Local History Photos

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.


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.


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.