Local History Photos

William and Katherine Kuhn House, Circa 1850


William and Katherine Kuhn House, Circa 1850

626 West Liberty Street

William and Katherine Kuhn House, Circa 1850

This tiny "cabin" appears to have been built around 1850 by William and Katherine Kuhn. It is an example of the very simple, small dwellings constructed by Ann Arbor's working class in the mid-19th century. Its only hints at style are the Greek Revival returns on the side gables. The original clapboard and multipaned windows also hint at an early date of construction.

The house is first mentioned specifically in William Kuhn's will: when he died in 1879, he bequeathed a "dwelling house" and the land to his wife and their eight children. The fact that a family of ten might have lived in what was essentially a one-room house with a sleeping loft, makes one ponder the privations suffered by the average family in this era.

The house had long been recognized as charming???_ both by academics who included it in a 1974 Sesquicentennial publication entitled Ann Arbor Architecture, and by neighbors who remembered Mrs. Hattie Holter, occupant from around 1950 to 1980, who kept the place in immaculate condition. This is why, when demolition was proposed in 1985, citizens in the neighborhood were so concerned. During public hearings, many spoke in favor of saving the house, despite its small size. The Ann Arbor Historic District Commission tabled action on the demolition request, and at last a rescuer came forward. Douglas Trubey, a lifelong resident of Ann Arbor who had already renovated an abandoned house in Scio Township, purchased the house.

Describing it as a "house that fell out of time," Trubey built a two story carriage house in the rear for storage and immediately began renovating the house. In 1989, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission gave him a restoration award by for his efforts. Trubey proved the impossible ???_ that someone could and would live in this "cabin" and make it look like a home again.

Keywords: houses, cabins


Places: 626 West Liberty Street
Date: 1850

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.


Eunice Baldwin House, 1850


Eunice Baldwin House, 1850

1500 Dexter Avenue

Eunice Baldwin House, 1850

This small Greek Revival house shows its original 12 by 12 timbers and stone walls in the basement. Some fifty years ago, when it still had its original narrow clapboards, its pleasing appearance won the attention of the Historic American Building Survey. Drawings and photographs in the Library of Congress show the Baldwin House as it looked then. Its position at the "Forks" and its eye-catching proportions make it an Ann Arbor landmark.

The house was probably built by carpenter and builder Norman B. Covert for Eunice Baldwin, the mother of his new bride, on an eighty-acre piece of farmland. Their two properties were separated by a road which has now become Revena Boulevard.

When Mrs. Baldwin died in 1868, she left her house and land to her two daughters, Nancy Baldwin and Lucy A. Covert. In 1887, Andrew Heimerdinger acquired the property. The original eighty acres has long since been divided into residential lots, but this small farm house was owned by a fourth generation Heimerdinger until quite recently.

Keywords: Greek Revival clapboard siding, houses


Places: 1500 Dexter Avenue
Date: 1850

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.


Moses and Jane Gunn House, 1851


Moses and Jane Gunn House, 1851

712 East Ann Street

Moses and Jane Gunn House, 1851

This handsome Greek Revival structure with its two-story pedimented portico is often overlooked because of its cramped location. When the house was completed in 1851, however, it stood on a large landscaped lot at the southeast corner of State and Ann Streets. It was purchased by Dr. Moses Gunn, a newly hired Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the just-opened University of Michigan Medical School.

Gunn's wife Jane, in a memoir published in 1889 after his death, noted that when they "purchased a roomy house nearly completed," the long pillars in the front "suggested a style of Grecian architecture now almost obsolete." Born in East Bloomfield, New York, Moses Gunn entered Geneva Medical College in 1844. After receiving his medical degree in 1846, he travelled to Ann Arbor where he joined with Silas Douglass and Abram Sager to open a private medical school in the Washtenaw County Courthouse. In 1850 he was appointed to his positions in the University Medical School where he worked for the next 13 years. Though a bit aristocratic, he was very much respected and today two portraits of him hang in the present University Hospital. A student described him as a "...striking figure of a man with an erect military carriage, clad in a snug-fitting, carefully buttoned-up black frock coat... who frequently raised his gold-rimmed eyeglasses to note the architectural peculiarities of each house he approached... then the eyeglasses were allowed to swing from their long gold chain to be quickly readjusted should anything seem worthy of attention"

The house is a fairly unusual example of the domestic Greek Revival in the Midwest. Built entirely of wood, it has a full pediment supported by four very tall two-story columns. These columns are square, not round and fluted as are those on more high style examples. It also has "shouldered" or "eared" trim around the doors and windows, a detail that is repeated on the interior.

