Saturday, July 04, 2009

White Cloud, Michigan

I recently took a trip up to White Cloud, a small town about 45 minutes north of Grand Rapids along M-37. I grew up in White Cloud, from birth to 18 yrs, in a comfortable house situated on the White River. While it has always been a small, poor town, White Cloud has come under hard times in recent years. The area still offers beautiful natural resources, but In the 10 years since I have left, the town's civic offerings have begun to decline. Only a few businesses have come into town (mainly corporate owned stores including Subway, Family Dollar, and Dollar General) while numerous other locally owned businesses have shut down. Car's (Top's/Eaton House) Restaurant, Caper's Restaurant, Auto Care, Rite Aid, Van's Videos, a tanning parlor, Northway Lanes Bowling Alley and the Chill and Grill ice cream parlor are some of the 11+ businesses that existed only 10 yrs ago but are now gone, leaving a small town full of abandoned buildings. Even the welcome sign sits in disrepair, a sign of "things to come" as visitors continue north.

Wilcox Ave, the main street of White Cloud is becoming more desolate. In this strip alone, 4 of 6 spaces sit empty. Across the street, another building is for rent. Down the street the ice cream shop sits empty as well. 10 years ago the businesses may not have been thriving, but they existed.

NARCO, a local factory/employer..

A runaway notice, posted on the abandoned Rite Aid...

The trailer park near downtown. Back in the day, the White Cloud Sanitarium (a hospital, not an asylum) sat on this site. A photo of that building can be seen here. I wish more of White Cloud's historic buildings remained but unfortunately the Sanitarium burnt down in the early 1900's leaving space for the trailer park.

On Memorial Day, the small parade would end at the graveyard on the hill. The stone here belongs to the Lovell's, who were neighbors of my family. In White Cloud, at least on my street, neighbors knew each other very well. I have lived in my current apartment in Grand Rapids for over a year now and have never officially met the couple who live in the apartment above me.

Interesting roof on the elementary school gym...

Back when there wasn't much to do in White Cloud, there was at least a bowling alley. Now residents don't even have that... But maybe they don't need it, and that could be the problem. Retail stores and amusements in Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Fremont and even Newaygo (a small town south of White Cloud) eliminate the need to have similar resources in White Cloud, and so the buildings remain empty.

Caper's longer serving customers traveling north on M-37:

I thought the “closed” sign above “business district” sign was kind of ironic, since at least 11 businesses have closed and remained vacant over the past 10 yrs.

One of the oldest buildings in White Cloud, the co-op is still in business. I can still remember the smell of dried corn and fertilizer in this place when my dad would go to pick up seeds, or other yard and garden products.

The empty buildings in White Cloud aren't all businesses. There are plenty of empty (at least seemingly empty) homes as well. This one sits close to downtown, across from the co-op.

The White River forms "Lake White Cloud" (known to locals as The Mill Pond) above the dam.

For me the baseball field brings back memories of boredom and anxiety (I wasn't the typical 10 yr old boy :-) and the smell of dust, leather, and spit on dirty hands. It was the anticipation of eating ice cream at I Scream!! after the game that pulled me through.

Interesting textures on a back yard shed:

The White River as seen from behind my parent's house:

This drive-in sat vacant for many, many years, but is now a private residence.