Fulton Street

This week I spent part of a morning on Fulton Street SE, near the Fulton Street Market. This part of Fulton is nestled between Heritage Hill (west), East Hills (south), The Old East End (north), and Eastown and Fulton Heights (east). Midtown. There is some lovely old architecture, some of it dating to the post-war era, some to the early twentieth century. Here’s a few of my favorite images.

I love the name of the building in the first image–Heirloom Building–and that it’s currently occupied by Meeting House Tatoo. I could not find anything about the name (not that I look very hard). I love the color. Classic late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Midwestern architecture put to good contemporary use.

The next four images have a similar old-timey feel, dating a bit later, to the interwar years. (Note the building date of 1929 in the first of the images below.)

A couple of things strike me about the second, third, and fourth images: (1) Ethnic foods, reflecting recent immigration to West Michigan, and changing tastes in food for people of many ethnic groups. The newer immigrants often are living and starting businesses in neighborhoods that drew older immigrant groups in the past. (2) A pattern of renovations from the post-war decades that involved covering over doorways and windows with wood and/or newer (non-matching) brick.

The mid-morning light was bright (and hot), producing heavy shadows. Sometimes I fought shadows, as they obscured what I wanted to show. But they also helped make for some nice reflection images. The photos in the window in the second image are for a shop that prints and frames photos.

The businesses on this street serve the neighborhoods around it in old ways and new ones, as the next three images of older-looking automotive repair shops reveal. One still repairs cars. The other, in the third image, has been turned into a coffee place.

The last image is my favorite. The Van Der Meer family (now Vander Meer) that runs Van’s Pastry Shoppe has been doing so for four generations, first in Grand Haven in the 1920s (Ideal Bakery), and then in a couple of places in Grand Rapids, settling into its current home in 1942. It’s the oldest bakery in Grand Rapids. The contrast to Madcap Coffee is notable. Van’s is old school coffee and pastries, and Madcap is new school, craft coffee, roasting and selling coffee wholesale and retail. Both do what they do well.

I stopped and chatted with the three guys sitting outside at Van’s enjoying morning coffee, donuts, and conversation. They wanted to know about my camera, what I was up to, and whether they’d get any royalties for the photo.

I know there are all sorts of ways the villages and small towns are different from larger cities like Grand Rapids, or metropolitan centers like Detroit or Chicago. But similar kinds of historic architecture and the importance of coffee and donuts is a reminder that small towns and villages are not so different from urban neighborhoods.

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