Local History Photos

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.


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.