Local History Photos

Washtenaw Bank, 1836


Washtenaw Bank, 1836

201-205 East Ann Street

Washtenaw Bank, 1836

In the 1830s, with land sales booming the Michigan Territory needed banks. The liberal banking laws permitted banks to be founded with very little capital, so in 1835 a group of local men formed the Bank of Washtenaw and built this Greek Revival building to house their banking rooms. When the banking system of the United States collapsed in the Panic of 1837, the Bank of Washtenaw went under and the building stood empty for almost a decade. In 1847 the property was finally sold to local businessman Volney Chapin who converted it to a residence. He and his wife Chloe made it their home for over 25 years. During that time it became a genteel showplace surrounded by exotic catalpa trees and a garden whose rose-bordered paths reached all the way to Catherine Street.

The original building is stucco over brick, scored to resemble stone, a common conceit of many Greek Revival houses of this period. Though it has been enlarged to the west, one can still spot the Greek Revival detailing in the Ann Street entryway with simple Doric columns supporting a dentillated entablature. Hinges for the once massive shutters which flanked the windows are still visible as well.

By the 1890s the area had become more commercial. The house became the Arlington Hotel, later renamed the Catalpa Hotel after those famous trees. Joe Parker's tavern occupied the corner commercial space from 1913 until 1920, when Prohibition drove it out of business. Joe Parker's and other saloons have been immortalized in a University of Michigan college song that reminisces about going "back to Joe's and the Orient (another saloon) back to all the money I spent." Shortly after the tavern closed, the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce bought the building, but one can still see the name "Joe" spelled out in tile in the corner of the present bookstore.

The Chamber eventually sold the property to Christ Bilakos in 1942. He renamed it the Peters Hotel after his son and the property is still owned by this family. The building now houses a variety of eclectic businesses.

Keywords: Greek Revival, commercial buildings, commercial facilities, banks


Places: 201-205 East Ann Street
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.


Nathan Burnham House, 1837


Nathan Burnham House, 1837

1610 Washington Heights, 947 Wall Street, 940 Maiden Lane

Nathan Burnham House, 1837

In 1834, Anson Brown, his wife Desire, and her brother Edward Fuller began selling land just north of the Huron River. Brown planned to have a new commercial center develop in this area known as "Ann Arbor on the Huron". He would have made a "killing" selling real estate lots to settlers pouring into the area had he not died in the cholera epidemic of 1834. Brown's widow soon married Caleb Ormsby and by 1836 the firm, now Ormsby and Fuller, continued selling house lots to settlers at a brisk pace. Nathan Burnham purchased lots 10 and 11 from Fuller and Ormsby in June of 1837 for $600. When he sold the property back to them two years later, he received $1000, indicating that the house had probably been built in the interval. Burnham built the house in an old "New England" style with a high brick foundation, two fireplaces at each end, four rooms on each floor, a central hallway, and an unusual three-part window on the second floor.

The entry is a beautiful example of the carpenter's craft with its finely carved pilasters and intricately mullioned side lights.

When Dr. Mark Hildebrandt purchased the house in 1969, he removed a more modern door and late 19th century porch and installed this entry which he had salvaged from a house of the same period being demolished. He hired an architect to design the new portico, put in fire stairs and a new entrance off the parking lot in the rear, changing the official address to 940 Maiden Lane. Patients who visited his office enjoyed the unique cobblestone smokehouse with brick quoins that Hildebrandt preserved in its original location in the rear of the house. While renovating the house, he noted that it was constructed with oak beams and pegs, and that the trim was tulip poplar, a wood commonly used in the early settlement period. The house still serves as a doctor's office, now for Dr. Edward Pierce, a former Mayor of Ann Arbor and well-known political and health activist.

Keywords: Houses, New England Style, arboretum, Hildebrandt


Date: 1837

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.


