W. The residence still stands. Sister M. Septemie was made the first Good Mother here, with Sister M. Rose of the Good Shepherd as an assistant.
The furnishings of the home (which Father McManus had secured for the Sisters) that first night consisted solely of 25 iron beds, without mattresses, and a small kitchen range, all brought from Detroit. The Sisters were looking forward to sleeping on the bare floor when Father McManus sent in a straw tick, so by taking turns, all got a little rest.
The Sisters immediately started seeking donations to purchase a lot and a stone home located on 240 South Lafayette which they purchased for $9,000.00. This was the beginning of the Poor Home for the Aged. This home for the poor and aged expanded through the years, but it no longer exists at this time.
In the early 1970s, the main convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor was torn down. The Carriage House was saved, and discussions were held that it was to be a memorial to the Little Sisters of the Poor and their work with the elderly and the orphans in Grand Rapids. However, this never materialized, and the Carriage House was left without any serious maintenance for a period of more than twenty years.
In the late 1990s, due to St. Mary’s Hospital expansion, additional parking was needed where the Carriage House stood on the East side of Lafayette Avenue. Due to the vigilant efforts of the Heritage Hill Association and its members, the Carriage House was saved from destruction. Instead, it was moved to its’ current location on 300 State Street.
On July 10, 1997, the Carriage House was moved while crowds of people watched when the 144-ton building took a ride. Street lights and power lines were moved, and police blocked the roads. After extensive remodeling of the building, it became ready for office use.
In 2005, we purchased the building and in 2006, we were able to move into this magnificent building. The Little Sisters of the Poor are no longer in Grand Rapids. This building is the only testament to their work in Grand Rapids. This building is the only remaining Carriage House in the historic district. We are thankful and pleased to work in this building, and we appreciate you letting us share this rich history with you.