In the beginning it was known as "Lower Saginaw." Not a name that stirs the blood, so it was renamed in 1850s.

About 34,000 souls.Town motto: "A Beautiful View . . . Of Life"

Let's begin our two-week tour. I'd like to think Virgil A. LaPorte had a shorter brother who bullied him as a kid:

From a story about its flagpole:

The rooftop of downtown Bay City's Virgil A. LaPorte Building still bears a lonely, unadorned flagpole, roughly 10 months after the last American flag to fly atop the structure came down, tattered and torn, in late December.

But Tom LaPorte, owner of the building, hopes it won't stay that way for too much longer.

The building stayed in the family. Nice.

Two old souls. Haven't spoken to each other since '56.

Something happened on the far right; something fell or burned.

It's as if they rehabbed it ten years after they built it.

The architect may have come back from London and had some ideas.

Based on the hue and the materials, I'd say . . . Woolworth's? Googling . . . no sir. A Kresge's.

There's an English rationality and calmness I like. Too much would be boring, but one or two brings a confident sobriety to the street.


More metal / porcelain renovation at complete odds with the rest of the building, but . . .

You really don't care because the renovation is interesting.

You always wonder if the old city fathers would see this and think "who the hell's in charge of keeping trees from growing downtown? The very idea's ridiculous."

What I said about too much rationality leading to monotony:

It's impressive, though. I suspect it was a speculative building. Wonder if the investors made their money back while they were all alive.

No mistaking the crisp, authoritative appeal of American Fascist Architecture:

Of course, it's not fascist at all. But if we had gone Fascist in the 30s, would the archtecture have looked any different?

Buckaroo Revival with bricked-up windows. It was a lovely building once - the windows must have given it a certain lightness.

Makes you ask: was there a horrible national glass shortage? No: an energy crisis. Windows leaked heat, and we were running out of oil!

Seal everything up! Now!

Opened as the Bijou in 1908, but of course it didn't looke like this.

Cinema Treasures:

In 1930, architect C. Howard Crane was hired to gut and rebuild the interior of the theatre which he did in an Art Deco/Mayan aesthetic.

Boy, did he ever. But believe it or not: that's not the original marquee.


Or is it?

More next page: there's a lot in this town.