Local History Photos

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.


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.


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.


Enoch James House, 1847-1849


Enoch James House, 1847-1849

321 East Liberty

Enoch James House, 1847-1849

"A two-and-one-half story Eastern City row type, rare in Michigan," was how University of Michigan Professor of Architecture Emil Lorch described this house in his 1936 survey of Ann Arbor's older buildings. In form it resembles what some today call a "Philadelphia townhouse." The tall, narrow facade has three bays with the entrance at the left. The stepped gables on the sides are also found on the Anson Brown Building at 1001 Broadway.

In 1847 Olney Hawkins began to build a house on this site for "Governor" George D. Hill. In a few months, however, Hill was in financial trouble and, in 1849, assigned his properties to William S. Maynard. After some fancy mortgage footwork, Enoch James purchased the property and completed the house which was one of a pair of brick houses built back to back. The other house, which faced Washington Street, was demolished in the 1960s. When the James house was completed in the late 1840s, it was in the midst of a residential neighborhood, halfway between the commercial district on Main Street and the University of Michigan campus on State. Its simple yet elegant doorway, surrounded by sidelights and topped by a transom, is still fronted by the porch which was photographed by local historian Lucy Chapin in 1909. Although the porch is later in date, its rounded Tuscan columns blend beautifully with the original design.

Cornelia Corselius, another local historian, described the James family in her 1909 manuscript as "prominent society people here during the 1850's and part of the 60's." After Enoch James' death in 1867, his widow Amarilla and his son Lyman inherited the house. From the latter part of the 19th century on, the house was rented as rooms and as many as seven apartments. In 1980, the Copi family converted the house into two flats but retained the gold lettered sign on the front door advertising the law offices of previous owner, William R. Kelley.

Keywords: town houses


Places: 321 East Liberty

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.


Society of Friends Meeting House, 1851-2


Society of Friends Meeting House, 1851-2

410 North State Street

Society of Friends Meeting House, 1851-2

An 1851 deed confirms that Richard Glazier and Robert B. Glazier, trustees of the Society of Friends (Quakers), purchased this property on behalf of the Society for a meeting house. The 1853 map of Ann Arbor indicates the building, the only house on this stretch of State Street, and labels it "Quakers Meeting."

Robert B. Glazier (sometimes spelled Glasier) was originally from New York State. He was an active Quaker and one of the best conductors on the Underground Railroad helping slaves escape to Canada. His home was a station on this system and part of the 300 acres he once owned east of town remains some of the most unspoiled land in the area. Robert also gained notoriety for being the first man imprisoned for war resistance in the United States. The name of the road fronting his former land was recently renamed Glazier Way to honor and perpetuate the name of his family.

Judge Noah Cheever, in his Stories and Amusing Incidents in the Early History of the University of Michigan, noted that in the winter of 1860-61, Parker Pillsbury came to Ann Arbor to speak on the abolition of slavery. "He appointed a meeting in the old Free Church on the east side of North State Street, near the brow of the hill, now a dwelling house." This house thus had a strong association with abolition in its earliest years.

The Quakers sold the house in 1866 to tobacconists Charles and Frederick Horn. When the Horns sold it ten years later for $2000, they doubled their investment. The house changed hands frequently after that and by 1931 it had been divided into 10 apartments.

Passersby often notice the brackets on the first floor bay windows and under the eaves of the roof, and the elegant door. These features were probably added in the 1870s, while the Colonial Revival porch dates to the early 20th century. The door frame, however, with its plain pilasters, wide entablature and sidelights, is probably original.

Keywords: houses


Places: 410 North State 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.


A. L. Noble House and Carriage House, 1882 and 1892


A. L. Noble House and Carriage House, 1882 and 1892

320-322 South Division Street

A. L. Noble House and Carriage House, 1882 and 1892

Adelbert L. Noble came to Ann Arbor in 1869 to study at the University of Michigan. "Difficulty with his eyes would not permit of his continuing his studies and he turned his mind toward business" wrote the county history of 1881. After six years in the clothing business with Joe T. Jacobs, Noble sold his interest and opened the Star Clothing Store at the corner of Main and Washington Streets. Star specialized in "Men's, Boys' and Children's" clothing, advertising "Plain Figures and One Price."

By 1883 Noble was successful enough to buy this piece of land from Henry Bennett who had built the Kempf House next door in 1853. Noble erected a large and imposing brick house, transitional in style from the Italianate to Queen Anne. The slate roof, decorative chimneys, pressed brick, arched windows, and carved wood details on porches, gable corners, and brackets show the influence of both styles. The fine stonework over the windows illustrates the craftsmanship of Anton Eisele.

