Local History Photos

Robert MacKenzie House, 1916/1927


Robert MacKenzie House, 1916/1927

1422 West Liberty Street

Robert MacKenzie House (Anna Botsford Bach Home), 1916/1927

Dr. Robert MacKenzie, a prominent physician and head of the University of Michigan's Obstetrics Department built this neo-classical Italian villa in 1916. Unlike most of his colleagues, MacKenzie and his wife preferred to be in the "country" and have more acreage. Thus they built their new home on the far west side of town where many of Dr. MacKenzie's patients lived. Dr. MacKenzie was fluent in German, which made him popular among the many Germans living on the West Side.

When construction began in 1916, the architect suggested a third floor with a ballroom, but Mrs. MacKenzie vehemently objected to such ostentation. Even without a ballroom it was a grand house, with spacious rooms, verandas, a central hall big enough to play football, and two large fieldstone fireplaces. Ten years later Dr. MacKenzie's health began to fail and in 1926 he and his wife moved to their summer house in Frankfort, Michigan. He died there in 1930.

The spacious house soon proved it could handle a larger family. MacKenzie had been instrumental in expanding St. Joseph Mercy Hospital from its beginnings in a house on North State Street. That house later became the first Old Ladies Home. After the addition of a third floor, the Old Ladies Home moved into the MacKenzie house in 1927 and has been here ever since. The name soon changed to the Anna Botsford Bach Home, in honor of the energetic woman who had worked tirelessly to create a home for elderly women.

Today, more than 75 years later, the goal of the Anna Botsford Bach Home remains the same: to provide a homelike atmosphere for its sixteen elderly residents. The women are friends and companions, and there is a sense of affection and respect for the special care provided there. Through careful maintenance by the Board of Trustees, this structure and its beautifully landscaped site provide grade and charm to Liberty Street, one of the city's main thoroughfares. In 1990 much of the original interior woodwork in the dining room was restored by Jim Stacey. The Ann Arbor Historic District Commission presented the Home with a Preservation Award in 1989.

Keywords: Retirement homes, Italian villa, houses


Places: 1422 West Liberty Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


Solomon and Jacob Armstrong Houses, 1843 & 1851


Solomon and Jacob Armstrong Houses, 1843 & 1851

1219 Traver Street

Solomon and Jacob Armstrong Houses, 1843 & 1851

Solomon Armstrong was born in 1821 in Ballston Spa, New York. He arrived in Ann Arbor in 1843 to work as a carpenter and millwright together with his father Jacob and his sons John and Frank A. Armstrong. Solomon's papers are now housed in the Bentley Library in Ann Arbor and include notebooks of his work on houses such as the Jonathan Lund house at 1324 Pontiac and the Kellogg Mill. Even his recipe for paint is included.

The house at 1219, probably built in 1851 when the Armstrongs purchased the two lots, represents the more common style of Greek Revival house with its simple rectangular massing and side gables with returns. The house at 1223 is an example of an unusual Greek Revival house from known as "hen and chicks." Said to be unique to southern Michigan, this house type has a tall central portion with a roof gable facing the street, flanked on either side by shorter wings giving the overall appearance of a mother hen sheltering her baby chicks. "Hen and chicks" houses were popular during the 1830s and 1840s, so this is probably the older of the two houses and may have been moved from Armstrong's original property down the road.

Armstrong sold 1219 in 1861 to Amos Corey, another carpenter. In the 1920s, 1219 passed into the hands of the Schlemmer family, who occupied it until the mid-1970s. The house at 1223 was occupied by the Hatch family for almost the identical period and then by Mrs. Adaline Barbiaux for several decades.

The houses have been featured in books on Ann Arbor's historic buildings, most recently in Ann Arbor Architecture, A Sesquicentennial Selection, published by the University of Michigan Museum of Art in 1974. Unaltered until recently, the two buildings form a unique grouping and present an idealized version of our rural and unhurried past.