The residence of a former governor of Michigan, Alpheus Felch, stood just to the south of this house on State Street. The two houses were reputed to be almost identical, designed by local builder Andrew DeForest. They must have made a spectacular impression on people entering the city coming up State Street from the railroad depot on their way to campus.

Although Gunn remained a faculty member until the 1860s, he left Ann Arbor in 1854 for Detroit where he could find more patients for his private practice. The house was sold to Richard Hooper, owner of the city's oldest brewery. The Hooper sons continued to live in the house after their father's death in 1866 until the Depression of 1873 drove them and many other brewers out of business.

The house was then empty until William H. Payne bought it in 1883. Payne was a new professor at the University of Michigan teaching a new subject: the science and art of teaching. He pioneered what later became the University of Michigan School of Education. He lived in the house only four years, but his diaries about his life in Ann Arbor, dictated to his wife many years later in 1901, reveal his interest in this house. He noted that the house was believed by the townspeople to be haunted by the ghost of a Hooper who had committed suicide. The oldest known photograph of the house, probably from 1915, comes from Payne's papers at the Bentley Library.

By the 1890s the neighborhood was no longer fashionable and the house became a rental, though it had the same owner for many years and was never divided up into apartments. In 1898 it was moved to the rear of its original lot, its orientation was changed to face Ann Street, and three newer houses constructed where it had been. Some of the earliest tenants included the well-known librarian Nellie Loving, who lived here with her mother for a short while.

Dr. David James, a respected orthodontist, and his wife Naomi, an interior decorator, purchased the house and lovingly restored it while they raised their two children here. In 1986 Mrs. James received a preservation award from the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission but by 1987 was forced to sell the house due to illness. The new owners, Lars Bjorn and Susan Wineberg, continue to maintain this historic structure and recently added a classical "deck" above the rear kitchen wing which is very much in keeping with the classical facade.

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Keywords: Houses, Greek Revival


Places: 712 East Ann Street
Date: 1851

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

1223 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: 1223 Traver Street
Date: 1851

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.


Henry DeWitt Bennett House, 1853


Henry DeWitt Bennett House, 1853

312 South Division

Henry DeWitt Bennett House, 1853
Kempf House, 1894

Thousands of people breathed a sigh of relief when this house was purchased by the City of Ann Arbor in 1969 in one of our earliest efforts to preserve our architectural heritage. The Ann Arbor Historic District Commission was created by city ordinance in 1971 and has had its offices in the house since 1975.

The Kempf house was built in 1853 for Henry DeWitt Bennett, an active citizen who served some years as postmaster and, from 1869 to 1886, as secretary and steward of the University of Michigan. Long renowned for its graceful simplicity, the temple-style Greek Revival architecture of the Kempf House has been described in books, magazines, and newspaper articles, and won entry in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

A classic story-and-a-half of the front gabled temple form, the home was described in 1919 by architectural historian Fiske Kimball as an illustration of the "simplification often introduced in the Old Northwest to adapt the ambitious temple type to less pretentious uses. Square piers are substituted for the costly circular columns; the 'anti-capital,' simplest of Greek Doric forms, is used to crown them. Instead of two full stories below the cornice, the house has its upper story in the roof, with small 'frieze windows... screened by delicate iron gratings designed on the motif of the Greek anthemion."

Compared to the exterior, the interior is quite plain. The most elaborately decorated room is the studio, designed originally as a parlor for special occasions and the reception of important guests. An interesting feature here is the tapering of door and window frames.

