Early photo of the Ronda Tire Building.  Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Library Special Collections and Local History

Early photo of the Ronda Tire Building.  Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Library Special Collections and Local History

1958 RONDA TIRE BUILDING AT 130 MARKET SW, GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

130 Market NW  was completed in 1958 and was designed by the architect, E. John Knapp, who used became something of a trademark, the folded plate roof.  He also used a combination of glass and panel walls with folding garage doors.   The second owner of the building was Avis Car Rental and it is currently the home of the 8th Day Gym.  Throughout the changes in ownership the building design has remained essentially intact.  

 1974 photo of the Ronda Tire Building showing the connected warehouse building.  Photo Courtesy of City Archives.

1974 photo of the Ronda Tire Building showing the connected warehouse building.  Photo Courtesy of City Archives.

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There are two components to the facility,  the stylish front of the building, and the connected warehouse-style building behind, plain but functional.   The big garage doors are still functional and are often opened up in the warmer months for the benefit of those working out in the gym.  It is, of course, the folded plate roof that sets it apart.  The Ronda Tire Building sits on an unusual piece of land at the bottom of a hill just south of downtown  - a kind of crossroads location.  Ask almost anyone who has lived in Grand Rapids a while and they will know this building.  

 Those big garage doors seen in the vintage black and white photo are opened up here in this photo from July 2015. Photo by Pam VanderPloeg copyright 2015.

Those big garage doors seen in the vintage black and white photo are opened up here in this photo from July 2015. Photo by Pam VanderPloeg copyright 2015.

At the time of our initial interview with architect E. John Knapp, AIA, John was 98.  He asked if we knew that he had designed that specific building.  We did, but at the time did not know that the folded plate roof design was something of a signature style that Knapp used in a number of his buildings.  We would later learn that he used a similar roof structure for the 28th Street Holly's Landing restaurant and at least two custom homes. 

 View of the folded plate roof.  Photo by Pam VanderPloeg copyright 2015.

View of the folded plate roof.  Photo by Pam VanderPloeg copyright 2015.

IN THE ARCHITECTS WORDS

Knapp remembered the client meeting to plan the building. 
“The boss of Ronda Tire Co. walked into our office (O’Bryon and Knapp Architects, 300 East Fulton, Grand Rapids, Michigan) and asked to talk to an architect.  I greeted him and invited him to have a chair. I spent the next hour hearing his dream of a new home for his tire company.
I asked him what his company's primary sales were. They sold many brands of auto and truck tires. The new building would allow Ronda to get into the used tire retread business. They needed to install new machines for this new business. He gave me a catalogue giving me details of how they worked and what we needed to install: power, water, and drains, etc.
I asked him to take me over to his present location to bring us up to date. In his shop and showroom I found an interesting process of transforming old worn tires into good-looking almost-new tires. Ronda people had me watch the men retread several old tires.
Now I was ready to design their new Ronda sales room and work shop. He informed me of his budget, his new land site, and the approximate sized building area they needed. He wanted a very good looking building to help attract new customers to their new business location. (This is the way I enjoyed starting a new project.)”