Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flint Postcards: Offices of Gillespie & Van Wagoner, 122 E. Kearsley Street


  1. Great site. Happy to find you. Grew up in flint. Work has me in Pittsburgh, but my heart remains in Flintown. I'll be checking in regularly. Go Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Wings and of course GO STATE!

  2. I just bought this very postcard on Ebay!

  3. Glad you found the site, anonymous #1.

    Anonymous #2...congratulations on the auction. Any idea what sort of business this was? It's a great postcard.

  4. If you click on the postcard, you can make out the last line -- Real Estate and Insurance. Curious, though, as to the date of the postcard. "R.J. Gillespie & Company" bought a full page ad in the 1918 "Prospectus -- The Annual Publication of Flint Central* High School." Van Wagoner was either gone by then or hadn't yet arrived.

    *Central, per se, wasn't built for four years yet.

  5. Real Estate? Builders? Surveyeors?

    Those things behind the plants look like office cubicles.

    Wade Trim is another clue from the following link. This shows Gillespie and Van Wagoner to be a subdivision plat in Pontiac.

    Maybe Cooley's Dictum would know.


  6. Builders or surveyors -- definitely no. Proprietors of new development -- that is collectors or parcels, organizers of tracts, financiers, administrators -- yes.

    I've always considered the years 1908-1916 to be the age of 'mega-plats' in Flint. As the auto industry and local factories were rapidly expanding, so to was the need for lots to build houses on.

    One of those mega-plats in Flint was named "Pasadena," running from Dewey Woods for about 3000' along Pasadena and extending north for a couple thousand feet. Two of the streets in "Pasadena" are Gillespie and Van Wagoner so I think it likely those two were involved as proprietors of some sort. (There's a street in there named for Durant's attorney, John Carton, too.)

    Another local office that offered real estate/insurance was Windiate-Davison-Pierce & Company and they, too were involved in platting large tracts. The bigger ones were on the east side of Flint -- "Homedale," Eastern Addition to Homedale," "Kearsley Park," and "General Motors Park" (the St. John Street area).

    The "Homedale" series runs from Davison Road to approximately Delaware, and from Franklin west to Lewis. "Kearsley Park" runs south from Davison and also contains a great number of lots.

    Generally speaking, these proprietors were not involved in the building of homes but instead merely created the grid of lots for individuals to build on. This paradigm changed with "Civic Park" wherein the proprietors were involved in both the platting and the building, with a lot of the latter underway even before the former was completed and the infrastructure installed.

    As for the vacation proceedings, Arthur, it does tend to indicate that Gillespie and Van Wagoner were developing properties both in Flint and outside of Flint. And, of course, the common link between both cities at that time would have been the expansion of auto manufacturing facilities.

    But Wade-Trim or Tucker, Jackson would have no reason to have any particular historical knowledge of Gillespie and Van Wagoner. In mathematically describing the area to be vacated one always include reference to the original plat that it is a part of.

  7. Both Gillespie Ave. and Van Wagoner Ave. are shown on this map.


  8. I suspect that Van Wagoner became part of the organization as an in law-very common with small businesses at that time. I can't figure out how from the links I saw. I suspect that the organization's main office was in Oakland or Lapeer County from the links I briefly looked at.

    The Wade Trim connection is in the Pontiac link from 2011. Real Estate Sales, Real Estate Management, Builders, Surveyors, Civil Engineers, and Architects did and continue to all have a symbiotic relationship, regardless of a direct connection. I guess Appraisers, Attorneys, Banks and Insurance companies also come into that relationship. Insurance probably is connected through mortgage insurance and life insurance that guarantee continuing monthly payments. I'm not sure how conflict of interest and monopoly legislation affected this back then or now.

  9. In reseaching the history of a business such as Gillespie and Van Wagoner, many types of websites are useful. Google Books and Google, obviously, but even Genealogy and County Clerk sites are useful, if you know at least the first names. These often give the connections and locations of the principals of the business.

    There is a Gillespie and Van Wagoner subdivision in Fenton also.

    There are plat maps of all Michigan Subdivisions, on a site called LARA. I couldn't figure out how to register. It is public information, so I would assume it is free. Maybe Cooley's Dictum would know.


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.