Keywords: Greek Revival, houses


Places: 1219 Traver Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


United States Post Office-1909, 1926


United States Post Office-1909, 1926

220 North Main

United States Post Office - 1909, 1926
Creator: Ward, Fremont

The Polhemus Livery Stable occupied this site from 1874 until 1909, when it was demolished to provide space for a post office. Architect Fremont Ward directed construction work which followed plans drawn by the architecture staff of the Treasury Department. Built in the popular Beaux Arts style, the building was a handsome adaptation of a classic Italian Renaissance palace, with its symmetrical formality, rectilinear characters, absence of roof form and strong horizontal lines and elaborate decorative detailing. As the building began to take shape, photographs and reports were sent monthly to the regional headquarters in Chicago.

Initially the building formed a square with entrances on all four sides. Although the building was extended on the east side in 1926-27, and enlarged again in 1933, the additions were so carefully crafted to match the original design that today it is impossible to detect the changes. Everything was done to maintain the same external appearance: the smooth-cut gray limestone, the neo-classical revival features, including the sculpted garland architraves and the scroll work on the frieze about the windows, were all matched to the original. In addition, the interior retained many original finishes, such as marble wainscoting, terrazzo floors, ornate plaster moldings on the sixteen foot ceilings, and the wonderful wood trim.

The building served as Ann Arbor's main post office until 1959 when its replacement on West Stadium Boulevard was completed. In 1977 the downtown post office was moved to the new Federal Building on East Liberty. Washtenaw County then purchased the building and restored it for its administrative offices.

Keywords: office buildings, post offices, office buildings,commercial buildings, commercial buildings, Beaux Arts


Places: 220 North Main

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


Dr. Chase's Steam Printing House, 1864/1868


Dr. Chase's Steam Printing House, 1864/1868

301-305 North Main Street

Dr. Chase's Steam Printing House, 1864/1868

This commercial brick building in the popular Italianate style originally housed the printing plant of Dr. Alvin Wood Chase. It was built in two stages by W. H. Mallory during and after the Civil War. Dr. Chase published the local Republican newspaper, the Peninsular Courier and Family Visitant later shortened to the Ann Arbor Courier after which the building became known as the Courier Block.

Dr. Chase is much more famous for another publication, his book entitled Dr. Chase's Recipes, or Information for Everybody. Jan Longone, a nationally known culinary historian based in Ann Arbor, writes that "from a humble first edition of one thousand pamphlets there grew a major publishing industry which issued uncounted numbers of Dr. Chase's work, perhaps Michigan's single greatest contribution to American cookbook history." Although originally only sixteen pages, by 1865 the pamphlet was in its 26th edition. Its gilt-embossed, leather-bound edition of 384 pages was outsold in America only by the Bible. It listed medical remedies and cooking recipes as well as numerous other household hints. It even explained how to keep bees and detect counterfeit money. An indispensable tool for westward bound pioneers, it was translated into several languages. It soon made Dr. Chase a very wealthy man.

In 1869 Chase retired and sold his building and the rights to his publications to Rice A. Beal. This was a decision he later regretted when he saw how rich Beal became reprinting Dr. Chase's Recipes. Beal died in 1883 and his son Junius, later a Regent of the University of Michigan, continued to publish both the Courier and the Recipes until 1906.

In the 20th century the building was used for a succession of businesses including a rug factory, wholesale grocery, and Montgomery Ward warehouse. Eventually abandoned, it was purchased and renovated in 1968 by the planning firm of Johnson, Johnson and Roy. The firm had been founded in 1957 by brothers Carl and William Johnson, landscape architects. In the early 1960s they were hired to create a master plan for the University of Michigan campus and by the late 1960s they had developed a reputation as a progressive and innovative firm. An example of this was their renovation of this building for their offices, the first investment in a historic building in downtown Ann Arbor. In 1976 Johnson, Johnson and Roy received a Bicentennial Award for "their special contribution to the quality of life in Ann Arbor through the renovation of 301-305 N. Main."

During the 20th century the building lost a good deal of its most distinctive ornamental detailing including the projecting wood cornice with carved eave brackets and an arched centerpiece. Corbelled arcading, typical round and segmental window hoods, and the dentate brickwork within the central portion survive.

Although no longer a pristine example of the architectural style, the Courier Block dominates an important corner in the original central business district and marks the location of important events in publishing history. A marked increase in the restoration of other downtown buildings in the 1970s and 80s has proven that Johnson, Johnson and Roy's vision of the value of older downtown buildings was not misplaced. They started a trend which continues to this day.

