If I can call any city my hometown, it would be Jackson Michigan. I was born in Carson City Michigan but my parents, Elizabeth, then a nursing student, and Ronald met in a drug store in Jackson. He was working as a 'soda jerk' working his way through Michigan State.
From shortly after I was born until I was about 15, I lived in Jackson full time. Although I went away to an Episcopalian boy’s boarding school for high school, (DeVeaux School in Niagara Falls NY), I came home for many holidays and every summer. When I went to Michigan State I spent holidays and summers at home, actually commuting to MSU from Jackson in my sophomore year.
According to what my mother told, me plus my personal memories, we lived in at least 10 different places in the Jackson area over the years.
Some years ago, I began collecting postcards and other memorabilia. Jackson Michigan was one of the ‘topics’ where I focused my collecting activities… This is the first of 2 posts about Jackson and my collectibles.
This is a birds eye view of downtown Jackson Michigan…looking east along Michigan Avenue. This photo was probably taken in the early 1940s or late 1930s as the postcard is postmarked November 9, 1944. I would have been just a little more than 2 years old at the time.
The following is printed on the back of postcard. “Michigan Avenue is one of the nation’s widest and best paved thoroughfares, no telephone or telegraph poles, its lighting system the latest devised by science, its beauty impresses the millions who annually visit Jackson for either business or pleasure.”
Being young, I never noticed the lack of power poles but as a teenager, I did appreciate the width of Michigan Avenue. Back in the day, we ‘dragged the Ave’ from one end to the other for fun and to try to pick up girls…
If you follow my blog site, you know that I am fairly well focused on food! This postcard, showing Jackson’s Regent Café is postmarked sometime in January 1962. At that point, the Regent Café had been open for 36 years. Only 4 years later, in 1966, the city bought the restaurant and tore it down as part of an urban renewal project. In my mind at least, 'urban renewal' was one of the major causes of Jackson’s long decline.
My mom and step-dad along with my brother and me always looked forward to Sunday dinner at the Regent Café. The menu included more than 100 items…from lobster and filet mignon to hamburgers and cold cuts. In addition, it was common to have 75 items listed as daily specials.
The Regent Café seated 170 patrons at time and employed 90 people. It had white tablecloths with matching napkins. The staff served between 1,200 and 2,000 customers per day. It was once listed as one of the top 53 restaurants in the USA. Heck, it was recommended by no less than Duncan Hines!
This postcard postmarked September 23, 1921 pictures an important historical site in Jackson. The Republican Party was organized ‘under the oaks’ at Second and Franklin Streets on July 6, 1854.
A state convention of anti-slavery men was held in Jackson to found a new political party. Uncle Tom’s Cabin had been published 2 years earlier, stirring up anti-slave sentiment. In addition, the Kansas-Nebraska Act had just been passed…and it threatened to make slave states out of what had been free territories. It was a hot day and the crowd was too large to meet inside, so the group adjourned to an oak grove, on what was then the outskirts of Jackson. A state-wide slate of candidates was selected and the Republican Party was born…with overwhelming victory in 1954’s elections.
I remember the Reynolds Building as one of the city’s landmarks. Located at 180 West Michigan Avenue, this 198 foot tall 15 story building was completed in 1926. It was the tallest building in town for only 3 years, surpassed by the Jackson County Tower Building (230 feet) in 1929. The card is postmarked August 5, 1927.
Originally this was the headquarters for W.R. Reynolds and Company, a real estate and insurance company. The entrance was through bronze doors, travertine marble quarried at Tivoli outside of Rome Italy cover the side walls and floor. Originally, black and gold marble from Belgium covered the outside first and second stories…a rare touch as only a few buildings in New York City had incorporated this material in their design. You can see the dark marble on the front first level and part of the sides of the building in the postcard image.
The building has had several owners over the years. In 2003 it was sold to Blake Building, LLC. It has been upgraded and is now a mixed office – residential structure. Five apartments have been completed and 4 more are planned. The building is still quite striking…inside and out. To see a few photos, including the old bronze elevator doors that are still in use, just go to .
The Cascades, a centerpiece of Jackson's Sparks Park, was completed in 1932. The falls opened to a crowd of 25,000 people on May 9, which was the birthday of the man behind this creation...
William Sparks’ story is longer than I can cover here, but suffice to say he was the “Sparks” in the Sparks-Withington Company. The company made buggy parts and initially only had a dozen employees. Soon however, the company got involved in making parts for the burgeoning automotive industry. By 1929, Sparks-Withington employed over 7,000 people!
The Cascades were the result of Sparks’ dream to do something for the people of Jackson and to build an attraction that gave visitors a positive impression of the city. The Cascades Falls are 500 feet long with a vertical height of 64 feet. They are 60 feet wide. Today there are 6 fountains, 16 falls (11 illuminated), 1,230 colored electric light and a pump that produces 2,000 gallons per minute in a closed loop system. There are 126 steps on each side of the falls. The 3 main pools of water are 30 feet by 90 feet.
By the time I was 9 or 10, those bushes in this 1944 postcard that range along the side of the falls were much larger. A big thrill was sledding down the hill on the slope between the bushes and the Cascades. Going over the hills was ‘blind’ and you had to avoid the concrete service entrances as well as the bushes. It was a lot of fun!
Throughout my youth, the Cascades was a popular free happening for the whole family. Today, it’s fenced in, a modest admission is charged to maintain this attraction and there is seating for about 3,000 visitors.
Yes, Jackson Michigan has an airport. The Reynolds Field/Jackson County Municipal Airport opened in 1928. This 950-acre airport is equipped with an ILS system and its currently home to more than 100 general aviation aircraft ranging from single engine planes to business/corporate jets.
This postcard is postmarked sometime in 1929. Note all the cars there to meet that small aircraft. Love the train rolling by on the nearby tracks… For many years, ending in 1984, Jackson County-Reynolds Field Airport, was served by commercial airlines, primarily North Central/Republic Airlines with its twin prop Convair air fleet. (During certain periods American and Simmons Airlines served Jackson's airport) I flew from Jackson to Detroit and on to Buffalo New York (near my school in Niagara Falls) in the late 1950s.
A number of years ago, I picked up this collectible Reynolds Field Municipal Airport envelope complete with an early air mail stamp. This was to commemorate Reynolds’ Field dedication upon the airports opening on June 2 and 3, 1928. Think about it...Air Mail Stamps…something that young people have never heard of!
Here’s another collector’s item I acquired. This is a $2.00 banknote printed by the Merchants Bank of Jackson County Michigan. Note that the bill is signed by both the ‘cashier’ and the bank president. The art work on bank notes can be quite spectacular. This one is dated July 20, 1840.
A banknote is a type of negotiable promissory note, made by a bank, that was payable to the bearer on demand. They were originally issued by commercial banks. They were legally required to redeem the notes for legal tender…usually gold or silver…when presented to the chief cashier of the originating bank.
To view some other old banknotes from the 1840s, you can just go to Some of the designs were really amazingly elaborate..
Just for fun (or curiosity), I included this fairly unusual postcard in this post. It reads “You can meet us face to face at Jackson Mich.” It’s early 1900s humor… It was addressed to a Miss Hancock at 302 East Ganson Street in Jackson. There is no other message…but the postcard is actually made from leather. Postmarked September 28, 1906, its one of my earlier postcards.
That’s it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave