Godwin House

Variously called "Godwin House," "Godwin Hotel," and "Godwin Tavern," what will here be called Godwin House was built in 1865, just after the US Civil War ended, and burned down in 1871. It was owned by William Redmond Godwin. Just where it was located on the William R. Godwin ( Augustine's father ) property is not known at present. Teacher Harriett C. Richards suggested in a 1943 history of Godwin that it might have been located near where 34th Street intersects the old interurban track, on the north side of the street. There was also a Godwin farm barn near that location, so that location too might or might not work. So far the hotel had not been indicated on any plat maps.

Godwin House no doubt existed in part to support travelers using Gull Prairie Road ( also known as Kalamazoo Road, and eventually named Division Avenue ), connecting Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. A rough road, on which it took travelers two days to travel the 50 miles between the two cities, it eventually became a plank toll road. One of the toll stations was on the northwest corner of what is in year 2007 the intersection of Division Avenue and 36th Street. According to an 1876 plat map, this is before the Rackett family owned the land which included that corner.

There's reason to believe that Godwin House was an upscale establishment. Mrs. Harriet Cutler Richards, a Godwin teacher as early as the 1920s, and a life long resident of Cutlerville, said she saw an invitation for a Christmas Ball at the Godwin House, owned by Frank Rackett. ( How he came to own it will likely never be known. ) She described it as a very attractive card. ( See section "G", "A History of Godwin Written in 1964," pages 17 and 18 for some other comments about the Godwin Hotel. ) The ball was held on December 25, 1868, and featured the "Wells and Squires Band." The admission fee for a couple was $3, which was an enormous amount of money in 1868.

Various members of the Godwin family worked at the hotel, including William R. Godwin's brother William Redmond Godwin III, who is listed as proprietor of the Hotel. Augustine worked there as well.

Whether any photographs were taken of the Godwin Hotel, and, if some were, whether they still exist, is an open question. A few photographs of the old plank road still exist. Frank Rackett's card probably disappeared along with his house, in 1959 - the historical treasures it contained are now gone forever unless some were stolen by the vandals that trashed the inside of the house after Frank Rackett left in 1948, and still exist somewhere.

So nothing much more than the few details mentioned above survive about the Godwin House. When it burned down, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad was already operating between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. ( In about 1920 it became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and in year 2007 is part of the Norfolk Southern system. ) The tracks ran across the west edge of the Godwin property. Closely following the route of the plank road, the Grand Rapids and Indiana tracks passed about one quarter mile west of where the Godwin House likely was, and there is no evidence whatsoever that the trains ever stopped in the area west of Godwin's property - it was quite swampy yet in and around 1870. Coupled with the demise of the stage coaches as soon as the railroad tracks reached Grand Rapids, there clearly was no reason to rebuild the Godwin House when it burned down. Another hotel and/or tavern in the Kelloggsville area - the building still exists, having been moved to 54th Street, also likely ceased operation about the same time, as did others along the old plank road.

A similar thing happened to Division Avenue in the late 1950s when the new US 131 highway was completed west of the Grand Rapids and Indiana railroad tracks. Many businesses along the old US 131 went out of business, including many restaurants and old motels, when traffic moved over to the new highway, a story repeated all over the US when the 41,000 mile interstate highway system was built. Famous highways like Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles, mostly no longer exist any longer.