When Bennett retired and left Ann Arbor, he sold the house to his wealthy neighbor, A. L. Noble, who owned the Star Clothing House on Main Street. Noble removed some interior walls and rented the house first to James M. Stafford, a merchant tailor and then, in 1890, to musicians Reuben H. and Pauline Widenmann Kempf. After Noble's death, the Kempfs purchased the house from his widow in 1894.

Born in Pittsfield Township in 1859 into one of the county's earliest families, Reuben Kempf graduated from the Royal Conservatory in Stuttgart, Germany, and returned to Ann Arbor to pursue a long career as a musician and teacher. Kempf organized and directed concert series which attracted artists from a wide area. At the suggestion of University of Michigan President James B. Angell, Kempf assembled a singing society, the Beethoven Gesangverein (later the Lyra Male Chorus), to foster better understanding between town and gown through the universal language of music. He served for 33 years (1895-1928) as organist and choir director of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. Mrs. Kempf, the former Pauline Widenmann, was a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory and a pupil of the celebrated voice coach Oscar Saenger. An accomplished contralto, she taught her voice pupils to sing while facing two large mirrors, reminding them that proper posture is an essential foundation of sweet song. Mr. Kempf trained future Paderewskis on his Steinway, the first concert grand piano in Ann Arbor, which remains in the Kempf House and is often used at social events. Paderewski himself played on this instrument when it was borrowed by the University for one of his concerts.

Mr. Kempf died in 1945 at the age of 86. When Mrs. Kempf died eight years later, the house was acquired by neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Earl V. Parker. After Earl's death in 1968, Mrs. Parker sold the house to the city to protect it from potential demolition.

With assistance from the Parks Department, the Kempf House Society, a volunteer organization, is refurbishing the interior of the house and maintaining it as a Center for Local History. The Society provides open houses, tours and special events.

Keywords: Greek Revival, houses


Places: 312 South Division
Date: 1853

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.


Union Church, 1854


Union Church, 1854

504 High Street

Union Church, 1854

This small brick structure appears on the 1854 map of Ann Arbor labeled simply as "Union Church." It apparently was not finished until 1857, for the Michigan Argus of December 25th of that year reported: "The Union Church has been completed by the Colored People of the City and is to be dedicated Sunday by Reverend J. M. Gregory. S. H. Estabrook will officiate." Although its simple classical lines are obscured by a later porch, the building serves as a fine example of the vernacular use of the Greek Revival idiom for non-residential purposes.

It continued to be used as a church into the 1870s, though by 1871 a split had occurred within the local African-American religious community. This resulted in the formation of two congregations: the African Baptist (later known as Second Baptist) and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Both continue in operation today and trace their roots to this building on what was then known as Fuller Street.

By 1872, the AME congregation had begun to worship on the east side of Fourth Avenue between Summit Street and what is now Beakes Street. Although the Baptists continued to use the High Street Church until 1881, from 1883 until 1888 they have no listing in City Directories. In 1890 they reappear as the Second Baptist Church, worshipping in a building on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Beakes Street.

In 1884 the High Street property was sold to Michael Kearns who converted it into a residence. When his widow Mary sold the property in 1907, more than 20 years later, it was still referred to in the deed as "the church lot," perpetuating the memory of its first use. It continues to be used as a residential property today.

Keywords: Greek Revival, churches, houses


Places: 504 High Street
Date: 1854

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.


Detroit Observatory, 1854


Detroit Observatory, 1854

1308 East Ann Street

Detroit Observatory, 1854

Built in 1854, and called, until 1931, the Detroit Observatory, this building housed the first large telescope constructed in the United States, for years the third largest refractor in the world. The twelve and one-half inch telescope was made by Henry Fitz of New York, who held it as a matter of both personal and patriotic pride that he, an American locksmith and inventor untrained in optics, had invented his own process for making the complex and difficult achromatic lens, and that he was able to manufacture telescopes to compete with those of European make. The meridian circle, still intact, was used to compute time from observations of stars crossing the meridian. A special telegraph wire connected the Observatory with the Ann Arbor depot of the Michigan Central Railroad, which bought time readings to set its schedules.