Keywords: Commercial facilities, Printing industry


Places: 301-305 North Main Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


Christian Eberbach House, 1863-69


Christian Eberbach House, 1863-69

1115 Woodlawn Street

Christian Eberbach House, 1863-69

Constructed in the 1860s, this former farmhouse was beyond the southern limits of the city. The site was chosen so Christian Eberbach's children could benefit from an education in Ann Arbor and still enjoy the healthful air and active life of the countryside. Eberbach was already a trained pharmacist when he came to this country in 1838 at the age of 21. At first he worked in the W.S. Maynard store, but in 1842 he founded Eberbach and Company to manufacture articles sold by pharmacists and opened the Eberbach Drug Store on Main Street.

A pioneer of great industry, he not only presided over his successful pharmaceutical enterprises and a productive farm, but was also a founder of the Hutzel Plumbing Company and the Ann Arbor Savings Bank. An early organizer of the Republican Party, he was a member of the Electoral College which confirmed Abraham Lincoln's election. Christian and his wife, Margaretha (Laubengayer), had eight children, of whom five lived to maturity.

The house is Ann Arbor's best example of the Italianate Villa style, a T-shape with a three-story tower rising directly over the front entry. From the second floor a narrow winding staircase led to the children's playroom at the top. The windows exhibit formal treatment with characteristic Italianate corbeled brick crowns, but both the segmental shape of the crowns and the inset wooden enframements reflect Eberbach's German origins in use of the Rundbogenstil motif.

In one of the upstairs bedrooms there is a marble fireplace featuring a scroll keystone and panels with bas relief floral patterns. Under the parlor end of the house a large vaulted brick storeroom kept the grains and fruits of the harvest. Built in at one end is a brick chimney originally used for smoking hams.

Keywords: Italianate, houses


Places: 1115 Woodlawn Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


Ebenezer Wells House, (Wells-Babcock House) 1858/1910


Ebenezer Wells House, (Wells-Babcock House) 1858/1910

208 North Division Street

Ebenezer Wells House, (Wells-Babcock House) 1858/1910

This house was built for Dr. Ebenezer Wells, a physician, and his family. The mayor of Ann Arbor in 1863-64, Wells also became the president of the First National Bank, the first bank chartered in Michigan under the National Bank Act of 1863. He held that position until his death in 1882.

James L. Babcock bought the house in 1890 when he moved to Ann Arbor to manage the wool business of his uncle, Luther James. Past and Present of Washtenaw County (1906) states that Babcock paid some $10,000 for the property "which was surrounded by beautiful and extensive grounds, richly adorned with flowers and ornamental trees and situated in one of the most delightful portions of the town."

Luther James left a fortune to his nephew on the condition that he marry within five years. James Babcock met the deadline and proceeded to remodel the house throughout. Embossed leather wall coverings were imported from Europe for the reception rooms, as were carving, mirrors and marble. The Babcock coat of arms was done in stained glass for the windows on the north side of a rear addition. Elegant beveled and etched glass still remains in other windows and doors.

In 1910, after the death of James Babcock, a third story was added, and the mansion and carriage house were converted to multifamily use.

Keywords: houses


Places: 208 North Division Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


John Keck and Company (Argus Building), 1866-1884


John Keck and Company (Argus Building), 1866-1884

405 Fourth Street

John Keck and Company (Argus Building), 1866-1884

Situated in the heart of the Old West Side Historic District, this red-brick building began as a furniture factory. It was constructed in three phases, beginning with a wood-frame building facing William Street built in 1866 by John Keck and Company and now covered with brick veneer. In 1879 additional stock in the company was sold in order to finance a four-story brick building along Fourth Street. More construction followed in 1884 when the company was reorganized as the Michigan Furniture Company and a four-story building was built at the corner of Fourth and William, thus connecting the two older structures.

Keck came to America from Wurttemberg in 1854 at the age of 15 and apprenticed to cabinetmaker and coffin builder Florian Muehlig. By 1866 he was able to establish his own furniture factory with his brothers Frederick, George and Martin. The 1860s and 70s had been decades of rapid mechanization in the furniture industry. The steam engine had replaced water as a power source and specialization accompanied expansion as machines became more and more specialized. Despite the Depression of 1873, Keck employed 40 to 50 men and became one of the town's major businesses.

