Ever since starting my freshman year at the University of Michigan-Flint my dream was to become a Flint resident. From that campus I was able to start exploring the city that has now become my home.
I remember putting on a three-piece suit and tie for my first day as a freshmen at the university. My grandmother wondered why I was dressing up so much. I responded that I was going downtown—naturally, I felt the need to look nice.
You see, there are two different Flints. There is the forgotten, terminally ill city that the media tries to perpetuate, and then there is the Flint that I know.
The Flint that I know is full of history, stately homes, and culture. It is a city that has withstood the ravages of time, including the Great Depression, two major world wars, and social upheaval.
Like the proverbial cranky old man who lives next door, Flint has a soft side. Once you put aside the opinions of your neighbors and start to get to know it for yourself, you likely will become attached to it. Just like General Motors founders Billy Durant and J. Dallas Dort more than 100 years ago, I too fell in love with this city. It is and always has been rough around the edges, but as strong as a flint arrowhead and driven by a will to survive.
As a child, my late great-grandmother told me the story of her first move to the Vehicle City. She came from the farm, and as a little girl first saw Flint in all its glory in the mid-1920s—filled with electric lights, swinging jazz, and a booming populace.
Growing up in the suburbs, that was the Flint I first heard of—a romanticized dream remembered. As I grew older, the news began to slowly taint my view of the city. Its greatness was always clearly described in the past. I barely went downtown except to see a show at The Whiting, to view a car show under the supervision of my family, or to visit Sloan Museum on a chaperoned field trip.
Then, five years ago, I became a student at UM-Flint and I was given the opportunity to get to know the city on my own.
I started strolling Saginaw Street, dining at some of the establishments. I was introduced to what would become my favorite eatery, the Temple Dining Room at the Masonic Temple. I adore how this restaurant is frozen in time from 1947.
I was offered a role in the Kearsley Park Players for its annual Summer Theatre Festival. Kearsley Park—which was the jewel in the crown of the J. Dallas Dort Park System and that I had been warned to avoid when growing up in the suburbs—became a staple of my summer vacations.
I was given an opportunity to volunteer at the Durant-Dort Carriage Company Office in Carriage Town. I worked in the very birthplace of General Motors, and I knew that only in Flint could I be granted such a chance.
I fell in love with the historic neighborhoods like the Mott Cultural Neighborhood, the Miller Road mansions, and (though I didn’t know it would be my future home) the Grand Traverse District.
I found all these places, all these experiences, made me feel at home in the city. I am drawn to not just the past of Flint, but to the Flint we are today, and the Flint we are building for tomorrow.
Still, until a month ago, I continued to commute into the city.
Then, I made the move to an apartment in the Grand Traverse District—where in the late 1800s Flint’s first generation of millionaires lived. I live in the quiet neighborhood just a few blocks from downtown Flint proper.
I’m an easy walk from my parish, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and I can lead the eccentric life of a downtown bachelor I’ve only read about in the beloved Jeeves and Wooster series.
It is a dream come true.
And, yet, whenever I travel, people immediately ask about the water or worry that I could be the victim of some horrible crime. They don’t know Flint. They don’t know my home. Yes, Flint has its issues, but, frankly, every city does.
I wish they would ask me about our community theatre groups, world class art gallery and planetarium, and many other opportunities. It is not the Flint people talk about, but it is the Flint I experience, and encourage others also to experience for themselves.
So, for those who still wonder: Why Flint?
The answer is simple: It’s a charming little city where one can be a part of something big. That’s why I chose Flint.