The Observatory itself is a monument to the broad vision and indefatigable fund raising efforts of University President Henry Philip Tappan, who suggested the project to Henry Nelson Walker, a prominent Detroit lawyer with iron mine and railroad interests. Walker, who initiated and guaranteed construction, took an active part in fund raising and in choosing the site. He engaged George Bird to plan and superintend the building. A brass plate on the meridian circle, for which Walker was the major contributor, indicates that it was named in his honor.

"I cannot speak of the Observatory without emotion," Tappan wrote. "No one will deny that it was a creation of my own." Tappan, eager to advance the science of astronomy at the University of Michigan, spent weeks in Europe purchasing scientific equipment, and engaged Dr. Franz Brunnow to come from the Berlin Royal Observatory to direct the work here.

The center section of this Italianate building is thirty-three feet square, surmounted by a revolving dome twenty-one feet in diameter. The side wings are each twelve by twenty-nine feet. Later classroom and office additions were razed in1954 and 1976, leaving the original edifice intact.

Keywords: Observatories, Italianate


Places: 1308 East Ann Street
Date: 1854

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.


Bell-Spaulding House (Tuomy House), 1854


Bell-Spaulding House (Tuomy House), 1854

2117 Washtenaw Avenue

Bell-Spaulding House (Tuomy House), 1854
Historical Society of Michigan

This is a well-preserved early farmhouse that reflects the change in local architectural tastes in the decade between 1854, when the rear ell was constructed for George W. and Jane E. Bell, and 1864, when the present front section was built for Frederick A. and Almina S. Spaulding. Its transitional Greek Revival style with Italianate finish typifies the better class of frame farmhouse of that period.

Some of the original finishes of the original Greek Revival home still exist: the wide floorboards of pine, simple baseboards, squared door and window en-framements, and stair balustrade. The additions, most likely built in 1864, overshadow the original portion of the residence in size and design. The formal entryway was reoriented toward Washtenaw Avenue with the construction of a two-story, Italianate styled block. Other additions made that year include shed-roofed extensions on the south side and another on the east extension, which was fitted out as the new kitchen. The back door was moved to an off-center location and fitted with a small porch. Several other modernizing changes have been made since that time.

Very little is known of the Bells except that they consolidated pieces of land in Ann Arbor township to create a farm, and they were the first to have an interest in developing the property rather than buying it for speculation. The Spauldings were descendants of early east coast settlers, coming to Ann Arbor from New York state in 1863. Since Frederick Spaulding was already in his mid-60's, they led a quiet farm life until his death in 1874. Two of the Spaulding sons became well-known in Ann Arbor, Frederick Austin Spaulding, Jr., as a Doctor of Medicine, and Volney Morgan Spaulding as a Professor of Botany at the University of Michigan and founder of the University Botanical Gardens.

In April of 1874, Patrick and Cornelius L. Tuomy purchased the 214 acre Spaulding farm. Cornelius L. Tuomy, one of nine children of Timothy and Joanna Roach Tuomy, was raised on a Scio Township farm where his father had cleared 367 acres in the 1830s. Cornelius lived as a bachelor on the former Spaulding farm for eleven years before he married Julia Ann Kearney, described by a biographer (Beakes, 1906) as a "woman of rare intelligence, social power and popularity." Cornelius was a good agriculturist with varied interests. He was a successful dairy farmer and, with Patrick, was well-known for his ownership and breeding of several prize race horses. His sheep were sometimes reported in the local press as wandering down Washtenaw Avenue. Two of their children, Kathryn and Cornelius W. (Bill) Tuomy, formed a partnership and as the city grew, they developed the property and sold insurance from an office in the house. In 1930 they built the unusual and picturesque fieldstone Tuomy Hills Service Station down the road at the junction of Washtenaw and the "cutoff" (Stadium Boulevard).

