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CRAPO BUILDING

CRAPO BUILDING: Iconic Bay City Building Emerges From the Past

August 11, 2017       2 Comments
By: Dave Rogers

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Bay City's Crapo Building, now undergoing a rebirth of its elaborate exterior, has ties to a Michigan governor and the founder of General Motors.

The project is the brainchild of Jenifer Acosta, of Jenifer Acosta Development Co., Midland, who also was involved in the Times Lofts and the City Market, along with her father, Rod Hildebrant.

It is a personification of Bay City's importance to the history of the state. Often unrecognized is the fact that Bay City was one of the most populous cities in Michigan, third at one time, and had undergone meteoric growth during the lumbering days.

Although former Governor Henry H. Crapo had died in Flint in 1869, his son, William W. Crapo (1830-1926), was the "mover and shaker" in the Crapo Building Company, according to Bay City architectural and maritime historian Alan Flood.

The five story Crapo Block, when it was built in 1890-1891, was declared by the Bay City Tribune as "the most expensive building in Bay City."

It dominated the main intersection of Center and Washington, it's "imposing edifices" 100 feet by 100 feet looming over a bustling city with street cars, electric lights, telephones and thriving industries.

The building was home to the Bay City Business Association, the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad, Wendland & Christopher dry goods, Thomas and J.C. Weadock attorneys and the building's designers Pratt & Koeppe architects.

William Crapo, born in Massachusetts, was a 1852 graduate of Yale Law School. He came to Michigan to administer his father's estate and became a director of the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad, moving up to president of the line in 1882.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, William Crapo Durant was the grandson of Michigan Governor Henry H. Crapo. William dropped out of high school to work in his grandfather's lumberyard, but by 1885 he had partnered with Josiah Dort to create the Coldwater Road Cart Company.

He started out as a cigar salesman in Flint, Michigan, and eventually moved to selling carriages. He founded the Flint Road Cart Company in 1886, eventually transforming $2,000 in start-up capital into a $2 million business with sales around the world.

By 1890 the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, based in Flint, Michigan, had become a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles, which ultimately became number one in the world.Yates, Brock. "Best Moguls", in Car and Driver.

Originally, Durant was highly skeptical of cars, thinking that they were stinky, loud, and dangerous, to a point where he would not let his daughter ride in one. By 1900, there was a significant public outcry for government regulation of gas-powered horseless carriages. Durant heard this outcry, and rather than relying on government regulations to improve their safety, saw an opportunity to build a successful company by improving the safety of these new machines. In order to accomplish this, he sought out the purchase of Buick, a local car company with few sales and large debts.

Durant also conceived the modern system of automobile dealer franchises. When approached to become general manager of Buick in 1904, he made a similar success and was soon president of this horseless-vehicle company. In 1908 he arranged the incorporation by proxies of General Motors and quickly thereafter sold stock, and with the proceeds acquired Oldsmobile. The acquisitions of Oakland, Cadillac, and parts companies followed in short order.

In 1904 Durant began realizing his vision of building the car industry. Starting from virtually nothing, he used his sales skills to enter Buick (which had only built 37 cars to date) into a New York auto show, returning with orders for 1,108 cars. Durant and Samuel McLaughlin of Canada signed a 15-year contract to build Buick powertrains at cost plus; they were called McLaughlin Buicks until 1942. Durant went back to Detroit to start General Motors (GM) Holding Company at the suggestion of his partner McLaughlin, CEO of General Motors of Canada (founded November 20, 1907).

Originally, Durant was highly skeptical of cars, thinking that they were stinky, loud, and dangerous, to a point where he would not let his daughter ride in one. By 1900, there was a significant public outcry for government regulation of gas-powered horseless carriages. Durant heard this outcry, and rather than relying on government regulations to improve their safety, saw an opportunity to build a successful company by improving the safety of these new machines. In order to accomplish this, he sought out the purchase of Buick, a local car company with few sales and large debts.

Durant founded General Motors Holding Company on September 16, 1908, with $500,000 in Buick stock that Durant traded McLaughlin for $500,000 of McLaughlin stock, making McLaughlin one of General Motors' biggest shareholders.Originally, Durant was highly skeptical of cars, thinking that they were stinky, loud, and dangerous, to a point where he would not let his daughter ride in one.

In 1918, under the impetus of auto racer Louis Chevrolet, General Motors acquired the former Michigan Pipe Company and National Bicycle Co. from the Smith family of Bay City. The plant made small parts for GM cars and still does today.



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November 20, 2017
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Good one dad happy 80th I love you...see you soon !
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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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