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Local history buff launches Tour GR, gains traction

Grand Rapidian Jim Winslow is moving forward with his startup Tour GR by gleaning stories from the area's past, offering guided tours of historic landmarks.
Jim Winslow atop the Kendall Building Downtown Grand Rapids

Jim Winslow atop the Kendall Building Downtown Grand Rapids /Eric Tank

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Group tours are $10 per person for an hour to an hour and a half. 

Stone Eagles on Federal Building dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt

Stone Eagles on Federal Building dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt /Jim Winslow

Walk in safe inside the Morton House

Walk in safe inside the Morton House /Eric Tank

Meet Jim Winslow, local graphic designer, photographer and history enthusiast. For the past three years he has been leading walking tours throughout the city and just this past June he launched Tour GR. Since then, he has done as many as 60 tours, many during the 19 day course of ArtPrize at the Morton House where the award winning Site:Lab exhibited. 

"I've always had a love of history, Grand Rapids history. My family has been here almost 180 years, since the 1840's. So that got me interested and involved in research," says Winslow.

Currently, Tour GR is a guided walkable tour, one facet of what Winslow envisions as a three-part whole. Being able to build a database of cumulative research that is publicly accessible and creating self guided tours through the use of a web based or stand alone application would complete Winslow's vision. 

Winslow references the Grand Rapids Public Library Local History and Special Collections, along with the Public Museum archives, city archives and a personal library of local historcal literature as his primary resources for research. 

Tours that Winslow has given include the West Side power canal, a Monroe Center tour focusing on architecture and building backgrounds, a Center City East/ Federal Square and Kendall College tour, a Heritage Hill tour for The Rapidian and as well as organizing tours for the Grand Rapids Historical Society.  

"I have helped organize complimentary tours for members of the Historical Society," says Winslow, who serves on its board of trustees. 

Yet he is clear not to confuse what he is doing with Tour GR and his relationship with the Society. He is adament that Tour GR does not represent the Society and his collaboration has only been to lend support towards a common interest. 

For example, Winslow organized and gave an introduction to groups of up to 30 people who toured the newest 616 Lofts location on Prospect Street in the historic Bethlehem Lutheran church in Heritage Hill. 

Winslow also is part of the Experience Grand Rapids Certified Tourist Ambassador (CTA) Program that puts him in contact with visitors from around the globe. In addition, Winslow has the support of GoSite Director Kerri Vanderhoff and will often use the GoSite as a staging area for downtown tours. 

Looking towards the future, Winslow would like to put together a tour of mulitiple Furniture Exhibition builidings.

"During the furniture industry... we started having conventions here on furniture. It started as one a year and eventually went to two a year. And we started building buildings. That's why we have the Waters building; that's why we have the Temple building," he says. 

Plans are being laid to partner with the Chamber of Commerce, who reached out to Winslow about organizing tours for newley relocated individuals through the "Inside GR" program. The projected timeline is next spring. 

Winslow is also keeping busy in collaboration with Civic Theatre, whom he is planning on organizing a tour of the Wenham, Botsford and Meijer Majestic buildings. 

"It's really about education," says Winslow. "About teaching and sharing what I've learned."

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