by Scott Slagor
Have you ever been driving along I-75 and thought, “I keep seeing signs for Midland, I wonder what that place is all about?.” Hopefully, you have marked your calendar for this year’s MHPN conference: Always Seeking Modern; May 13-16 in Midland. I made a trip to Midland myself a few weeks ago to investigate what architectural gems conference-goers may find.
The first thing I noticed driving into the city was its vibrant downtown; with busy and crowded streets early on a Saturday morning. I immediately pulled over to get a better look at the 1924 Arts and Crafts style Midland County Courthouse. The courthouse has beautiful tall windows, stone cladding, and murals that depict the county’s picturesque forests, and cultural heritage of Native Americans and early Euroamerican settlers.
West on Main Street, along the Tittabawassee River, is a fabulous residential district that contains some of Midland’s earliest residences. Many of these date from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth century, with occasional mid-twentieth century surprises. This neighborhood is the focal point of one of the conference tours.
Midland is known for its mid-century Modern architecture. The well-known mid-century architect and native Midland son, Alden B. Dow, designed numerous residences and buildings throughout the city with innovative and pioneering designs, as did some of his contemporaries. The post WWII wealth in the community prompted a boom for high style modern buildings throughout the city. Several of these residences are included in conference tours.
Another set of striking resources across the city are fabulous mid-century Modern churches. Each one was completely unique, and frankly unlike any Modern church I had seen before. The First United Methodist Church, across from the courthouse, does not resemble a church at all from the exterior, rather a public building with its low roof and overall horizontal emphasis. I slammed on my brakes driving by the 1967 Blessed Sacrament Church. I found myself awestruck by the graceful rise of the circular roof to a very Modern steeple. Both churches are featured on a conference tour.
Driving around Midland is a visually appealing experience. The city has a wealth of popular and high style architecture spread along its tree-lined streets. I highly encourage exiting the freeway and checking it out. If you seek the most informative visit, be sure to attend MHPN’s annual conference: Always Seeking Modern. Remember, conference prices haven’t been increased since 2008, plus there is special student/senior and many of the individual tours and sessions have al a carte pricing so there is really no good reason not to attend!
*all photos are courtesy of Scott Slagor