A sign of Civic Park's past and future

FLINT, Michigan — The sign’s lettering had tarnished and eventually its legs were broken, but through a combination of community efforts the Civic Park Neighborhood historical marker was resurrected.

“It's quite emotional for me coming back here,”  said Sharon Campbell, 53, during the formal ribbon cutting ceremony for the new sign on March 28. Campbell lived in Civic Park for 30 years before moving to Flint Township. She is proud to say she attended Civic Park Elementary just across the street from the sign and remains hopeful that this new sign will mark one of many progressive changes for Civic Park. “I pay attention to what’s going on in Flint because I consider Flint my home.” 
  
Residents, faculty from the University of Michigan-Flint History Department and Flint City Councilman Maurice Davis gathered along Dayton Street to mark the sign's rededication, one of a series of events planned as part of the neighborhood’s yearlong centennial celebration. 

The sign pays homage to Civic Park’s status as a nationally recognized historic district since 1979. It’s origins trace back to efforts of local residents and the Genesee County Historical Society. 

Its rededication was in honor of residents of Civic Park past and future. 

The neighborhood was built by General Motors to house the rush of workers that fueled the automobile industry. Over a 1,000 homes were built just under a year in 1919. Over the years, it suffered from disinvestment and abandonment, and just a fraction of the original historic district remains preserved.

Related story: Civic Park launches centennial celebration

The original historic district marker already was showing signs of wear and tear before a vehicle hit the sign a few years ago, breaking its support poles. Davis approached UM-Flint with the project and they began a year-long collaboration including $6,000 worth of repairs covered by the Wyatt Program, an endowment of the UM-Flint history department. 

“I mean this is really kind of the heart of Civic Park,” said Thomas Henthorn, chair of UM-Flint’s history department. “Because this retail strip that was part of the original plan for the neighborhood. You have the school, which as built just a couple of years later and then just a block down, we’ve got Bassett Park and Haskell Center. So this is supposed to be this kind of heartbeat of the neighborhood.” 

As part of the rededication, Davis was honored by the UM-Flint College of Arts and Sciences for his efforts to renew the historic legacy of Civic Park. Davis has hopes to rehab the entire neighborhood in the future, but sees the rededication of the sign as a good first step in a series of repairs, development, and celebrations. 

For Davis, it marks the start of equitable development beyond downtown to include Flint’s northside. 

“Wherever you see that historic marker, you see development,” Davis said. “Civic Park is about to come back to life.”

Read more articles by Alexandria Brown.

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