UM President's House, 1840


UM President's House, 1840

815 South University Avenue

University of Michigan President's House, 1840
Creator: Lum, Haspier

This is one of the four houses constructed in 1839-40 on the new University of Michigan campus square as dwellings for its professors. Constructed by a local contractor, Haspier Lum, it was, like the other three, a two and one half story structure with a low pitched roof, a cupola, and a long, inviting porch facing the square. The interior, built in reserved classical style, had a central hall on each floor with two rooms opening off each side. The seven fireplaces which heated the rooms are still in place. At the back of the house were gardens, a small orchard and a stable.

The modest brick home, covered with stucco to resemble mortar courses, acquired its present appearance in the early 1960s when the upper half story became a full third story. The house took on an Italianate style, much in vogue at the time, with the addition of the truncated hipped roof, double brackets, and a balustrade replacing the original cupola. The artificial mortar courses were filled in. The four chimneys were unchanged from the original structure, and the front entrance of two Doric columns and entablature is believed to be the same. Indoor plumbing and a kitchen wing were a part of the renovation.

In 1891 a two-story west wing with a circular library and upstairs bedrooms was built, and the house was wired for electricity. In 1920 President Marion Leroy Burton replaced a small east porch with a sunroom and upstairs sleeping porch. During Alexander Ruthven's administration (1929-1951) a second story and rear study were added to the east wing. A glassed-in plant room dates from that time as well.

The President's House is the only building remaining of the original four houses and two dormitory-classroom structures and is the oldest building on the University campus.

Keywords: Italianate, houses


Places: 815 South University Avenue
Date: 1840

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.


Guy Beckley House, 1842


Guy Beckley House, 1842

1425 Pontiac Trail

Guy Beckley House, 1842

The Reverend Guy Beckley, a devout abolitionist, came to Ann Arbor in 1839 with his wife Phyla and their eight children. In 1840 he purchased 28 acres of land adjoining the farm owned by his brother Josiah, to whom he sold all but the plot on which this house stands.

The New England Georgian style of this house is unique in Ann Arbor. The walls are sixteen inches thick and made of field stone in the first story, bonded and veneered with hand-made brick. (Beckley's brother, Josiah, Josiah, had a brick yard). The heavy oak timbers which make up the interior framing are carefully doweled together. The trim is done in oak and glossy black walnut. Instead of the customary fireplaces, the house was entirely heated by Franklin stoves, an innovation of its day.

Beckley was a man of firm and ardent beliefs. He was well established in Ann Arbor as a minister and lecturer, active in the antislavery movement. He published an influential abolitionist paper, The Signal of Liberty, edited by Theodore Foster. Beckley's house was an important "underground" station on one of the routes from the south.

The Reverend Beckley's time was short, however, as he died in 1847, followed by his wife in 1850. The house thereafter changed hands many times, although the Pascal Mason family remained there from 1862 to 1915.

Ralph W. Hammett and his wife purchased the house in 1933, by then sadly misused and run-down. Hammett, a professor of architecture and an authority on architectural history, took great pleasure in restoring the beautiful home we see today. The many windows with their small panes are original as are the front door and its sidelights. The front porch is a restoration true to the shape and size tracings on the brick work. The modernization of the interior was done with a minimum of change to the structure. The Bertoni family who followed the Hammetts valued the history and the architecture of this home as do the present owners.

Keywords: Georgian Revival, houses, New England Style


Places: 1425 Pontiac Trail
Date: 1842

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.


Judge Robert S. Wilson House, (Wilson-Wahr House) 1835, 1843


Judge Robert S. Wilson House, (Wilson-Wahr House) 1835, 1843

126 North Division Street

Judge Robert S. Wilson House, (Wilson-Wahr House) 1835, 1843

Often described and pictured in books on architectural history, this is Ann Arbor's most famous house. Rexford Newcomb, in his Architecture of the Old Northwest Territory, 1950, praised its perfect proportions, and Fiske Kimball traced the model for its "four sturdy Ionic columns, rising through two stories, with graceful flutes and capitals," to the original Temple of the Wingless Victory at Athens (American Architecture, 1928).

