|The demolition of the Sill Building in downtown Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy of Amy Peterson)|
|A postcard of the Flint P. Smith Building, later renamed the Sill Building.|
|Downtown Flint during flooding in the 1940s.|
I was puzzled by the recent photo of downtown Flint shot from the sixth floor of the Durant Hotel. The skyline didn’t quite look right. Then I realized the tall, narrow building that stood like a sentinel overlooking Saginaw Street near the river was missing. The Sill Building was gone.
The northern end of downtown always seemed more exciting to me than the rest, home to Thompson’s restaurant, the penny arcade and the Greyhound Bus station crowded with interesting characters, most of whom were not waiting for a bus. Across the street were the forbidden Rialto Theatre and an upstairs pool hall where boxer Jock Leslie hung out.But my most vivid memories are of the Sill Building because my father’s office was on the third floor overlooking Saginaw Street. As a child my mother and I got to “visit” the office and view every parade from the windows of Darby & Son Realtors. Another not so pleasant memory was watching the historic Flint flood waters flow through downtown.
As a teenager I felt important going into the Sill Building. It was like I was marching to the Cheers theme song, headed “where everybody knows your name.” The elevator operator sitting on her little pull down stool greeted me with “Hello Patty, going to see your Dad?” I’m sure she probably guessed I was planning to ask him for a few bucks to go to the Honey Dell for a parfait and then catch the Lewis St. bus home so my mother would think I had walked straight from Central High School. Dad always came through with the parting words, “You don’t need to mention this to Mama.”He never had to worry about that as Dad was my gentle hero all my life. I didn’t appreciate what my sometimes dour Scottish mother instilled in me until many years later. Their love, and growing up in Flint, made me into a person that could handle tough times and appreciate what really matters. I have faith that my hometown will now do the same.
|Verne McFarlane hard at work in the Sill Building.|