Friday, February 3, 2012

Endless Stream of Frustration and Reinvention

A lot of history has been blown up over the past half century as post industrial towns have struggled to "reinvent" themselves. There's a miserable lack of historical buildings, still standing, in many post industrial towns...Ford's original factories are gone or dissolving, nearly forgotten. Cuz it's progress to un-be what we've been. A reinvention to undo what we've done and start fresh. The dynamite,detonated at the base of our architecturally sinful past wipes the slate clean again...building after building after building. All to re-invent.

One specific building in Muskegon comes to mind, and to this very day it evokes feelings of anger and resentment at its destruction when its name or image comes up. The Occidental Hotel. the Occidental Hotel in Muskegon was a landmark. It was demolished in just one of a string of many attempts to revitalize the down town over the past 50 years.

Many folks still around, including my father, tried desperately to save it. Tried desperately to keep our ties to the past. But the efforts were no use. Muskegon had to reinvent itself to stay afloat. That old phrase we hear so often when confronted with a failure of industry of manufacturing of our own economy. We need to reinvent ourselves. Once again. Again and again and again.

We had to blow the old building up.

We had to get with the times. And the times, at the time, was some ill fated mall that would itself be demolished 25 years later in a new effort in a long running meme known post-industrial reinvention. The mall would eventually itself be bulldozed to the ground. Where the Occidental Hotel once stood. Where the Mall then stood. Then a sand pit. And then a cullinary arts college surrounded by sand pit.

They did the same to the court house and countless other buildings.

One building, however, did manage to miss the wrecking ball all these years.

The "Century Club"

It's been a lot of things over the years, since its construction in 1889: a social club...a social club...also a social club...then it was a furniture store and then it became what it is today: a small mall for local artisans and, if I may say so, a place to get some amazing baklava.

The West Michigan Jobs Group, our group, lead by our fearless Vice Prez held our second Cash Mob to bring people into the area and find out what's going on in the current incarnation of the Century Club. A cash mob is basically an organized group of folks who descend on a store or area of town to support local, independent biz.

Around 60 folks came to this one:

It's hard to really appreciate the need for cash mobs to introduce people to under-represented regions of the city if one doesn't realize that most of the downtown had been bulldozed in one in an endless stream of frustration with our past going on a century and more.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Great perspective!! Thanks for writing this.