All downhill from here

City was home to toboggan runs, ski jumps and more.
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Peg Scott, Gordon Scott, Kramer VanSickle and Phil Stirdivant sled at Ravenswood on Jan. 2, 1947. The former golf course is now part of Calvin University. Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Library

Sledding has long been a popular winter activity for kids in Grand Rapids. Sledding hills have been found, or made, at city parks, schools and vacant lots. In the 1880s, the Michigan Street hill was closed on New Year’s Day and thousands of people would come out to coast down the hill on their toboggans. A 1912 newspaper article described the “exhilarating effect of skimming down the icy incline with the speed of an express train.” A coasting hill was located at John Ball Park, a ski jump at Richmond Park and ice skating rinks were found throughout the city.

In this 1947 image, a group of neighborhood kids is sledding at Ravenswood, a former golf course in East Grand Rapids. The golf course only operated for a few short years in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but was popular as a toboggan run for many years after. A 1935 article reported that it was common to see 1,000 people sledding each night. The Grand Rapids Herald noted that a split-second after this image was taken, the girl on the back, Peg Scott, fell off into the snow.

This story can be found in the November/December 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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