Baker Book House and Calvin College
Founded in 1939 by Herman Baker, the Baker’s Book Store was conveniently located at 1019 Wealthy Street near the Franklin Street Calvin College campus, and many a Calvin student worked at the store during their years at Calvin. One of them was Nicholas Woltersdorff, who went on to teach at Calvin College as well as at the Free University of Amsterdam, Notre Dame, and Yale. Baker began in 1939 with just five hundred books displayed on homemade shelves, and by 1959, Baker Book House (note name change) listed 175 active titles. Baker’s publication of H. Henry Meeter’s classic, The Basic Ideas of Calvinism in 1939, is now in its sixth edition and has been translated into five languages!
Mondays were especially exciting days at the bookstore when Baker’s hosted area pastors on their traditional day off. The pastors enjoyed touring Grand Rapids’ bookstores for a new book and visiting with each other. Sometimes they would run into well-known religious figures in the aisles such as D. James Kennedy, Ottis Fuller, and J. I. Packer.
For nearly fifty years until his retirement in 1987 Herman Baker brought the written word with distinction and integrity to untold numbers of readers. He and his wife, Angeline Sterkenberg, whom he married in 1932, divided their remaining years between Florida and the Holland Home in Grand Rapids, where they were members of Calvin Christian Reformed Church. Baker died in 1991 at age 79.
(Written by Janet Sheeres ,interim editor of Origins, genealogist and author)