Editor’s note: Midway through writing this post, I realized that I had blogged about the Vehicle City arches four years ago. I figured that if I had forgotten, most of you probably would have forgotten too or never seen it, so here you go.
Last week Governor Rick Snyder appointed Michael Brown as Emergency Manager for Flint. You can read all about that (including some interviews) on Absolute Michigan.
When I was looking at photos for that feature, this one with all the arches on Saginaw street caught my eye so I decided to learn a little more about them. Flinn’s Journal (which is a really cool site by the way that has a dynamic Facebook page) has a column on the Flint Arches that explains:
On November 29, 2003, a part of downtown Flint’s past officially returned to become part of Flint’s present and future when the replicated Flint Vehicle City arches were dedicated and lit for the first time. The arches are reminders of Flint’s glorious past as “The Vehicle City” as the city faces an uncertain future.
The vehicles which were made in Flint when the original arches were built were horse-drawn carriages. The leading maker of horse-drawn carriages in Flint was the Durant-Dort Carriage Company which was co-founded by William C. Durant and J. Dallas Dort and was in business from 1886 to 1917. Both men would also start companies which made horseless carriages. Dort founded the Dort Motor Car Company which was in business from 1915 to 1923. Dort Highway was named in his honor. Durant took over the then-small Buick Motor Company in 1904 and made it the leading motorcar company in 1908, the year that Durant founded Buick’s parent company General Motors Corporation. The first arches were erected in 1899 and built by Genesee Iron Works.
The arches were each fitted with 50 light bulbs which were illuminated at night. The arches replaced gas lighting. To celebrate Flint’s Golden Jubilee in 1905, an additional arch was erected near the point where Saginaw Street and Detroit Street (now M.L. King Ave.) split off north of the bridge over the Flint River. This arch was topped off by an illuminated sign saying “FLINT VEHICLE CITY”. For the Christmas holiday season, the regular light bulbs were replaced by multicolored light bulbs.
Click above to read more and see some photos. The arches were fabricated by Bristol Steel of Davison Michigan – check their site for photos and video of the installation. You can see some cool old photos at the Flint Vehicle City Arches site too.
Below is a photo by Arthur Crooks from the excellent Making of Modern Michigan gallery showing the Vehicle City Arch erected in 1905 as part of the City’s 50th anniversary. The caption of the photo says “South Saginaw St from Detroit Street looking South” while the description says it’s on Saginaw Street looking north. Can anyone clarify this?