ABOUT CIVIC PARK
Completed in 1919, Civic Park was one of the last large-scale planned communities for industrial workers in the United States. After a decade of public discussion on housing problems in Flint, local leaders began this neighborhood exclusively for industrial workers in 1916. Funding problems and America’s entry into World War One delayed the project until 1919 when General Motors interceded to complete the neighborhood of nearly 1,000 houses. Like communities in other American cities and towns, housing workers was part of a comprehensive set of services corporations offered to attract and retain a skilled workforce that was loyal to the company in an era of increasing labor unrest. America’s corporations had been providing housing for workers in planned neighborhoods and towns for decades. But this was the first neighborhood to be built by General Motors.
Although reformers pressed the idea that home ownership would better the lives of all workers, employers’ priorities did not always coincide. Civic Park, like planned communities elsewhere in the country, housed only certain types of workers. The price of houses and payment terms meant that only skilled workers could afford them. In addition, the sale of each home was accompanied with a set of restrictions that ensured that only white workers would be able to purchase them.
General Motors remained a strong force in Civic Park for the next decade – mostly through the Modern Housing Corporation. This subsidiary of General Motors continued to oversee the construction of other neighborhoods in Flint for its employees such as Mott Park to the south and even in other cities. Located at the northwest corner of Chevrolet Ave. and Flushing Road, Modern Housing Corporation’s local manager, Norbert Dougherty, collected mortgage payments from residents who purchased their homes directly from the corporation.
Haskell House (today called Haskell Community Center) opened in 1923 and was operated by the Flint Recreation and Park Board. It offered numerous youth programs such as basketball, swimming, and bowling and many new programs as well. Senior Citizen daytime activities, gym and exercise classes for women, roller skating for children, craft and hobby clubs, family nights, and game room activities made Haskell House a vital resource for year-round activities for youth and adults of all ages. Today Haskell Community Center is operated By the Police Activities league
Sitting at the center of the historic district, Civic Park School occupied a central place in the life of the neighborhood. The school was built in 1921, but a population explosion in North Flint prompted a massive building program by the Board of Education which included new schools and a new addition for Civic Park Elementary in 1959. The school was also a good indicator of a neighborhood beginning to diversify. Even though census records indicated that only a few of African-American families had relocated to Civic Park by the end of the decade, school records show that the percentage of African-American students rose from zero in 1959 to nine percent by 1969.
Civic Park’s Historic District designation originated in 1977 as one of the many activities of the Civic Park Community League. “The League” was Civic Park’s first neighborhood organization that held meetings for almost twenty years when the neighborhood was finished in 1919. The new neighborhood organization adopted this name when they formed in 1975. “The League” organized
a fifty-year anniversary in 1977. Out of this celebration, came the desire by members to explore establishing Civic Park as a Historic District. Through their monthly newsletter, the Civic Park Sentinel, “The League” spent years informing residents of district designation and generating support. In 1978, The C.S. Mott Foundation sponsored a feasibility study to determine if district
designation was possible for the neighborhood. With the help of the CS Mott Foundation, residents submitted the nomination form. The Neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.