An Historic American Buildings Survey in 1934 noted that the original kitchen was located "in the basement under the dining room ... the hearth and Dutch oven being still intact. A stair led from the old kitchen at the rear of the present library, which was evidently the original serving room, and the main hall extended back to that point." The house probably was erected in three stages with the middle section the first to be built, possibly as early as 1835. The kitchen and servant quarters at the rear were probably added in 1850.

Probate Judge Robert S. Wilson built the famous temple portion in 1843 in a setting of extensive grounds and gardens. His career took him to Chicago and in 1850 he sold the estate to John A. Welles, a newcomer from the East. Welles' son Henry joined in the merchandising and land speculation enterprises of his father, moving into the house with his four daughters after the death of his wife in 1855. Henry was city recorder in 1851-52 and treasurer of the University from 1858 until his death in 1860. The Welles girls, Clarissa, Sarah, Mary Fiske, and Susan Holly, and their cousins, the children of Silas and Helen Welles Douglass, were active in society in Ann Arbor and Detroit and made frequent trips to the East Coast and Europe. A Welles wedding was the occasion for installing the unusual wood-paneled ceilings of the first floor of the mansion.

Times change, and in 1892 the house with a smaller garden was auctioned in a tax sale on the courthouse steps with bookseller and publisher George Wahr making the high bid. He and his wife, Emma (Staebler) Wahr moved into the home but they disliked the inside well, thinking it unhealthful. The Wahrs excavated in the garden a few feet to the south to begin a new house at 120 North Division Street, and while construction was under way, Emma took a trip east where she visited the Lee mansion in Virginia. As she approached the Lee house, she was struck by the realization that the visual effect of their Greek Temple mansion in Ann Arbor would be destroyed by building the new house so near to it. Although she telegraphed her husband to stop construction, for perhaps the only time in their lives together he failed to accede to her wishes. The Wahrs moved into the new house, leasing the mansion next door to sororities and fraternities. After twenty years, they filled the noisome well and returned to the mansion where Emma Wahr, an avid collector of antiques, displayed her treasures. Much of her notable collection was sold at auction in 1974 after the death of her daughter, Natalie Wahr Sallade. The Sallade family still occupies this mansion.

Keywords: Greek style, houses


Places: 126 North Division Street
Date: 1843

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 W. Maynard House, 1844


John W. Maynard House, 1844

218 North Division Street

John W. Maynard House, 1844
Canterbury House, 1950

When John W. Maynard constructed his center-entry side gabled brick house in 1838, this was in the middle of a large, undeveloped block. Catherine Street would not extend between Division and State Streets until 1898. Maynard, a successful grocer with a store on Ann Street, had come to Ann Arbor as a child only months after John Allen and Elisha Rumsey founded the town in 1824. In a letter dated June of that year, Jon's father Ezra, a farmer in Pittsfield Township, wrote the first eyewitness account of the emerging village.

A Michigan Argus account in 1849 entitled "Notes on Our Village, No. 4," included his house among those that exhibited "the style of architecture which is an ornament to our village, and evinces the taste, judgment and liberality of their owners." Today John's house is one of a row of important buildings on large lots with deep setbacks lining the east side of Division Street that exemplify the mid-19th century look and feel of the town.

Maynard family members occupied the house for over half a century. In 1908, Russell T. Dobson, publisher of the Ann Arbor Times, purchased it and in 1910 added the large porch, roof dormers, and two-story center portico in the popular Colonial Revival style. The main entry was then shifted from the center of the house to the south side, where it remains today.

After penumonia took Dobson's life in 1938, the house was sold to the Christian Reformed Church for a student center. Around 1950 the Episcopal Student Foundation of St. Andrew's Church purchased the house and named it "Canterbury House" to use as a center for their outreach program. In 1992, Trailblazers, Inc., a group working with those recovering from mental illness, bought the property for a clubhouse for their members.

Keywords: houses


Places: 218 North Division Street
Date: 1844

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.


