Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jane Avenue in 1940

I took this photo of 1634 Jane Avenue in the summer of 2010. It's on the infamous block ravaged by abandonment and arson. Last time I checked, there was only one house remaining. All the others, including this one, have been demolished or burned down. I had a special attachment to this little house because it reminded me of my 700 sq. ft. home in San Francisco, which was in bad shape not many years ago and was brought back to life by the woman who sold it to me.

The National Archives recently made documents from the 1940 Census available online, so I decided to look up 1634 Jane Avenue. At that time, it was rented by William and Gwendoline Williams for $30/month. (Other houses on the block were valued at $2,300 to $3,000, not that different than what homes in the area might be worth today.) He was 35 and born in Montana. She was a year younger and hailed from England. They had two sons, ages 8 and 14. George Spenser, a 49-year-old Irishman, and Harold Daniels, a 35-year-old from England, are listed as boarders.

Go here to see the Census information on 1634 Jane. Go here for the National Archives 1940 Census website.


  1. I've been loving the census since it came out. I called up my dad to ask him where his parents/grandparents were around that time, if he knew. Amazingly, he knew EXACTLY where his mom and grandparents lived. Turns out his grandparents lived at the same place for 60-some years. I looked, and sure enough, there they were!

  2. JK, I just discovered it this morning. I'm going to have to tear myself away to avoid spending the whole day looking up addresses. Just discovered that a house down the street from my grandparents on the East Side had 12 occupants, and those were not big houses. I read that the site will eventually have a name search option, which will make things a lot easier. It's pretty tough finding some of the addresses.

  3. Gordon, I heard the name index is supposed to be online in about 6 to 9 months. It's definitely tiresome to be searching for people's name when you only have a general idea where they lived, especially for bigger cities. Interesting thing I found was that my dad's mom/grandparents lived 3 houses away from my stepmom's great-uncle from England. It's a small world! Also interestingly, they lived on Dupont by Ballenger Park, but by looking at the census maps, Ballenger Park didn't exist in 1940.

  4. It's sad to see this house, as it reminds me so much of the house I "grew up in" for a couple of years in early childhood. It was the first house my Mom, a single parent, bought. Two bedrooms, the pipes froze every winter in the unheated crawl space, the bathroom was ice-cold, and I had to get dressed on cold days in front of the space heater furnace in the dining room that heated our home. 1929 Jane Street, and while I won't give it, I still remember our phone number there, too.

    We moved to Mt. Morris when I-475 started going in. MDOT only wanted about 10 feet of the one edge of the property for the rise up to the freeway, but Mom didn't want to be living literally next door to it, so she sold out and bought the house I truly grew up in out in Mt. Morris. What MDOT didn't want, the next door neighbors (the Davises) bought to add to their property.

    It wasn't much, but I loved that house, and the flowering whatever it was in the backyard, and the linoleum tile with all the ripples in it in the dining room (made great hills for my hot wheels to roll up and down - I was quite the tomboy). I even loved my bedroom, all pink and white. Mom liked the house but not the pea soup green color, lol. It gave her a distaste of green painted things ever after. (So when she repainted the walls in the living/dining room at the new place, what color did they end up? Light mint GREEN! HAHA!)

  5. Strange as this sounds I think I knew the Gwendoline and Robert Williams who were listed as the couple who lived at 1634 Jane back in 1940. The names and background discription fit but I knew her as "Wiladine" and he was known as "Bob". Very nice and generous people. They were friends of my parents and did have downtown connections in the late 70s to the mid 80s. As I understand it, her mother owned one or two movie theaters in downtown Flint. The Williams owned a building on Saginaw downtown that had a giant sign of a wizard wearing a pointy hat and a robe pointing a finger down to the sidewalk with a bolt of lighting shooting forth. I think they ran it as a health food store. Before that it was a head shop.

    Years ago, I saw that wizard sign again in front of someone's house on one of those dirt roads right across from the Showcase Cinema West on Corunna rd. Might still be there for all I know. Made me smile.

  6. This is fantastic. The reference to Jane Ave. was perfect since my mom grew up on that street, and my grandparents lived on Jane until they passed away in the 70's. I followed the link to the census info for 1634 Jane and it led me to find my mom's house down on the next block.

    I sent her a copy of the page, so will have to see at 81 years old what she thinks about this new technology.

  7. I just back in Flint last week to see my former home on 1015 Dupont St. It was raized...It made me feel really bad. When I left in 1994 it was in good shape. I visited a few times after and it sat vacant. On anther visit, I notice the side window was smashed in, but the house was vacant...nothing to steal. All that was left was a hole. i recently visited the cencus to see who was living in my house at that time.

  8. came across this article about a house on Jane ave. thought i would share. anyone remember the guy in the article?


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