29 October 2009


I am not so sure, even though I am glad to see something happening to a long empty corner in my fair city.

Grand Rapids MI, like many other flyover towns, is laid out on a grid that is divided into quadrants. Two streets, one north-south the other east-west, form the physical sign of that grid such that everything in town derives its location from the intersection.

For many years, long before I came, this intersection, Fulton and Division, was a bit run down. Urban renewal came after the place had declined in the late 1960s, leaving a modern courthouse cum police station on one corner, a small Civil war memorial park on another, an abandoned Five and Dime looking place in late Deco style, and an empty lot on the fourth. Hardly worthy of our city center.

But one thing was there that I loved. An old painted advertisement of the time from the 1930s to the 1950s. We actually have a hard number of these left on the walls of old buildings. Most are more faded and less colorful. But they had a certain panache about them, a level of craft that was admirable even if the product was ordinary.

This year we broke ground on a new art/business/residential building that will fill the old lot. And this week the concrete pillars and piers that are the parking garage (called a 'ramp' in these parts) finally obscured the wall. It's still there but the view is gone. It will be great, but I will miss the White Sewing Machine sign and the Coca Cola lozenge. Progress, too, has its price.
(And if you don't know by looking, the parking ramp is what will be on the corner, which is no great improvement even over a empty lot.)

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