Personal observations: I have visited Belding a few times (looking for info on the old Callier Theatre) and it is one of my favorite towns. It has a rich history as detailed below and much of the old Belding still stands. Notably, a good portion of the old downtown section was replaced with a shopping center that was pretty empty when I was there which is a shame.
I don't know what shape the old downtown buildings were in when they were razed, perhaps they were too far gone to save. There is a comparison photo below that shows this. Aside from that, there is still much to see here. The town has the Flat River running right through it and some of the old silk mill structures are still here. There is a great library and a museum that used to be the Belrockton Silk Mill Dormitory which is where women were housed when the silk mills were open. If you find yourself in this area, I recommend checking it out.
From Michigan Place Names
Ionia County: Charles Broas, from Broome County, N.Y., became the first settler here in 1839 and the settlement became known as Broas Rapids. Lucius Patterson bought an interest in the Broas mill property in 1842 and the town was given a post office as Patterson's Mills on Feb. 23, 1857, with Andrew C. Reynolds as its first postmaster. Hiram Belding bought the land of Levi Broas in 1855 and to help pay for it, sold silk goods on commission, thus beginning the Belding brothers silk making business here, which led to the renaming of the town and its post office for them on Sept. 18, 1871. Incorporated as a city in 1893 [Richard Bivins]
From Michigan Road Atlas
Charles Broas became the first settler here in 1839. In 1840 Mr. Broas and a few others built a bridge across the Hat River. Two years later Broas erected a dam and a sawmill, and the place became known as BROAS RAPIDS. Lucius Patterson bought an interest in the Broas mill in 1842, and the town was given the PATTERSON'S MILL P.O. in 1857. In 1858 there were only three houses at the settlement. Hiram Belding bought the land from Levi Broas in 1855. His four sons operated a Massachusetts company that manufactured silk products. During the Civil War the Belding Brothers & Company prospered and opened branch offices in Chicago, Cincinnati, and mills in Connecticut and California.
Patterson's Mills residents, consisting of 13 families, renamed their village Belding in 1871, hoping to induce the Belding Brothers to invest in their town. The next year a branch of the railroad reached Belding from Kiddville. Impressed by the available labor, waterpower, and the nearby railroad, the Belding Brothers constructed a silk mill in Belding in the 1880s, which they soon sold to George Richardson, a former manager of their Cincinnati office. The Richardson Company prospered, constructing a second thread mill in 1890, a weaving mill in 1901, and a second weaving mill in 1909. That year the Belding Brothers purchased the Richardson mills, which employed I ,200 people, many of them young women recruited from nearby farms.
The company built dormitories for their female employees, who were attracted by the status and independence that the mill jobs offered. The Belding Brothers sold their mills to an eastern consortium in 1925. At that time the mills included a total of 30,000 spindles, 1,000 looms, and utilized 500,000 pounds of raw silk annually. The Great Depression adversely affected the silk industry, and in 1932 the mills were closed. Many of the impressive original silk mill buildings remain standing today as monument to Michigan's "Silk Mill City." Belding was incorporated as a city in 1893.