Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tested by Fire

An anonymous reader struggles to keep the faith after the Jackson Hardy House fire:

"This is a turning point for me and looking at Flint's future.

"I didn't grow up in Flint, but moved here from a smaller berg about 10 years ago after finding a house that cost a third of what it would cost anywhere else in the county. Growing up I heard horror stories about the city of Flint. However, after moving here I found that much of what I had heard didn't really line up with what I was seeing in my neighborhood. I was amazed to have sixty or seventy kids come to my house the first year I gave out candy for Halloween and was happy to see kids as young as seven or eight walking past my house by themselves to go to school in the morning. I love the library, the College/Cultural area, the folk music festival at Kearsley Park, Carriage Town and going to the Mott estate whenever they open it up for garden tours.

"Lately things have changed though. About a year ago I awoke to find a man trying to break into my back door and have since noticed the screens on some of the windows have been moved after returning from work. I've really enjoyed learning more about the great history of Flint and am sickened to see that the Jackson Hardy house was burned down and anyone who cares about Flint and Genesee County should be sick as well. Sadly, I've found that most people don't care. In almost any other city historic structures like this would be cherished and protected but not here.

"I think this area has some sort of screwed-up defeatist psychological mindset that makes it difficult for me to want to stay. I mean if someone can burn down a house like that then they don't have respect for anything."

UPDATE: A follow-up comment from a reader via Facebook:
"This breaks my heart and I understand. Thanks for sharing, Gordon. This writer is correct. Whoever lit this match and (most likely) watched that amazing structure burn, not only has a lack of respect, they has no soul. Whoever is burning Flint obviously, for whatever reason, does not want Flint's renaissance to continue. This structure was not an eye-sore, was not boarded, and was in the 11th hour of completion. This is pure strategic sabotage. And even though the devastation I witnessed on Sunday still has be sullen and continuously teary eyed- the anger has stirred something in me that makes me want to fight harder... The wind, that the senseless demolition of Manning Court took out of my sails, is back. I only hope others will shake off their overwhelming dismay and join me. We're so close... we can't give up now and let the inmates run this asylum."


  1. I think what disturbs me about the JHH fire is that it seems considerably more sinister than the fires that came before it. I've always felt the arsons were politically-motivated (at least the first ones were, then the copycats too over), and I don't mean laid off firefighters. I mean people trying to, as they say in Middle East politics, "destabilize the regime." The JHH was a beautiful house in a very prominent location (Hoffmans, Witherbees, the Berridge, the Durant) and it was going to be rehabbed with federal money. It seems so clear that this one was supposed to be someone's masterwork, or a signal that they're feeling emboldened.

  2. That's the point though, isn't it? It's always been the people.

    There have been many decent start up businesses, but there aren't enough people to appreciate them.

    Same goes for the old housing/architecture... it isn't appreciated, and if it is, there isn't enough money to do anything about it.

    Urban planning? What's that? A new parking lot?

    I'll leave it to someone else to give the pep-talk on Flint. I still have hope but not enough to live there.

  3. "Politically motivated" implies an understood conspiracy. I don't see any organizing factor. No one is preaching or giving stump speeches about the evils of the rich folks in Carriagetown. I don't think there are any bars around town where the general topic of discussion is the evil rich.

    I think it's more likely individual vandals/sociopaths who've moved on from teen destruction for the hell of it, to "if I can't have nice things, no one can have nice things".

    If in fact it's gotten to "if my socioeconomic class can't have nice things, the rich folks who can afford to rehab old houses in Carriagetown can't have nice things, either", then there's no hope.

  4. some local real estate nut probably wants to put in a long strip plaza there and figures he will get the property for free after its all said and done. People in that area have high hopes for a neighborhood comeback which will never be in our life times. Its a sad shame. Carriage town has no housing stock left, therefore there is nothing worth saving for new people to come in and restore if they were interested in fighting the good fight. There are a handful of homes for the handful of owners who have been there for years, and the rest is a war zone. R.I.P. Carriage Town

  5. saw the scrappers going through the remains of the buildings on saturday and sunday. pretty typical....

  6. I was thinking the same thing anonymous. Some developer wants the property, or else it's like some other guy said on mlive... the scrappers are cleaning up and making some money.

  7. I guess anything's possible, but scrappers don't need to burn down houses to get material. There are hundreds (actually, thousands) of lower-profile structures to strip without torching a place in the middle of Carriage Town. And I doubt developers would resort to this for the same reason. If someone wants to build something in Flint and has the financing, there's not exactly a shortage of empty spaces to build.


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 www.teardownbook.com.