Fundraiser held in local mansion

Elijah Brumback

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Beginning May 1, the Grammy Award-winning Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and its partners are literally opening their doors to the palatial Wilcox Estate in hopes of marshalling community support for the symphony and its associates

The almost month-long event will feature self-guided tours, fashion shows, concerts and design seminars, beginning with an inaugural preview party on April 29, all of which are hosted by the Grand Rapids Symphony Women’s Committee.

“In recent years the arts and the symphony have lost a lot of state and federal funding,” said Gina Paul, showcase co-chair and local architect. “Our goal for this event is to help regain some of that lost funding while also inviting people to share in the local history of Grand Rapids.”

The Wilcox Estate, built in 1923-24 by famed Grand Rapids architect, Kenneth W. Welch, epitomizes the prosperity of ’20s and was originally constructed for the Wilcox families’ personal use as primarily a place for gathering the extended family. The building originally featured a conservatory, living quarters for the head gardener and his family, a swimming pool, squash court, laundry facilities and accommodations for numerous vehicles. Recently, the current owner has turned this impressive structure into a single-family residence.

Parties were a staple of entertainment at the Wilcox Estate and were akin to pages ripped straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The sprawling courtyard and ivory covered walls set the classic scene with cigars and champagne lasting well into the night.

Though, the estate’s history is by no means frivolously indulgent. For many years the complex played host to graduations and weddings. For a period it was also a living center for working single women, at a time when social standards were clandestinely prejudicial for women on their own.

Since then the estate has remained mostly devoid of activity. It was the 16-month effort of the Women’s Committee, 350 volunteers and out-of-pocket expenses of several local renovators and designers that has allowed for this event.

“This is the first time in 10 years since we’ve taken on project like this,” Paul said. “Every room had a different designer, each one is a different take on the history of this beautiful space.”

No alterations were done on the exterior fa