The Rapidian

Name it Creston: How the neighborhood got its name

CNA's Volunteer Historian finds out how Creston got its name.
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/By April 11, 1906, local stores were using Creston in their names in advertisements in the Evening Press.

/Headline from an April 10, 1906 Evening Press article.

By: Julie Tabberer

Creston did not exist 110 years ago. The neighborhood was here, but it was not known as Creston. Before 1906, the area north of Grand Rapids was referred to as the Fifth Ward or the North End. In 1906, local businesses made an effort to improve the reputation of the area, spearheaded by a brand new name.

While the phrase North End does not seem to have carried any negative connotations, the same cannot be said for Fifth Ward. Newspaper articles from the time referred to the “so-called Fifth Ward gang” and called the area the Bloody Fifth. Articles reported the gang being responsible for vandalism to a local church and the beating of a woman. One Evening Press article from August 6, 1903 claimed that the gang's “depredations [had] terrorized the soberer elements of the neighborhood.”

The boundary of the Fifth Ward extended beyond the current lines of the Creston Neighborhood Association. The area south of Leonard Street, full of tenements and factory housing, may have been more responsible for the bad reputation.

In 1905, a group of area residents formed the Citizen's Committee. In March 1906, they wrote a letter to the editor of the Evening Press, announcing that they were looking for a new name for the area. An award of $10, in gold, was offered for the person that came up with the winning name.

The contest brought in a flurry of entries. Suggested names included Riverside, Plainfield Square, Windermere, Plainquoit, Shanahan Heights, Extensionton and Pride of the City. Interestingly, the article listing possible names did not even include Creston.

On April 9, 1906, about four hundred people gathered at Shanahan Hall (currently Sazerac Lounge) as the new name was chosen. The name Creston was submitted by A.W. Morgan, a local contractor who went on to be very involved with the neighborhood association. Mr. Morgan indicated that the name was a combination of “Crest” and “town” and signified that the neighborhood was at the top both geographically and

The naming of Creston also showed the stock that neighborhood representatives put in the working class people living in the area. They felt that “labor is the great producer” and their abundance of quality labor put them at the top. An April 11, 1906 Evening Press articles goes on to explain that residents hoped to be “on the crest of a wave of permanent prosperity.” They were not only shooting for excellence in labor, though. Creston residents also wanted to be “at the top intellectually, morally and in every other respect.”

According to the Evening Press, the final selection of Creston was made after a “hot contest,” in which the names Norwood, North Grand Rapids, Fairmont, Glenwood, Englewood, Gravelynn, Highlands and Northwood were under consideration.

The new name was immediately successful. By the very next day, several stores sported Creston in their name and within two days ads appeared in the paper for Creston businesses.

The Citizen's Committee was renamed the Creston Citizen's Association and officers were quickly elected. Among the association’s early goals were constructing a bridge across the Grand River (Ann Street bridge) and securing larger school facilities. In coming years, the association was involved with street lighting, improving roads and adding parks to the neighborhood.

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