Only a few barns remain in the City of Kentwood and the KHPC has been collecting photographs and barn stories for a number of years in order to preserve this important part of our agricultural history. Once such barn, the VanderLaan barn, which once stood on a hill overlooking 52nd Street and East Paris Avenue was relocated to the Heyboer Centennial Farm for preservation. It will eventually become part of the Barn Preservation Network database.
Part of the work of the KHPC deals with collecting and protecting the histories of Kentwood families. We arrange oral history interviews with reisdents and then record, transcribe, digitize and computerize the information. The finished product (in paper form) is available for research purposes in the Heritage Room and for review and/or downloading on the City website. Anyone interested in participating can make an appointment by calling Esther Middlewood at 455-0609 or the Kentwood Planning Department at 554-0707.
Kentwood Heritage Room
The KHPC is in the process of developing a searchable database for the local history items in the Kentwood Library. Meanwhile, the Heritage Room houses photographs, artifacts and other memorabilia from Paris Township's/Kentwood's earlier days.
Historic Site Identification
The Commission has an ongoing project of researching sites for possible recognition and designation. The Octagon House and the Bowen House are designated historic sites.
Being designated has its perks!
A site that is designated is not only recognized within the community locally; the owner of a historic site may be eligible to receive tax credits for improvements made to a building or structure that meet the criteria of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.
Researching One-Room Schools
The KHPC has worked diligently to preserve the history of our one-room schools and, to this end, sponsored a reunion for former students of the Smith School -- a one-room schoolhouse that once stood on Wing Road between 52nd Street and 60th Street. Although the school building is long gone, it once served the same geographical area as Kentwood's Discovery Elementary School. Thus, the two have worked together to form a bond of "Education, Then and Now." After two years of sponship by the KHPC, former students took over the organization of the Smith School Reunion.
Bowen Elementary School is the next target for research and development of a reunion of students.
Veterans' History Project
KHPC, in cooperation with Grand Valley State University's History Department and WKTV, took steps to become part of the Library of Congress' Veterans' History Project beginning in 2008. Contact was made with several local veterans' organizations and veterans were encouraged to volunteer for the project.
Pine Hill Cemetery on 52nd Street is the only cemetery remaining within the City of Kentwood. A survey conducted by a local Girl Scout troop to determine accuracy of records began in 2004. In a special ceremony on November 11, 2008, 16 Civil War veterans received long overdue recognition for their service.