Then & Now: Bay City Celebrates 150 Years
In June of 2014, I arrived in Bay City, Michigan. I knew immediately this town had character. Traveling and moving across country from my hometown, Redmond, Washington, was a big decision but I was ready for an adventure as the next photographer intern for The Bay City Times. Bay City is full of character and history. It was an immediate sensation walking downtown and noticing iconic buildings that still stand today. I decided to create an experiment and feel like I was time traveling. It's easy to appreciate the successive decades of maintained buildings that once dominated the landscape of Bay City. I contacted Ron Bloomfield, director of the Bay City Historical Museum, to help guide me through Bay City history. The idea was to find monumental photos of Bay City and duplicate the photo to the best of my ability. This adventure was a handy way to time travel and become acquainted with the area.
Entire city blocks have been replaced multiple times over a century, including the Third Street Bridge. The wooden swing-span toll bridge gave passage from the west side directly to the waterfront district of the East side. Here is a view of the bridge from Third Street during a snowstorm. The bridge was the first bridge across the Saginaw River.
Third Street Bridge
June 18, 1976 the east portion of the bridge collapsed and fell into the depths of the Saginaw River. Today, Third Street Waterfall Park utilizes the East Side shore. A vast majority of the buildings, such as St. Laurent Brothers candy shop, still stands there today. I introduced myself to Keith Whitney, co-owner of St. Laurent Brothers, who let me take the photo from his business' second floor. Three weeks later, Whitney died of a heart attack. I was able to capture that moment because of him.
Here is a street view near the Wenonah Hotel in the early 1900s, better known as the Watson Block. After the Watson Block experienced a fire, plans to tear down several buildings were in place to convert the area into Wenonah Park in 1911. Today, Wenonah Park features green space, a riverwalk and a bandshell for concerts in the summer.
This is a view of Bay City's post-lumber era. Wenonah Park was still being constructed in 1911. In this vintage photograph, you can also see the Third Street Bridge still intact.
This photo shows the then-busy Wenonah Hotel at the corner of N. Water Street and Center Avenue. Here in this illustration, city grocers and butchers attend an annual meeting at the hotel in 1924. Today, the Delta College Planetarium stands at the hotel's corner.
Wenonah Hotel Fire
The Wenonah Hotel was repurposed as an apartment complex known as Wenonah Park Place at the corner of Water Street and Center Avenue. In the early morning of Dec. 10, 1977, the building burned to the ground. The official cause of the fire was due to a malfunctioning light fixture. The building was marked structurally unsafe and never rebuilt. Today, the Delta College Planetarium stands at the hotel's corner.
In 1910, the Crapo Building at the corner of Center and Washington avenues was an architectural marvel. Today, it's elegant facade is hidden by a metal cover, which critics have described as a "cheese grater.” Chemical Bank moved out of the building in 2014 for a new corporate office at the Uptown Bay City development.
Some buildings in the heart of downtown Bay City have been carefully preserved. The Kresge Building, at the corner of Center and Washington avenues, is one that hasn't changed drastically over the years. This illustration morphs the building, which is now owned by Outdoor Adventures, with a photo from 1949, when shoppers flocked to downtown Bay City for everything Kresge's had to offer.
Washington Avenue was a little busier in Bay City's heyday, with the likes of Sears helping anchor downtown Bay City.
Westover Opera House
The Westover Opera House on Center Avenue, near the Phoenix Building, could seat 1,200 people.
East view of Center Avenue
Only a few buildings, including the historical Shearer Building, which is now a luxury condo complex, have stood the test of time from this angle of Center Avenue.
Events like the Hell's Half Mile Film and Music Festival brought me to the Masonic Temple throughout my yearlong internship. This photo, from May 19, 1903, shows the iconic building before a traumatizing fire, which destroyed its copper domes. The building was constructed in 1891.
A western view of the Pere Marquette Depot on Adams Street. The Pere Marquette Railroad Company operated here in 1904 and was one of the largest railroad companies at the time. Today, the depot is home to the Bay Area Community Foundation.
A northern view of Bay City Hall on Washington Avenue. Notice the missing clock in the historical part of this photo.
Water Street Fire
Residential homes of Bay City's South End experienced a painful chapter July 25, 1892. Bay City's largest fire burned down 30 to 40 homes leaving 1300 people homeless. Sparks from a tugboat on the river ignited piles of lumber at the Miller & Turner's Sawmill. The fire engulfed an area east of the river to Jennison Street, between 28th and 34th streets.
East view of Saginaw River
This view of the Saginaw River shows a more industrial Bay City.
Here is Midland Street on a warm, sunny July day in 1910 on Bay City's West Side, complete with trolley railcars.
Here is another view of Midland Street in 1900. This is the first photo I took for these illustrations and it was my best inspiration.