Cars at the Crossroads…

20 Jul

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The 1960’s brought Urban Renewal to the city of Flint.  ‘Progress’ often means the demolition of historic buildings and neighborhoods; such was the case as plans for constructing I-475 meant losing important pieces of Flint and Genesee County history. The first two buildings that garnered public attention were the Buzzell house and the Wisner carriage barn. Recognizing their importance, the highway commission donated the buildings, they were moved to the Genesee County Recreation Area where they still stand today; hence Crossroads Village was born. The Sloan Museum in Flint is part local history museum, part transportation museum; it holds a unique collection of 100 vehicles and archives telling the story of the significance Flint and Genesee County have played in the development of the American automobile industry. Its namesake, Alfred P Sloan was once longtime president and Chairman of the Board of GM. The museum is currently closed for renovation therefore the 47th Annual Sloan Museum Auto Fair is being held on the grounds of Crossroad’s Village.

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We park in a large grassy area and make our way the to the village entrance in the scorching heat, at only $7 a person, it’s a bargain. We follow the dusty road into town, at first glance it appears we’ve gone back in time; 19th century buildings line the street, antique cars are parallel parked, village employees are dressed in period costumes. The first block of block of buildings includes the general store, opera house Dr. Barbour’s office and the dry goods shop; the original buildings were located in Fenton and rebuilt at Crossroads for the 1978 season. Notice the FLT in the brickwork of the opera house, it stands for the Odd Fellow’s motto: Friendship, Love and Truth. Antique cars are parked in front; there’s an old 1930’s Ford with a wood body, a 1900’s yellow Buick with brass lamps, a grey Buick from the 19-teens sits in front of the lovely T.N. North & Son bank. We traverse our way through shops, go upstairs to see the opera house, the Singing Minstrels are coming on soon. Buildings are furnished with artifacts from 1860-1880; every effort was made to make this a living village from the post Civil War era.

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Further down the street it’s nice and shady; there are over 30 structures at Crossroads, some are brick, many are white-painted wood. In front of the Clayton Town Hall a Ford Model A has yellow spoke wheels, the body is two-tone, black and green. This year’s spotlight is “A History of Stock Cars” and look, there are some right here. The green 1969 Hemi Charger 500 is gorgeous, they made less than 100 of these. I’ve always liked the orangey- butterscotch color on the 1970 Cyclone Spoiler, don’t you love the red and white 1969 Mercury Cyclone? This one is unique, it’s a Cale Yarborough Special. The checkered flag emblem on the ’55 Dodge Stock Car is super-cool, the 1970 Superbird race car looks track-ready.

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We walk past Master’s Orchard then stop in at the church to have a look around; did you know people have weddings here? Such a great venue. There’s a sign up ahead directing us to a large open area to the right, a long line of vintage tractors form an aisle. John Deere, is the most popular brand with a few other brands thrown into the mix. There’s a pretty red barn built into the hill, it has the sliding doors that are so popular now. Stretched out in front of us is a wide variety of original, custom and restored cars and trucks. Where do we start? The 1967 Charger looks great in turquoise, the 1965 Mercury Colony Park woody station wagon is awesome! Look at that wood trim, you could haul a lot of stuff with this car. We zig and zag as different vehicles grab our attention, I think I’ll stand in the shade an look at the 1967 Coronet R/T and the blue ’78 Trans Am. Custom trucks are always fun to look at, the green Chevy C-10 is well done. Oh and the luxury cars… The 1960 Buick Electra convertible is sweet.

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We wander some more, this time stopping in buildings. The Buzzell House was the first building brought here, built in 1854 by John Buzzell the home was lived in until 1968. The home and furnishings are modest but comfortable looking. The Eldridge-Hanner house is quite affluent in comparison; rooms are larger, furnishings are a bit fancier, detailed plaster is found in ceiling medallions. Blacksmiths are hard at work in the Wisner Carriage Barn. Judge Charles H Wisner built the barn in the Italianate style back in 1878. He served as the 12th Governor of Michigan and built the very first automobile ever constructed in Flint. See how amazing the history of this area is. All throughout the village you’ll find sights and sounds of what life was like back then. In the print shop we watch and listen as typesetting is demonstrated, we watch a young woman as she makes brooms, in the fall you see cider-pressing and butter churning. There’s an ice house and a meeting hall, a mid-20’s Model T is parked in front of the Mason Inn.

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Down by the lake is the 1912 Charles W Parker carousel. We step inside, the ride is still, horses anxiously await visitors. A display explains the restoration process the horses went through, there’s just something about a carousel that guarantees a smile. We loop back around, vintage motorcycles are parked on the wooden sidewalk.

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Harley and Indian models span the decades. The seat’s on the 30’s motorcycles look like they could use a little more padding… Over by the Sweet Shop a crowd has gathered around the 1956 Buick Century X. The car is one-of-a-kind, built for designer Bill Mitchell, GM’s design staff president for 18 years. I can see what all the fuss is about. The blue is an outstanding color, the interior matches it with just a splash of red on the door panels. The front seats rotate, you can turn your seat to get in and out of the car and the passenger can turn the seat to face the rear, on top of that, it’s a convertible! Mitchell and his team incorporated all kinds if unique details; the exhaust exits through the rocker panel trim, it has power headrests, a console, special Century and Buick script and trim. Current owner Don Mayton found the car back in 1991 on the west side of Michigan, he purchased it in 1995. He has been able to document that the car belonged to Bill Mitchell and spent years researching and restoring the car; well done!

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We head to downtown Flint for a late lunch, we have been meaning to try Table & Tap on Saginaw St, today’s the day. The patio is inviting but the air conditioning inside is bordering on frigid, inside it is! The restaurant offers 30 Michigan craft beers on tap and homemade BBQ smoked daily. Our server greets us quickly with menus and icy glasses of water, we order fast then decompress from the heat. Our food arrives on a metal tray, we can’t wait to dig in. I try the mac and cheese first, crispy on top, creamy sauce and el dente noodles, delicious. The cole slaw has a kick of garlic, nice. The Smoke-House sandwich is pulled pork topped with bacon and white cheddar on a brioche bun, it’s really, really good. There are 6 homemade sauces on the table, if you squirt out a puddle of each you can have a different sauce with every bite. The homemade chips dipped in the onion sauce are excellent. It’s been a fun day. Content, we can just sit and relax before we point the car south toward home.

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One Response to “Cars at the Crossroads…”

  1. Michael Ricketts July 20, 2019 at 10:11 pm #

    nice

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