The Flint arches were erected in 1899 to replace gas lanterns used to illuminate the business district at night. Built by Genesee Iron Works, five arches were placed at intersections along Saginaw Street. Each arch was built with 50 light bulbs to illuminate the City's main street at night. Half were turned off at midnight. The arches supported decorations for every parade of importance held in the city and colorful lights replaced golden incandescence at holiday times. None of the original arches had the famous Flint Vehicle City crown at its apex.
When Flint celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1905 two additional arches were erected with the famous Flint Vehicle City graphic at the crown. These arches were placed at the south end of the city at the intersection of Fifth and Saginaw Streets and at the north end of the business district at the confluence of Saginaw and Detroit Streets (now M.L. King Boulevard).
Though many believe the arches celebrated Flint's heritage as a center for automobile manufacturing, the original arches were a salute to Flint as the world's largest volume manufacturer of horse drawn carriages.
In 1919 the City Council ordered the arches taken down and replaced by boulevard lighting. Originally it was planned to use the arches at the main road entry points into the city, but this never occurred. Though no one knows for sure, but it is believed they were used as scrap for the war effort.