Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beauty contest

Here's the 16-story Mott Foundation Building, built in 1930 and captured in all its Art Deco splendor in a 1954 postcard.

Of course, this was long before the elegant mini-skyscraper's hulking, wide-bottomed younger brother — Genesee Towers — was built.

I've always wondered exactly whose idea was it to throw up the city's ugliest building right next to its most handsome structure?

UPDATE: I found this photo in The Flint Journal that offers some clues.

Are these two guys responsible for Genesee Towers?

I can just imagine what the powerful finger pointer is saying: "It's ugly as hell and seems structurally unsound. Build it! NOW!"


  1. Nothing in downtown Flint was more beautiful than the shining beacon of the HUGE Genesee Bank neon sign. You could see that sucka for miles around.

    Another great feature of Genesee Towers is the parking ramp that spiralled for 8-10 stories. No cheaper thrill than riding that thing, pedal to the metal, all the way down to Harrison St.

    Yeah, sure it may be ugly but it is all we got. That building was ENORMOUS.

    How disappointed were some of you upon travel to Detroit or Chicago and discovering just how dinky our skyline is.. or was.. or be.

  2. "Throw up" is the operative term.

  3. yeah, it looked like something out of 'Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy", but it was kind of fun working there, and the view of Flint was great. We were s'pposed to serve dinner to Jimmy Carter in the University Club on the top level, but the Secret Service kiboshed the event, too many windows.

  4. Ah, Flint. So happy to have found your blog! Have I missed any posts about Halo Burger?

  5. I've always had a soft spot for Genesee Towers. Sure, it's ugly and falling apart, but so is Flint, and I still love that! Seriously though, I would like to see what could go in its place if it gets demolished, although another big open space would probably be what we'd get. Losing the Copa to open space is bad enough!

  6. Carly,

    Strangely, I've never posted anything on Halo Burger. I'll have to correct that. There is, however, a brief mention of it in this post:

  7. Yeah, the Genesee Tower(s) may have been ugly, but it was ours. It even had a logic of its own: a downtown building that was also car-friendly. So it was nineteen floors tall with ten floors of office/people-friendly space, eight floors of parking and a bank at ground level; at least it was built with answers in mind.

    But then, Genesee Bank seemed as much a permanent part of Flint as Buick and WTAC. Who would have thought that Genesee Bank be bought out by NBD and be moved to a smaller office bilding, Buick would disappearing from Flint to the point that the only birds at the entry points to Flint would be on Soaring Eagle ads, and WTAC would become a low-level FM Christian station?


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at