#CrestonBuzz Vol. 4
*The following is a brief, but fascinating story, based on solid historical facts, some research-based conjecture and a couple of highly unlikely coincidences.
Creston Brewery is located just north of the original 1850s boundary of the then young village of Grand Rapids in Kent County, Michigan. On what was first an old plank road and then later a streetcar thoroughfare, is now set at the crest of a hill rising gradually from the downtown. It is that crest which led to the naming of the Creston neighborhood in 1906 via a public preference contest. On that old thoroughfare, now named Plainfield Avenue, is Creston Brewery. The brewery’s three story building occupies the prominent corner of Plainfield Ave. and Quimby St.
Quimby Street is named for Ichabod Libby Quimby, who migrated to Grand Rapids from New Hampshire. Ichabod was an early lumberman in the young city of Grand Rapids, his home and businesses located just north of the city. Perched on the Grand River was his beloved sawmill, from which he grabbed his logs as they floated south after having been cut down in the vast forests north and east of the Grand Rapids area.
Ichabod was a prominent citizen in Grand Rapids in the 1860s and 1870s. He was elected the first president of a group of local lumbermen, who started The Grand Rapids Boom Company to work together to collect logs out of the river, sort them and deliver them to their rightful owners.
Quimby knew the lumber business well, so it’s not surprising that in the 1870s, the Quimby name appeared in the Hastings area, well past Grand Rapids. It’s been rumored, that Ichabod discovered a market for wood from different trees — huge local oaks instead of pines from the great northern forests.
Ichabod helped a friend and relative, H.L. Quimby, establish a massive sawmill by the railroad near Hastings,where they successfully cut, processed and sold. They were able to sell tons of oak planks and oak boards, most likely for making furniture, but also for the wood preferred by German carpenters in the construction of solid homes, barns and other structures for the new settlers rapidly populating the area.
As Hastings grew over the decades, residential and industrial replaced agriculture and many old barns deteriorated from weather and neglect. Several barns were burned or destroyed, but luckily some survived into the 21st century. Among those was a late 1800s-built dairy barn on a State Road farm near Hastings. It was constructed of oak boards, undoubtedly provided by the Quimby sawmill, and they were rescued by Don Stevens of Barnwood Reclaimers in Kent City, Michigan. He moved the old virgin white oak planks to a safe, dry location, not knowing how, when or where they might find a new purpose.
In 2015, as building plans progressed for the entire brewery and taproom at Creston Brewery, Greenwood Studio artisans Marc Weigers and Roger VanTill were hired specifically for their reputation and expertise in creating jaw-droppingly beautiful bars for other brewery and bar owners in the region. They successfully designed a beautiful, massive new bar to be installed in the taproom of Creston Brewery. It was a beautiful new concept with a large base and an expansive top, but it needed a little something more, an awe factor. It was decided that the bar needed to be covered with eye-grabbing wood boards with color or grain, some other features that were sure to provide a spectacular finish.
Marc and Roger recommended that Creston Brewery visit a guy whose mission in life was to find, preserve and protect beautiful old wood until it could be reused in a new way. That guy could be found in Kent City. During the visit to Kent City, the owners of Creston Brewery were drawn to a particular pile of old boards in Don Steven’s collection. They examined each one and carefully hand selected the most beautiful pieces of lumber in that stack — some old virgin white oak that had been rescued from a very old dairy barn near Hastings.
Although the rescued wood bear no signatures or trademarks or other markings that prove they came from Quimby’s sawmill, it’s been rumored that the legend and legacy of Ichabod Quimby now expands in Creston. So now, whenever you enter Creston Brewery, touch that big old oak bar, raise your Quimby Brown and say “Cheers, Ichabod!”
Ironically enough, Ichabod Quimby is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Grand Rapids. He died March 24, 1889, one hundred and twenty-seven years before the exact same week in March 2016 that the big QTS trucks parked on Quimby Street and delivered the shiny new 20 barrel brewing system for Creston Brewery.
Coincidence or Beer god fate? You decide. We’re gonna go with fate.
(c) Copyright, Creston Brewery, 2016