When Bill Tuomy died in 1966, his will provided that the house be given to the City for some historic purpose. On March 16, 1968, by agreement with the City, the executors deeded the house and two acres of land to the University of Michigan. The University furnished some of the rooms in elegant Victorian style and arrangements were made for the house to be headquarters for the Historical Society of Michigan and the Academy of Arts, Science and Letters. In 1982 the house was transferred with its contents to the Society. The Society has worked since on the total restoration and maintenance of the house.

Keywords: Greek Revival Italianate, Farmhouses


Places: 2117 Washtenaw Avenue
Date: 1854

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.


Union Church, 1854


Union Church, 1854

504 High Street

Union Church, 1854

This small brick structure appears on the 1854 map of Ann Arbor labeled simply as "Union Church." It apparently was not finished until 1857, for the Michigan Argus of December 25th of that year reported: "The Union Church has been completed by the Colored People of the City and is to be dedicated Sunday by Reverend J. M. Gregory. S. H. Estabrook will officiate." Although its simple classical lines are obscured by a later porch, the building serves as a fine example of the vernacular use of the Greek Revival idiom for non-residential purposes.

It continued to be used as a church into the 1870s, though by 1871 a split had occurred within the local African-American religious community. This resulted in the formation of two congregations: the African Baptist (later known as Second Baptist) and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Both continue in operation today and trace their roots to this building on what was then known as Fuller Street.

By 1872, the AME congregation had begun to worship on the east side of Fourth Avenue between Summit Street and what is now Beakes Street. Although the Baptists continued to use the High Street Church until 1881, from 1883 until 1888 they have no listing in City Directories. In 1890 they reappear as the Second Baptist Church, worshipping in a building on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Beakes Street.

In 1884 the High Street property was sold to Michael Kearns who converted it into a residence. When his widow Mary sold the property in 1907, more than 20 years later, it was still referred to in the deed as "the church lot," perpetuating the memory of its first use. It continues to be used as a residential property today.

Keywords: Greek Revival, churches


Places: 504 High Street
Date: 1854

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.


Newton A. Prudden House, 1854


Newton A. Prudden House, 1854

418 North State Street

Newton A. Prudden House, 1854

The Newton A. Prudden house is one of a small group of stuccoed Greek Revival houses built in this neighborhood in the 1840s and 1850s. Built in a simple style with a side entry, the house dates to the mid-1850s and was constructed of adobe brick like its neighbor at 602 Lawrence Street. As such it is one of only two known examples of adobe houses in Ann Arbor proper. It originally had a gable roof that was altered into the present hipped shape after the Civil War. No elaborate details exist on the house save for the transom and sidelights around the entry.

Prudden was a local fruit dealer, bee keeper, and manufacturer of water filters. After his death, his nephew Newton F. Prudden took over the business and lived in the house with his aunt until 1893 when he traded the house for a farm in Chelsea. The diary of visiting nurse Emily Hollister from 1889 gives us an unusual perspective on this family. She noted that she had come to nurse Mrs. Prudens [sic"> and that she made a will in which "she gave away some relics [being"> a card and a comb to her nephew [and"> her flax wheel to the M. E. Church art loan program, her feather bed with blue patch to Mr. Pruden [sic"> and...a dollar to a cousin that she owed it to for...years." Mrs. Hollister went on to comment about the house: "[It"> is old and has been neglected. It reminds one of old mansions with many rooms, that one reads of in books and it gives one a creepy feeling. Well, death comes today, January 6."

Like most of the other houses on this block, this house was converted to a boarding house in the 20th century. Celebrated local author Louis W. Doll purchased the house in 1938 from the Home Owners Loan Corporation, an agency handling the property of banks that failed during the Depression. Doll remarks that during his renovation of the house he was surprised to find that the hipped roof had been built over the original gable roof. He tore out the older roof and re-used the oak beams to level the ceiling. An addition on the side was so deteriorated that it had to be demolished. Doll also replaced the old entry with a "colonial" door that was featured on the cover of House Beautiful in September 1937.

Keywords: Greek Revival, lodging houses, rooming houses, boarding houses


Places: 418 North State Street
Date: 1854

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.