By 1879, when Keck formed a stock company, the decision had been made to specialize in bedroom suites (pronounced "suits"). They concentrated on making bedsteads, commodes and dressers and would continue this emphasis until they ceased operations in 1929. Unfortunately for antique collectors, Keck never marked his furniture and thus his products today are, in the words of journalist Mary Hunt, "distressingly anonymous."

Keck's designs were in the then-popular Renaissance Revival style, massive pieces with layers of elaborately carved woodwork, topped by carved pediments. A collection of Keck's drawings, recently discovered in the Grand Rapids Public Museum, gives a sense of the range of designs he produced. In 1884 the prominence of the buildings of the Michigan Furniture Company was noted in a local paper, which asserted that every visitor to Ann Arbor always inquired 'What is that large four-story building?" Keck, who was no longer with the company, had opened another factory on Detroit Street in the mid-1880s. His success there was short lived, however, and he spent the rest of his life working in Detroit and Grand Rapids.

After furniture making ceased in 1929, Charles Verschoor acquired the building and began manufacturing his popular Kadette tabletop radios. Never one to sit on his hands, Verschoor traveled to Germany in 1936 to study camera manufacturing. When he returned, he began to mass produce a small 35mm camera -- the famous Argus Model A. The camera was an instant success, selling 30,000 units in its first week on the market. In 1939 the name of the company was changed to Argus and the Argus C-3 camera was introduced. It remained the staple of the company until 1957.

During World War II, Argus received many contracts from the government for telescopes, binoculars, periscopes, and gunsights. However, after the war Argus was unable to compete with Japanese cameras and the company was sold to Sylvania. In 1963 the building was sold to the University of Michigan which used it for various research institutes including an amphibian lab.

The recession of the 1980s prompted the University to sell the building in 1983 to C-3 Partners who undertook the enormous task of restoring and renovating this historic structure in 1986. Quinn/Evans Architects provided the expertise and the newly renovated space preserves the best of the old and the new. O'Neal Construction, one of the C-3 partners along with First Martin Corp., is now headquartered here and their offices feature the original heavy timbers and red bricks walls that characterized these simple factory buildings.

Keywords: Factories


Places: 405 Fourth Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


Alonzo Palmer House, (Laubengayer-Ryan House) 1855/1867


Alonzo Palmer House, (Laubengayer-Ryan House) 1855/1867

205 North Division Street

Alonzo Palmer House, (Laubengayer-Ryan House) 1855/1867

One of the finest Gothic Revival houses remaining in the city, this home was built in stages. Dr. Alonzo Palmer, an early member of the University Medical School faculty, came from New York before 1850 to teach and practice in Ann Arbor. With his young wife he purchased a small square brick house on Ann Street. His wife lived only a few years, and in the mid-1860s Dr. Palmer went back east to marry Miss Love Root of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 1867, as a new bride wealthy in her own right, Love Root Palmer added the larger and more elaborate portion of the house facing Division Street.

Love Palmer survived her husband by many years. Upon her death in 1901 the house was purchased by Tobias and Sarah (Staebler) Laubengayer to be used as their residence. Their daughter and son-in-law, Wanda and Mack Ryan, lived in the house until Mr. Ryan died in 1970. Since then the ownership has changed several times.

In 1957, the Ann Arbor News was effusive in describing the interior: "a myriad of oak doors, suspended from huge hand-carved hinges, swing open to all sorts of interesting rooms and closets, large and small. The walls are like those of a fortress while the fireplaces are small and adorned by ornate marble hearths. Elaborate chandeliers, their crystals clustered in serried ranks, hang from high paneled ceilings ... Wide, winding stairs, built of solid walnut and at least one other small, tunnel-like stairway join the first and second floors which include an estimated thirteen rooms. A mural in the hallway and up the stairs, painted by an Italian artist in the early 1930s, depicts the history of the Staebler family in Germany and the United States."

The attractive carriage house has been converted for residential use and the house itself is now a multi-family conversion.

