Remember When …



What are the arts to you? Well to me, it is all types of music, photos, textiles, paintings, sculptures, architecture, writing and performances of a play of all kinds. My favorite artwork is God’s nature that we can see every day. I love to look at the clouds, the trees swaying or how you feel when you look at a sunset. As you walk along a beach in Michigan, image how the Great Lakes were formed, with the weight of the glaciers shifting the earth. You ask how art has anything to do with history. Well let me tell you the people and environment you are bought up in, is what makes me, me and you, you!

Genesee County has been gifted with so much grant money from General Motors Corp., C.S. Mott Foundation (more than $100 million since 1928), Michael Gorman, and many others too; this made arts and culture available to all ethnic groups.

Let’s go back even further in history, to the Ojibwa people that were here first they worked with birch bark and copper. The cultural center area, or Crapo & Kearsley Street, was originally was in Burton Township in 1855. Mr. Ackerman collected taxes for Burton Township, which was partly owned by Henry H. Crapo in 1858 for lumber production.

Oak Grove Sanitarium Photos courtesy of the Burton Area Historical Society

Oak Grove Sanitarium Photos courtesy of the Burton Area Historical Society

Crapo was the fourteenth Mayor of Flint during the Civil War and Governor of Michigan 1865-1869, (he was also the grandfather of Billy Durant who founded GM in 1908 in Flint). The land was great property and sold off for residential homes, one being for J. Dallas Dort, he joined Durant in the carriage business by 1866.

There were 65 acres that was sold to a group of doctors by 1891, for the Oak Grove Sanitarium, which was built for mental health patients. More money was needed by 1919, so they asked the City of Flint to annex the Hospital from Burton Township to get more funds.

In the 1920’s the 60 acres were sold to start the Flint education and Cultural area, Oak Grove Campus WFBE radio, schools and MCC. The many GM shops were part of our history including ceramics which is an old form of art, now at Flint Institute of Arts.

Faience Tile

Faience Tile

Did you know the top of a spark plug is made of ceramic? There were large kilns in AC shops that were on all the time for spark plugs. So, they decided to recycle and make Faience Tile, this was specially designed by an Italian artist, for AC Spark plug from 1921-1933 in Flint, Michigan. Many wealthy homes and businesses have these tiles still. One of the most unique thing about our county is we have culture like large cities because Billy Durant’s family was from here and he had an idea to bring specialist from all over the country, piece by piece, (each man brought a different part) to build the best automobile.

Because all these innovators came here to make something great, they gave us so much more! Here are some of assets; Greater Flint Art Council art walks, music in the parks, Art Fair, Genesee County Parks and Rec, Flint Cultural Center Corp., Sloan, FIM, FIA, Flint Symphony and Flint youth players and the list goes on.

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email History.