The Rapidian

Rebecca Smith-Hoffman honored with Baxter Award from Grand Rapids Historical Society

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Rebecca Smith-Hoffman, a long-time champion of preserving local prominent landmark buildings and neighborhoods, is honored with the 2011 Baxter Award from the Grand Rapids Historical Society
Rebecca Smith-Hoffman notes her appreciation for the award at a recent program sponsored by the Grand Rapids Historical Society

Rebecca Smith-Hoffman notes her appreciation for the award at a recent program sponsored by the Grand Rapids Historical Society /Fred Bivins

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Grand Rapids Historical Society President Gina Bivins presents Baxter Award to Rebecca Smith-Hoffman at Gerald R. Ford Museum

Grand Rapids Historical Society President Gina Bivins presents Baxter Award to Rebecca Smith-Hoffman at Gerald R. Ford Museum /Fred Bivins

Rebecca Smith-Hoffman, a long-time champion of saving local prominent landmarks and buildings, has been awarded the 2011 Baxter Award from the Grand Rapids Historical Society.

The award has been presented every year since 1980 to honor persons who have made significant contributions to the preservation and interpretation of the Grand River Valley. It is named after Albert Baxter, author of the comprehensive book "History of the City of Grand Rapids" published in 1890.

The landscape in Grand Rapids would look much different if not for the passionate efforts of Smith-Hoffman.  Widely considered a local authority on architecture and historic preservation, she is often found at the center of efforts to save historic buildings and their surrounding environment.  For decades she played a central role in saving many prominent landmarks such as the downtown Peck Building and the Blodgett mansion.

Because of these noteworthy efforts, Smith-Hoffman is frequently sought for comment by the media when historic preservations issues make news.  Most recently she was quoted in news media regarding the vandalism in the revitalized area along Wealthy and Cherry Streets in Southeast Grand Rapids and was very active in the fight to save the historic St. Andrew's School building next to the downtown Cathedral of St. Andrew.

Her crusade dates back to the late 1970s when she joined her Heritage Hill neighbors in picketing Calvary Undenominational Church, then located on Michigan Street, to protest the destruction of houses for a parking lot.  She went on to lend her support to save landmark buildings, neighborhoods and neighborhood programs, including the Heritage Hill Association, Calder Plaza, South East Economic Development Corp., Wealthy Street Historic District Study Committee, East Hills Council of Neighbors, Cherry Hill Historic Study Committee and the Fairmount Square Historic District Study Committee.

In 1995 she and her friend Jennifer Metz, a past president of the Historical Society, formed the company Past Perfect to offer consulting services to those seeking Historic Preservation Tax Credits, nominations for National Register of Historic Places, historic resource surveys, project planning, historic research and photographic documentation.

She and Metz are proud to have had the opportunity to participate in the redevelopment of many historic buildings, including the Berkey & Gay Furniture factory, the American Seating factory, the Monroe Avenue Water Filtration Plant, the Winchester building and the Aldrich building.

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