Jacob Vandawarker House, 1844


Jacob Vandawarker House, 1844

220 North Fifth Avenue

Jacob Vandawarker House, 1844

Jacob Vandawarker came to Ann Arbor from Herkimer County, New York in 1834 and wasted no time in getting married and setting up a shoemaking business. After a decade he was able to purchase two large lots and construct this fine brick "Philadelphia townhouse." The elaborate front door surround, with its transom and sidelights, was a common design feature in the 1840s but had almost disappeared by the 1850s when the Greek Revival style was at its height in Ann Arbor. In addition to the door, the house has other features reflecting the mingling of the Federal and Greek Revival styles. These include the simple stone lintels over the windows, the six-over-six window pane arrangement, the long side of the house facing the street, and the modillion detailing under the eaves. One interesting feature is the "blind" or fake window placed on the north wall for the sake of symmetry. The full front porch dates to the 1860s when porches, particularly with Italianate gingerbread and thin chamfered columns, were the height of fashion.

The Ann Arbor Courier lamented Vandawarker's death in 1881: "Soon none will be left to tell the tale of the early settlement of Michigan." Local artist Charles Ciccarelli recently immortalized in a print, the shoemaking enterprise Vandawarker operated on the west side of Main Street between Huron and Washington for almost 50 years.

Sons Edwin and Frank Vandawarker took over their father's business and continued to live in this house until World War I. Occupied as a single family house until the 1930s, it became a rental property during the Depression and was somewhat neglected. In 1978 it was restored inside and out by local realtors Casey and Myra Jones, who received a preservation award in 1984 from the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission for their efforts.

Keywords: Greek Revival, houses


Places: 220 North Fifth Avenue
Date: 1844

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.


Benajah Ticknor Farm (Cobblestone Farm), 1844


Benajah Ticknor Farm (Cobblestone Farm), 1844

2781 Packard Road

Benajah Ticknor Farm (Cobblestone Farm), 1844
Creator: Mills, Stephen

This farmhouse is an example of an unusual building style that began in the 1830s in western New York and moved westward with the frontier. Erected in 1844 for Dr. Benajah Ticknor by Stephen Mills, a mason trained in New York, the house combines the restrained elegance of the Georgian style with an extravagant facade of cobblestones, laid in herringbone rows.

The front door, flanked by columns and glass sidelights, opens into a wide central hall with a staircase and "grained" woodwork. A parlor and library, sitting room, and bedrooms complete the stone portion of the house, which contrasts sharply with the simple wooden New England kitchen wing. The section of that wing containing the dining room and maid's chamber is probably the original tiny house which Heman Ticknor bought from farmer Charles Maynard in 1835. Heman purchased the farm for his brother, Dr. Benajah Ticknor, a U.S. Navy surgeon. After years at sea off South America and in the Far East, Dr. Ticknor wanted land in Michigan as an investment and for a retirement home.

In 1840 Benajah and his wife Gesie paid their first brief visit to Ann Arbor. The sight of Heman, his wife Eliza, and seven children crowded into so small a house may have prompted Benajah to build the larger stone house for both families. In 1845 a kitchen, pantry, milk room, hired men's dormitory, toilets and a woodshed were added to the frame house, which was joined to the stone house at the same time. Several outbuildings (destroyed by fire in 1924) completed the farm.

From 1844 until his death in 1858, while accepting several assignments at sea and in naval hospitals, Benajah Ticknor called Ann Arbor his home. A self-taught classical scholar, mathematician, philosopher, and diarist, Dr. Ticknor participated in the social and intellectual life of the University community and was sought after for medical opinions. Ticknor's classical and medical library was left to the University of Michigan. Yale's Sterling Library preserves the handwritten journals of his voyages and other experiences between 1818 and 1854.

In 1860 Ticknor's widow sold the farm to Horace Booth, who passed it to his son. Nelson Booth enlarged the 183 acres, added barns for thoroughbred race horses, installed a front-yard fountain, and added an Italianate front porch.
In 1881 the farm was purchased by Scottish immigrant William Campbell, an Ypsilanti merchant, who soon achieved renown for his pure-bred cattle. Campbell, his son Clair, and grandchildren William, George, and Mary kept the house essentially unchanged for 91 years. After World War II most of the farm's acress were absorbed by housing developments and park land. In 1972 George and Mary Campbell sold the house and the last 4.5 acres to the city to complete Buhr Park.

