Sunday, August 24, 2008

One building, different eras

Here's a 1952 shot of Saginaw Street taken from the second story of Baker's Drug Store looking south. The old Vogue store, which later became the second home of The Copa, is the last light-colored building on the right.

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see two giraffe heads poking over the construction scaffolding in front of the Vogue, as well as the sign for Robinson's clothing store.

Notice the trolleybus, perhaps built by ACF Brill, rolling along on juice from the overhead wires. Detroit had similar trolleys, which were
eventually sold to Mexico City. After all, who needs electric-powered public transit when you can use gas?

My mom remembers that a favorite prank of the boys at Central High School was to jump on the back of the trolleybus, hit the support wires that ran down below the back window, and disconnect the big arms on top from the power lines. The boys would then "run like hell" while the driver got out to reconnect to the overhead lines and the passengers sat and waited.

Another thing she remembers about Flint is the sheer number of people who were on the streets. The photo gives you a sense of the heavy foot traffic downtown in those days. People are spilling off the sidewalks and into the brick street.

The old Vogue store was recently torn down — with no immediate plans to replace it with anything — offering a lonely view of the Capitol Theater from Saginaw Street. Uncle Bob's Diner used to sit near the trees to the left of the theater, if I remember correctly, and James Incorporated clothing store resided in the lower level of the theater building.

A special thanks to the photographers: The 1952 photo is by Mary Fisher. The shot of the partially torn down Vogue store is by Becky Pettengill. And the shot of the Capitol and the rubble is by Grumkin.


  1. Thanks for a great article and photo. I have showned this photo to my 81 yr old mother and she remembers the trolleycars from her neighborhood near Haslett Park/Dayton street going down Detreoit street to downtown. She also told me there used to be two movie theaters called the State and the Strand right where the trolley is traveling down Saginaw Street.

  2. What year were they done away with?! think they'll make a comeback? Was anyone downtown the day the Palace was torn down? That was another dark moment for Flint. What was the name of the dark, dingy porno theater nextdoor to the Mad Hatter's? I remember seeing the lurid micro ads in the Journal for such showstopers as Blaze Star, and others way back in my adolescent sears catalog national geographic days...

  3. Roadside Dinerlover: Did your mom ever go to the movies at the theater on Welch Blvd. that was where the Citizen's Bank is (was)?

  4. Fantastic photos!

    I recall the Copa/Vogue building well, in both iterations. I recall how the "Vogue" logo in terrazzo remained in place after the Copa conversion. So we did.

    Many stories from that place.

    Uncle Bob's Diner was just down the street from my Dad's office- he would take me there on Saturdays.

    New to the blog and love it!

  5. Gordie,
    I have wonderful memories of the Della Theater on Welch Blvd. My dad would drop me and my friends off at the theater and come back after the double feature. I felt sorry for the adults that attended those Saturday matinees. The kids were wild. It only cost 35 cents for two movies! Half the time I didn't understand what was going on in second movie--usually a drama that was geared for adults.

  6. The gutted building in the photo is what was formerly the six-story State Theatre being converted into a Winkleman's store. It later becamme a Blackstone's store. Only the chopped down back and side walls remain as you notice. The back facade is noted for its eternally open third story window. I wrote about the Blackstone's building in my debut article in Your Magazine's February 2008 issue.

  7. Ah, Flinn's Journal, I thought I remembered that being Winkelman's.

  8. So the Vogue building is finally gone? My first job at age 8 was doing dressing room security there. It was in the early 70`s when Downtown was a fun and thriving place.

  9. so, I TRIED to leave some comments, guess they were too long. I am Ed French, born in Flint in 1944, and went to Zimmerman school and then SOUTHWESTERN Class of 1962.
    IF anyone wants to get in touch with me, here is my email address. I was THE TALLEST student at both schools, stopped at 6'9" when I was 19.
    Would like to hear from those still alive.
    Ed French


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