The name “Belknap Lookout” has two separate derivations. The word Belknap comes from the surname of Charles E. Belknap. Belknap was a Grand Rapids resident who came home from the Civil War in 1871 to serve Grand Rapids as the first commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, as mayor in 1884 and as a U.S. congressman in 1888. The word Lookout comes from what is perhaps the neighborhood’s most prominent feature, Belknap Hill: a 160 ft high bluff overlooking the downtown of the City of Grand Rapids.
The area which forms the Belknap Lookout Neighborhood was purchased from the government in 1831 by Charles Dexter. In 1850 the area was included in the original organization of the city of Grand Rapids.
In its early days the area was significant for several reasons. First, the neighborhood contained the city’s first cemetery. More importantly, the neighborhood contained a spring known as an excellent supply of drinking water. Shortly after the spring’s discovery, water pipelines were built connecting the water supply to downtown Grand Rapids through Michigan, Lyon and Monroe Streets. After a disastrous fire in 1873, the citizens of Grand Rapids realized they needed a larger supply of water. A water reservoir, which today holds 6 million US gallons (23,000 m3) of water, was constructed within the neighborhood. This reservoir was intended to be a backup water supply for the City of Grand Rapids. In 1880, the reservoir leaked and flooded Ottawa St. In 1900, the reservoir failed again and flooded Coldbrook, Newberg, Coit, Clancy, and Bradford Streets. The latter flood caused more than a million dollars in damages.
Construction of homes, in significant numbers, did not occur within the neighborhood until 1874. Heavy construction lasted until approximately 1888. Early residents of the Belknap Lookout neighborhood included the mayor, city attorney, school principal, superintendent, bankers, newspaper editors, physicians, musicians, furniture carvers, and factory foreman. The homes on the West side of the neighborhood tend to be larger and more expensive than those on the East side.
Est. 1911 – acquired for $4,500
Classified as a Mini-Park, used to address limited, isolated or unique recreational needs.
Lookout Park occupies hilltop property that was once part of the City’s old waterworks. It was originally home to Theodor AR Kitson’s “The Hiker” until 1957 when it was moved to Foster Park. An abandoned set of stairs descend out of the park to Division Ave, and once provided a connection for the many families that lived in Belknap Lookout and worked in the factories of North Monroe.
Lookout Park is famous for its views of the City and the Grand River, and a popular place to watch fireworks.
The park concept plan below was generated in 2008 as part of the Neighbors of Belknap Lookout’s (NOBL) study on mobility and connectivity called MOBL NOBL. There is currently no estimated completion time of the park concept plan or staircase reconstruction.
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