Since 1974 a volunteer citizens group, the Cobblestone Farm Association, has provided research, planning, and fund-raising for restoration of the house and grounds as a working farm museum.

Keywords: Houses


Places: 2781 Packard Road
Date: 1844

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.


Andrew DeForest House, 1845


Andrew DeForest House, 1845

303 North Division Street

Andrew DeForest House, 1845

Andrew DeForest was only 17 years old when he arrived in Ann Arbor in 1836 from Montgomery County, New York. According to the 1881 History of Washtenaw County, DeForest worked as a contractor and builder for the next 15 years, "erecting many of the substantial buildings that now stand in the city." His financial successes undoubtedly allowed him to build his own house in 1845 on fashionable Division Street, opposite the Episcopal Church.

DeForest's house is said to have been a Greek Revival house with a colonnaded portico across the front much like other houses he built (see 7). Old bird's eye maps show some kind of porch structure on the Division Street side of the house as well as a "widow's walk" on the roof. According to Lela Duff, a local historian, DeForest later removed the pillared porch and changed the roof line to make the square house pattern. The house retains some Greek Revival features in its corner engaged columns, its white color, and its many-paned windows.

DeForest sold the house in 1888 to Henry Brown, a druggist, who lived here until his death in 1918. His wife Jane continued to live in the house until about 1933. During their tenure, according to Lela Duff, Louis H. Boynton, Professor of Architecture, oversaw the remodelling into the Colonial Revival house it is today. These colonial aspects were emphasized by the next owners when the house served as the Colonial Inn in 1936.

Following Mrs. Brown's death, Mrs. Sue Horner operated an antique business here in the 1940s and 1950s and lived in the house until the late 1970s.

After 1981 it became a student house dubbed the Colonial Inn. In 1979 the asbestos siding and wooden arbor over the front entry were removed to reveal the earlier structure. It was handsomely rehabilitated at this time and in 1988 the house once again became a single family residence.

Keywords: Greek Revival, houses


Places: 303 North Division Street
Date: 1845

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.


North District Public School, 1846


North District Public School, 1846

324-326 East Kingsley Street

North District Public School, 1846

Numerous private academies flourished in Ann Arbor from the 1830s, but it was not until the 1840s that any effort was made by the citizens to tax themselves and construct public schools. This building, the first public school for the North District in the Upper Village, was erected in 1846 in the austere Greek Revival style which matched so well the prevailing sensibilities about the role of education in securing the morality of youth. This building also has the distinction of being the site of the formation of the Washtenaw County Agricultural Society in 1848. A second public school for the South District was located in the "Old Academy" at Fourth Avenue and William Street (now the site of a parking garage).

It was not until after Ann Arbor officially became a city in 1851, that the public school system began in earnest. The 1881 History of Washtenaw County laments that "it is a matter of regret that during these years, up to the reunion of the two districts in 1853, the materials for a school history of Ann Arbor are so meager that not even the names of the teachers have been preserved."

By 1869 the rapid growth of the school population required the building of a larger school which was constructed on Division Street on the site of what is now Community High School. When the new school opened, St. Thomas Parish bought the old building and opened their first parochial school. In 1886 the parish, having built a new larger building on Elizabeth Street, sold the old school to John Pfisterer.

Pfisterer apparently used the old school as a residence. Some years later, around World War I, it was converted into its present duplex arrangement. The most notable tenants during the 20th century were the Pastorino family who lived both here and next door for over 35 years. Rosa Pastorino was the daughter of Rocco Desderide, first owner of the building now housing Zingerman's. Desderide lived here with his daughter until the age of 104, making model ships in the little potting shed that still stands in the backyard.

Keywords: Greek Revival, schools, houses


Places: 324-326 East Kingsley Street
Date: 1846

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.