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Keywords: Gothic Revival, houses


Places: 205 North Division Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


Waite-Kellogg House, 1838/1865


Waite-Kellogg House, 1838/1865

723 Moore Street

Waite-Kellogg House, 1838/1865

Behind its unappealing asbestos siding and fire escapes, this house is a gem waiting to be uncovered and restored. Built in approximately 1838 by Joseph Waite, it was originally two stories high and one room deep ???_ an example of the type of folk house known as an I-house. Although built as a private house, and adorned by a very handsome Greek Revival doorway, it soon became a rooming house for workers at the nearby Jones and Foley paper mill. Times were tough in the country after the Panic of 1837 and large houses like this quickly became a heavy burden for individuals.

A very individualistic citizen, however, saw fit to purchase the house in 1865 and enlarge it into its present Italianate configuration. This was Daniel B. Kellogg, clairvoyant physician. Dr. Kellogg was famous enough -- and his home was grand enough -- to be featured in an engraving in the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County. From this engraving one gets a true image of the treasure which lies beneath the surface.

Kellogg was born in Pittsfield Township to pioneers from Oneida County, New York. His first encounter with his "gifts" for clairvoyance (or "clear vision") came when he was 17 and encountered a traveling hypnotist. Kellogg was a quick study and soon his neighbors in Pittsfield visited him to "join hands, hear rappings, witness automatic writing and watch the parlor furniture dance as if bewitched." Word of his supernatural perceptions spread quickly and his diagnoses were often linked with remedies. He moved to Ann Arbor in 1865, set up his office on nearby Broadway, and did a brisk business in mail-order diagnosis, answering letters from all over the country and even from Europe. To keep up with demand for his services, he enlisted the aid of his brother Leverett and sold a line of "family medicines" as well, including Kellogg's Liver Invigorator, Kellogg's Magic Red Drops, Kellogg's Family Cathartic Pills, and Kellogg's Lung Remedy.

Unfortunately Kellogg's success was short lived. He died in 1876, at the young age of 42. Undaunted, Leverett continued to sell the patent medicines while Daniel's son Albert C. Kellogg continued to practice his father's unusual profession. An 1891 biography of Albert stated that he continued to manufacture Dr. Kellogg's Family Remedies, which were handled by druggists throughout the State of Michigan, and that his pleasant home in the old part of the town was where he and his wife "keep up the old homestead."

By the 1890s the house had once again reverted to a rooming house, and tenants came and went in rapid succession. As in the rest of the area known as "Lower Town," the decline persisted as businesses and residents moved closer to campus and to the thriving shops on Main Street. But the house did not go unnoticed. In 1936, Emil Lorch of the University of Michigan School of Architecture, noted the unusual entrance and added: "plus or minus good stairs, interior doors and trim." At that time the house was owned by Louis Goffe, a tenant for over 25 years. It remains a rooming house today.

Keywords: lodging houses, rooming houses, boarding houses, Italianate


Places: 723 Moore Street

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.


Bethel AME Church, 1891-96


Bethel AME Church, 1891-96

632 North Fourth Avenue

Bethel AME Church, 1891-96

Before the Civil War, African-Americans in Ann Arbor worshipped in a small Greek Revival church which still stands today at 504 High Street. Then it was simply known as the "Union" church or the "Colored" church.

Eventually two denominations developed: the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), organized in 1855, and the Second Baptist. The date of the first AME church building is unclear. All sources agree, however, that the present church building was begun in 1891 after the older structure was moved to the rear of the property. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, an important figure in the AME church who had served President Lincoln as the first black chaplain in the United State Army, laid the cornerstone. Due to financial problems, however, the building was not dedicated until 1896.

During the Depression of the 1890s a trustee mortgaged his own home so the church would be saved. In the ensuing decades Ann Arbor's African-American population grew and so did this congregation. Racial discrimination was endemic, neighborhoods were segregated, low-paying jobs were the norm. But the church was a refuge in these hard times. As one member recalled: "__Our lives revolved around the church. We socialized there, did our homework there. If you were passing by and saw the light on, you went in to see what was going on."

The congregation eventually prospered and built a new church on Plum Street selling the old one to the New Grace Apostolic congregation in 1971. New Grace Apostolic belongs to the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World of Apostolic Faith, an interracial group of fundamentalists.

Keywords: churches


Places: 632 North Fourth Avenue

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.