Local History Photos

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.


Article Keywords: Greek Revival Architecture, Houses, Solomon and Jacob Armstrong House
People: Amos Corey, Jacob Armstrong, Solomon Armstrong
Places: 1219 Traver St

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.


Article Keywords: Ann Arbor Post Office, Beaux Arts Architecture, Commercial Buildings, Office Buildings, Polhemus Livery Stable, Post Offices, Washtenaw County Administration Building
People: Fremont Ward
Places: 220 N Main St

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.


Article Keywords: Ann Arbor Courier, Italianate Architecture, Peninsular Courier, Steam Printing House
People: Alvin Wood Chase, Rice Aner Beal, W. H. Mallory
Places: 301-305 N Main St

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.


Article Keywords: Christian Eberbach House, Houses, Italianate Architecture
People: Christian Eberbach, Margaretha (Laubengayer) Eberbach
Places: 1115 Woodlawn St

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.


Article Keywords: Ann Arbor - Mayor, Ebenezer Wells House, Houses, Wells-Babcock House
People: Ebenezer Wells, James L. Babcock
Places: 208 N Division St

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.


George Corselius House, late 1820s


George Corselius House, late 1820s

317 East Ann Street

George Corselius House, late 1820s

"Mother told me we lived in it in 1838, and boarded the engineers who were laying out the Michigan Central Railroad," Cornelia Corselius wrote of this simple dwelling in 1909. An early deed indicates that it was occupied by a Dr. Randall in 1834, but it may actually have been built by Sylvester or Willard Mills in 1829-30.

It may well be the oldest remaining home in Ann Arbor. Originally a typical "I-house," that is, with gables to the side, at least two rooms in length, one room deep, and two full stories in height (as defined in Folk Housing, by Fred B. Kniffen), the residence long ago became a square with an ell. The walls were built ten inches thick, and as late as 1937, the first floor joists were still bark covered. Professor Emil Lorch noted then that the triangular field of the end gables formerly had half elliptical make-believe fan lights. The pilastered casing of the entrance dates from 1938 when the house was remodeled.

What is known is that it was the home of pioneer journalist George Corselius, who arrived in 1829 to become editor of the Western Emigrant, the first newspaper in Washtenaw County. The Emigrant was owned by John Allen and Samuel W. Dexter, key figures in the early development of Washtenaw County and the Michigan Territory. While editor of the paper, Corselius joined other stockholders to start the county's first lending library, a shortlived enterprise.

Corselius married Clementia Cardell of Bennington, Vermont. An early Ann Arbor historian wrote that Corselius was descended from French barons and his wife from Norman kings, describing him as "an ungainly figure, but with a spiritual symmetry; a gentle and benevolent disposition." Later, frail in health and struggling in his profession, he was employed by the University of Michigan to catalogue its library. To better his fortune and to cure his tuberculosis, he joined the forty-niners, starting for California by the Panama route. He turned back at Panama, only to die at sea. Cornelia, the only one of his four children to remain in Ann Arbor, taught school for many years, and wrote a book of children's stories, some with local settings.


Article Keywords: George Corselius House, I-House Architecture
People: Clementia (Cardell) Corselius, George Corselius
Places: 317 E Ann St
Date: 1820

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.


Willcoxson-Easton House, late 1820s


Willcoxson-Easton House, late 1820s

511 East Ann Street

Willcoxson-Easton House, late 1820s
This simple white clapboard house has several aspects commonly found in the Eastern U.S.: its orientation with the long side of the house facing the street, the symmetrical arrangement of windows around a center door, and the general massing.

Its exact age and origin cannot be documented since the house was moved to this location by 1866. It may be the house built by attorney Gideon Willcoxson who arrived in Ann Arbor in 1824 and purchased ten acres from John Allen ???_ what is now the area bounded by Huron, State, Catherine, and Division Streets. Willcoxson went back East but then returned to Ann Arbor in 1827 to practice law and accept an appointment as Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney from Governor Cass.

Willcoxson died three years later, leaving the property to fellow attorney George Jewett to administer for his children until they came of age. Jewett occupied the house for a number of years until the heirs ???_ John and James Willcoxson, Amelia Ormsby, Sarah Pease, and Mary Jane Maynard ???_sold the property to George Sedgewick who then sold it to Mary Jane's husband, John W. Maynard. Maynard platted and subdivided the property in 1858 and named this part of it Willcoxson's Addition. Dr. Ebenezer Wells and his wife Margaret purchased four of the lots to build their magnificent brick house on Division Street (see 30). The $1,700 Charles Easton paid for the lot (compared to the $325 price of the lot next door) hints that the house may have already been on the lot.

The low picket fence, designed and built by the current owners, and the small front garden of perennials, rose bushes, and peonies accentuate the simple lines and original six-over-six windows of the house. The rear addition may have been moved from a larger house of similar design that stood to the east until after 1900.

Widdicombe and Martha Schmidt purchased the house in 1975, and have restored much of it inside and out, using great care in replacing rotted siding with poplar and in preserving the original hand-blown glass of the windows.


Article Keywords: Clapboard Siding, Houses, Willcoxson Easton House
People: George Jewett, George Sedgewick, Gideon Wilcoxson, John W. Maynard, Martha Schmidt, Widdicombe Schmidt
Places: 511 E Ann St
Date: 1820

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.


