Looking back at 7 decades of WOOD TV8 history

WOOD TV8 history
A file image from the start of WOOD TV8's color broadcasts.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The opening of a new studio in downtown Grand Rapids is bringing WOOD TV8 full circle.

On Aug. 15, 1949, we signed on as WLAV-TV — channel 7, back then — out of McKay Tower, which is just across the street from our new studio at the Grand Rapids Art Museum WOOD TV8 Media Arts Center.

Two years later, WOOD Radio bought the station, changing our call letters to the ones now so familiar in West Michigan. In the decades since, we’ve celebrated many firsts: having West Michigan’s first news helicopter, the area’s first morning newscast, and moving to 120 College Ave. in Grand Rapids’ Heritage Hill neighborhood, which is still our home today.

In the 1960s, Buck Matthews became a household name as a WOOD weatherman and later host of the Buck Matthews Show.

“I drew on a map with a black marker where the lows and the highs were and the worst of it was … that I didn’t know what I was talking about it. For 21 years, they paid me to do something I didn’t even know what I was talking about,” Matthews remembered. “If it rained, I got wet.”

Things have changed since then.

“Everything is a lot cleaner. You’ve got a nice shiny black floor. We just had concrete. I think the permanent set is just beautiful,” Matthews said of our studio at our College Avenue station.

WOOD TV8’s new presence downtown, where the noon newscast will be broadcast daily, brings us to the center of the community that our team calls home.

“I think it’s wonderful for the Art Museum to have your presence there and to have that facility available to them to highlight and showcase things that go on at the Art Museum,” Matthews said.