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Flint, Michigan

The city of Flint, Michigan, is located along the Flint River, 66 miles (106km) northwest of Detroit. It is the principal city within a region known as Mid Michigan and the 7th largest city in the state, with a population of around 100,000 (around 425,000 in the metropolitan area). Attractions in the city include Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad, the Flint Institute of Arts (an art museum), the James H. Whiting Auditorium and the Sloan Museum.

Flint was founded in 1819 when a settlement was established by fur trader Jacob Smith. During the 19th century, the area became a centre of lumbering on the historic Saginaw Trail. The city of Flint was incorporated in 1855. Towards the end of the century and through to the mid-20th century, Flint was a primary manufacturing hub for carriages and later cars; the “Vehicle City”, as it came to be informally known, owes much of its history to the automotive industry, and the city is the location where General Motors (GM) originated (founded here in 1908). From the post-World War II years, up until the early 1980’s recession, the city became a busy manufacturing site for GM’s Buick and Chevrolet divisions. During the years 1936-37, it was the home of the Flint Sit-Down Strike, which was to become one of the key events which led to the formation of the United Automobile Workers labour union. In 1953, a deadly tornado ripped through the area, killing more than 110 people.

Above: Genesee County Courthouse

The city has undergone an economic decline in recent decades, epitomising America’s “Rust Belt”; GM significantly downsized its workforce in the area from a 1978 high of 80,000 to less than 8,000 by the year 2010. From 1960 to 2010, the city’s population dropped by 48% to 102,434 (from 196,940), it has come under a state of financial emergency on a number of recent occasions and crime rates have soared; Flint has been ranked amongst the most dangerous cities in America. The profile of Flint’s decline has been raised somewhat, thanks to the writing and filmmaking by Michael Moore, himself (and in his words) a “Flintstone”. Photographs from a visit to the city (with an emphasis on looking at some of the abandoned properties in and nearby) are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

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