In 1892 Noble became the first president of the State Savings Bank. He erected the carriage house in the rear of the property and the two buildings form a unique grouping, now very rare in central Ann Arbor.

After Noble's death in 1894, followed by his wife in 1902, the house had a succession of owners until 1920 when Dr. David M. Cowie purchased it. Dr. Cowie, a physician and Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases at the University of Michigan, turned the home into a private hospital. One of Cowie's major achievements was the adoption on a statewide basis of the use of iodized salt to prevent goiter. After Cowie's death in 1940, the house and carriage house were both converted to apartments and remain as such today.

Keywords: Italianate, Queen Anne Style, houses


People: Dr. David M. Cowie
Places: 320-322 South 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 and Andrew Jackson House, 1847/1863


John and Andrew Jackson House, 1847/1863

603 West Liberty Street

John and Andrew Jackson House, 1847/1863

John and Andrew Jackson wasted no time in purchasing this lot from William S. Maynard after he platted the land and added it to the City of Ann Arbor in 1846. It is likely they built the Liberty Street portion of this house sometime in the fall of 1847, for, when they sold the property eight years later in 1855, they tripled their money.

The south wing, which appears on the 1866 "birds-eye" view was probably added by laborer John M. Weitbrecht, who purchased the property in 1862. The Weitbrecht family occupied this corner until the turn of the century. The estate sold the property to John and Lydia Kuehnle (she may have been Weitbrecht's daughter) for $1400 in 1898 and it remained a single family house throughout the 20th century. By the 1930s it also had a commercial use. The rear portion facing Fourth Street housed the Lunsford Bakery, famous for its cinnamon rolls, from 1935 to 1970.

The main part of the house, which is clapboard, is the New England folk form known as an "I" house: two stories high, two rooms wide, one room deep, with a central hallway. The fieldstone foundation of this portion is much lower than the brick foundation of the south wing, where the land slopes away from the house. This rear section also has a central entry, but is only one story high. The four-over-four windows in the wing appear to be original as does the glass.

William and Susan Johnson, the present owners, restored the exterior by removing the asphalt siding and corrugated canopy that had hidden the classical front doorway and original clapboards. Today the Johnsons are extending the south wing and the house remains a fine example of the vernacular type of house built in the Old West Side up to the Civil War.

Keywords: I-houses


Places: 603 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.


Kellogg-Warden House, 1835-1839


Kellogg-Warden House, 1835-1839

500 North Main Street

Kellogg-Warden House, 1835-1839
Museum on Main Street

The building that now houses the Washtenaw County Historical Society's Museum on Main Street (MOMs) was once a private residence on Wall Street, in the section of Ann Arbor across the Huron River known as "Lower Town." It is a rare survivor of the first decades of life in Ann Arbor.

The house exhibits interesting construction features that disappeared from use shortly after the 1830s including the accordion or split lathe backing for the plaster walls, very wide plank floors, and brick "nogging" in the walls???_an early form of insulation. Fancy detailing on the exterior includes the front entrance, which is a complex unit of sidelights and transom, and the returns on the side gables. Channel and corner block trim grace the front parlor and the beautiful curving staircase in the front hallway is reminiscent of New England. A small ivory knob on top of the newel post, called an "amity button" or "mortgage button," was an indication that the house was free and clear of debt.

The house was built by members of the Kellogg and Ethan Warden families (Warden's wife was a Kellogg), pioneers from Cayuga County, New York. The house was constructed in various stages in the 1830s, the last being in 1839 when the patriarch of the family, the Honorable Charles Kellogg, moved to Ann Arbor. The Kelloggs had been millers and merchants in New York and ran similar businesses here.

The Kelloggs did not "strike it rich" and only one member of the family remained in Ann Arbor (the others either died here or went back to New York). The house stood empty after Charles' death in 1843 until the Ruthruff family purchased it in 1853 and occupied it for three decades. In the 1890s it became the property of Charles Greiner, a gardener, whose descendants remained in the house for nearly a century. In 1989 the Washtenaw County Historical Society intervened to save the house from demolition, and moved it to its present site. The City of Ann Arbor provided the land for the new location while the University of Michigan donated the building and some funds for moving it.

Keywords: Lower Town, Museum on Main Street, Museums, houses


Places: 500 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.