Our History

Desdemona’s Dining Room

Our Desdemona’s Dining Room is named after the first lady of the house when it was built in the early 1860’s. She was married to Martin J. Sweet.

Martin J. Sweet

Martin Sweet was a leading figure in Grand Rapids in the last half of the 1800’s. He was a visionary and an entrepreneur with unlimited energies and talents. In 1846 he started a flour mill and was the leading grain merchant in the area for years.

He imported the first Holstein Frisian cattle from the Netherlands to his farm (which now is Kent Country Club) on the street that was named in his honor, Sweet Street.

In 1861 with the railroad coming to Grand Rapids and the increase in business because of the Civil War, Sweet and some other businessmen opened a private bank, First National Bank, with Sweet as President. This bank became Old National Bank, which became Old Kent Bank and is now Fifth Third Bank.

He built a four-story hotel in 1868 called Sweet’s Hotel, which became the Pantlind Hotel and now is the Amway Grand. He was very active in city government, serving one term as Mayor and on numerous boards, commissions and councils. He was an important figure in the growth of Grand Rapids, contributing of his means and abilities.

The Sweet House (The Women’s City Club)

As Martin Sweet’s business ventures prospered and he became prominent in the community, he dreamed of a distinguished and spacious home for his family, and in the early 1860’s he built his home on East Fulton.

The two-story Italianate Villa home survives as one of the few prevalent examples of this style of architecture in the latter part of the 19th century. The House is filled with fine arts: prints, paintings, pottery, sculpture, chandeliers, china, crystal, imported wallpaper, fireplaces, furniture made in Grand Rapids dating to the 1850’s and antiques.

It is an historical treasure to be shared with the community and preserved for future generations. It has been the home of the Women’s City Club since 1927.