#ARTIFACTUAL
Downtown First

July 18, 2017

Written by Miles Ramsay | Photos by Alysa Ramsay

CHARACTER TRAIT: ARTifactual

DEFINITION: Something made by human hands that has some archaeological or historical significance

Like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes, St. Joseph’s historic downtown is on the rise. Downtown First (formerly known as First Saturdays) is a celebration of the district’s reemergence, complete with themes and samples from the area’s businesses.

On a warm Saturday afternoon, a stout, shaggy haired figure sits along the sidewalk at the corner of Eighth and Felix in downtown St. Joseph, carefully sketching an intricate design on a clean, white sheet of paper.

It’s another First Saturday in the downtown district. An open invitation to celebrate the passion and precision that downtown’s unique small businesses offer – colorful macarons from Brioche French Bakery and Café, diligently selected cheese from Felix Street Gourmet, craft brews from The Tiger’s Den Bookstore and Bar, handmade scarves from Mod Podge Boutique, home décor from Nesting Goods, or vintage clothing and jewelry from The Lucky Tiger.

Downtown has become a blank canvas of landmark buildings and historic streets for young artists and entrepreneurs to create with, build upon, and breathe new life into.

Former president of Downtown First, Brian Myers, says the monthly event is a chance to rediscover downtown and find a hidden gem.

“I hear it all the time now, ‘Wow! I didn’t know all this was down here.’ If you can get them downtown on a First Saturday, they will come back…Our main goal is to intertwine art and live music with commerce.”

Café Pony Espresso Barista, Arlo Elliott echoes those sentiments and facetiously refers to his profession as…

“…the artistry of coffee mixed with crass capitalism.”

Downtown First events incorporate fun themes and events like wine walks, sidewalk sales, cultural heritage festivals, Holidays at the Square, and whatever else the Downtown First board conjures up. Watch out in March for a leprechaun that’ll throw Lucky Charms cereal at you. On the surface, it appears to be all fun and merriment, but go a level deeper and you’ll uncover a sense of community, togetherness, and new possibilities that seem to waft through the air and intoxicate patrons.

For those that have grown up in this community and have only thought of downtown as a deteriorating ghost town with fading memories of yesteryear, events like First Saturdays are kind of surreal. To see these buildings filled with fresh perspectives and ideas, not to mention ACTUAL people is like watching the proverbial phoenix rise from the ashes.

Let the renaissance of downtown and Downtown First continue forevermore! Huzzah!

#GROUNDBREAKING

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, this architectural feat, designed by esteemed local architects Eckel and Mann, is getting a second life thanks to a $20 million shot in the arm from Mosaic Life Care.

#INTEGRITY

For decades, families across America invited Walter Cronkite into their living rooms every evening, trusting he would bring national and world events into focus. With his deep voice and warm demeanor, Walter Cronkite delivered the news of the day — good and bad — with unfaltering dignity and integrity.

#GUMPTIOUS

One of St. Joseph public schools earliest and most successful students, Huston Wyeth, built in 1918-1922 what was considered a very large country estate located northeast of central downtown. It was called Wyethwood.

#DIVERSE

Magoon’s serves up Reuben’s and hot chili, then transitions to live local music, five nights a week. (Are you into food, or music, or both? Read on.)

#ORIGINAL

Amidst the chaos of a packed gymnasium… squeak, squeak. Bounce. Bounce. These are the only sounds that matter. Sneakers and a basketball against a polished gym floor.