Thursday, October 31, 2013

Saving my old home town, one building at a time

My old home town of Benton Harbor, Michigan has been doing hard times and a bad economy long before it became fashionable eveywhere else. It's been a rough four or five decades. However, in recent years, there's been a grass-roots resurgence with artsy types taking over some of the old buildings and re-opening them as viable, small businesses. Boutique shops, coffee houses, that kind of thing. It's not a return to the town's glory days as a manufacturing hub for companies like Whirlpool and Clark Equipment, but that ship has sailed off anyway. What it is is a sign of life, which is something the city lacked when I lived there over 30 years ago.
Recently, a woman named Sherry Miller got in touch with me (presumably via this blog, or at least because of it) and told me about a campaign that she and her husband Tom have launched for the purpose of refurbishing the old Farmers & Merchants Bank building at 92 West Main Street and turning it into an arts center with a performance space.
As you can see, it's a good, old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness bank building with lots of columns and marble, the kind of place where men in three-piece suits and hard shoes were very serious about the money business. In other words, classic. Sherry asked me as a former resident with a platform to speak out if I would help spread the word about their efforts. I still have a soft spot for the place and I'd love to see anybody who wants to make things better there succeed so I said sure. Plus, all through high school, I had a crush on this girl whose sister worked there. The girl turned out to totally not be worth the effort (owes me $150, as a matter of fact) but her sister was really attractive, so you know, not a complete waste of time there.
The Millers are coming close to their deadline so here is all their info. I realize the appeal might be limited to residents and former residents or those who really have a keen interest in seeing old buildings restored, but what the heck. Check it out and if you're so inclined, pass along a couple of bucks to help them out, okay?
Here's their fundraising page:

And here's a Facebook page with photos and more info:

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