Anson Brown Building, 1832


Anson Brown Building, 1832

1001-1007 Broadway

Anson Brown Building, 1832

This building, the oldest surviving commercial structure in Ann Arbor, has a symmetrical front facade, and parapet end walls characteristic of eighteenth century Dutch-influenced buildings on the east coast. Hand-hewn timber framing of oak is visible in the attic.

Anson Brown had worked for seven years on the Erie Canal before he arrived with his fortune in Ann Arbor, where he became the principal landowner of Lower Town, north of the river. He wanted his business district to be the commercial center of a fine metropolis, and he named his streets Broadway, Wall, Maiden Lane after the major avenues of the Empire City of his native state. He erected as a merchandising center this building and two similar blocks (The Exchange Building and, across the street, the Ingalls Block, replaced in 1959 by a motel and restaurant). The Washtenaw Hotel nearby was one of the largest hotels on the route from Detroit to Chicago, a comfortable stop before crossing the Huron River. The new buildings were an attraction to trade, and Brown was successful in securing an appointment from the Territorial Governor to be postmaster of the town. His brief but intense rivalry with the "hilltoppers" for control of Ann Arbor's development ceased abruptly when Brown died in the cholera epidemic of 1834.

The upper town regained political dominance, the new University of Michigan drew development in that direction and the railroad came through on the south side of the river. Brown's building outlasted all the other commercial structures of his time and is the only survivor of the town he envisioned and partially built.

The well-maintained building, somewhat European in flavor, was owned by the Colvin family for more than sixty years until it changed hands in 1989.


Article Keywords: Anson Brown Building, Commercial Buildings, Lower Town
People: Anson Brown
Places: 1001-1007 Broadway St
Date: 1832

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.


Josiah Beckley House, circa 1834


Josiah Beckley House, circa 1834

1709 Pontiac Trail

Josiah Beckley House, circa 1834

Josiah Beckley and his family were members of that intrepid group of early settlers who left New England for the Michigan Territory just after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Beckley arrived in Ann Arbor in 1827 with his wife Minerva, a son Luke and an infant Charles. In October of that year, he purchased 73 acres from Isaac Hull in what was then Ann Arbor Township. According to the family's history, the house was built either in 1834 or 1836, though it could be even older.

Josiah's large brick house has two stories and a classical center entry, and in form resembles a New England house. It has brick end chimneys and an elaborate doorway (not original) with no portico, which is probably how it originally looked. The current windows in the house were added in the 1980s. The black metal stars on the exterior signal the presence of tie rods ???_ iron rods that span the width of the building and help hold it together.

It is not surprising that Beckley built his house of brick, for an 1835 newspaper advertisement indicates he was in the brick business: "Brick! Brick!! Brick!!! Brown and Co. having made an arrangement with Josiah Beckley for brick we are prepared to supply their customers and all others who may wish, with any quantity of the article on reasonable terms. (Signed) Ann Arbor, (on the Huron), April 20, 1835."

Josiah Beckley died in September of 1843 at the age of 53. His wife Minerva and their children continued to live in the house for a few more years but it appears that the house had to be sold to pay Josiah's debts. In 1847 Warren Millard purchased the house and his descendants lived there for almost 100 years.

Today the house remains on its large lot, surrounded by mature trees and looking almost as it did when Ann Arbor was just emerging from the wilderness of the early Michigan Territory.


Article Keywords: Houses, Josiah Beckley House
People: Charles Beckley, Josiah Beckley, Luke Beckley, Minerva Beckley, Warren Millard
Places: 1709 Pontiac Trl
Date: 1834

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.


Orrin White House, 1836


Orrin White House, 1836

2940 Fuller Road

Orrin White House, 1836
In 1823, merchant Orrin White of Palmyra, New York, came to the newly opened Territory of Michigan to locate a farm. Choosing 176 acres on the north bank of the Huron River, he registered his claim in July. After winding up affairs in Palmyra, White returned in 1824 with his wife Ann, father-in-law Nathan Thayer, and three children. They erected a slab shanty on the site now covered by Huron High School, and moved in on July 4. The Whites were the first settlers in Ann Arbor Township outside the village of Ann Arbor, founded only five months before.

During the 1820s the family nervously shared the farm's flatlands with several hundred Indians who camped there annually while enroute to Windsor to receive treaty gifts from the British, their allies in the War of 1812. White was appointed the second commissioner of Washtenaw County in 1827, sheriff in 1832, and associate Circuit Court judge from 1833-37, often holding court in his log cabin. In 1835, as the Territory moved toward statehood, White was a delegate to the first constitutional convention. In 1842 he was elected to the state legislature. A lieutenant-colonel in the militia, White defended the Territory during the Black Hawk scare and the abortive "Toledo War," a boundary dispute between Michigan and Ohio.

In 1836 the Whites built this L-shaped cobblestone house on Fuller Road, using stones gathered nearby. Stones on the north facade are set in a herring-bone pattern while horizontal courses provide contrast on sides and rear. The deep-set center front doorway is enhanced by delicately incised columns, handmade glass sidelights and a massive lintel of oak. Wooden eaves with hex-like symbols decorate the gables.

Robert and Nan Hodges did a magnificent restoration of the house during their ownership in the 1970s and 1980s. Nan Hodges lovingly researched the history of the house and of its original owner.


Article Keywords: Houses, Orrin White House
People: Ann (Thayer) White, Nan Hodges, Nathan Thayer, Orrin White, Robert Hodges
Places: 2940 Fuller Road
Date: 1836

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.