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.


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.

Keywords: I-houses


Places: 317 East Ann Street
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.

Keywords: Clapboard Siding, houses


Places: 511 East Ann Street
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.

Keywords:


Places: 1001-1007 Broadway
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.

Keywords: Houses


Places: 1709 Pontiac Trail
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.

Keywords: Houses


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.