Local History Photos

Hoban Block, 1871


Hoban Block, 1871

109-119 East Ann Street

Hoban Block, 1871

Prior to the Civil War, tailors and grocers were located in this block, but the headline in the December 30, 1870 issue of the Michigan Argus "Fire on Rotten Row" reveals its true character at the time. The paper reported that the buildings, owned by Mrs. Hoban, were a total loss. By March of 1871, however, the Peninsular Courier reported that ground had been broken for a new building and by the summer of that year it was completed. The 1881 History of Washtenaw County commented that Mrs. Hoban had "built a substantial business on Ann Street in 1871 at a cost of several thousand dollars."

It was the epitome of commercial architecture at the time: a row of almost identical brick storefronts in the Italianate commercial style. Three stories high, the first floor contained storefronts with large glass windows, while the second and third floors were office and residential. Characteristic of the style are the brick arched windows with round tops on the third floor and segmental arches on the second. Except for the building at 109, brick corbeling unites the facades of all six of these storefronts. At one time a bracketed cornice united them as well.

The block contained the usual collection of businesses: restaurants, groceries, and butcher shops. But it also had more than its share of saloons and "disreputable" establishments. In 1898 a local newspaper published a map showing the saloons that were corrupting the University of Michigan students were all clustered in the block north of the courthouse. Just around the corner from the Hoban Block was "Ann Arbor's Official Bawdy House."

Though the unsavory character of the area persisted, the "Ann Street Block" was also known for its blues bars in the 1960s and 1970s. Clint's Club was a popular meeting place for African-Americans who supported the block's bars, pool halls, and barber shops.

In the mid-1980s, owner Peter Bilakos began to restore the storefronts individually and his legal offices now occupy the first floor of one of them.


Article Keywords: Commercial Buildings, Hoban Block, Italianate Architecture, Office Buildings
People: Mrs. Hoban, Peter Bilakos
Places: 109-119 E Ann St
Date: 1871

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.


Frederick Sorg Block, 1871


Frederick Sorg Block, 1871

216-218 East Washington

Frederick Sorg Block, 1871

When Frederick Sorg completed the brick block at 216 for his paint and glass depot in 1871, he realized such instant success that he built a second store next door in 1872 at 218 East Washington. One of the local newspapers, the Peninsular Courier, remarked in July of that year that a "new brick block is going up rapidly." It joined the ranks of Ann Arbor's other brick commercial blocks that were sprouting up in downtown during the boom years of the early 1870s.

Sorg was so proud of this building that he featured it in many of his advertisements. In the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County an engraving shows in delicate shadings the second-floor arched windows separated by thin brick pilasters. It also shows the floor-to-ceiling plate glass storefront windows that were the newest rage among businesses.

Sorg advertised himself as a "house, sign, and ornamental painter, dealing in paints, oils, varnishes, glass etc." Paper hanging, printing and glazing also were his specialties and by the late 1870s he had added graining and gilding. His work was carried on by his son Albert until 1886. In the 1890s Edgar Munyon and his wife Addie ran a millinery shop here and lived upstairs, just as the Sorgs had. Throughout the 20th century the building housed a succession of businesses including a barber shop, a tape recorder store, a donut company, a shoe store and a coal store.

In 1985 Robert Tisch, owner of Tisch Incorporated, an insurance and investment services firm, purchased the building and hired architect Daniel H. Jacobs to remove the porcelain enamel panels that had covered the front since the 1950s. The original facade was then restored using the drawing in the county atlas as a guide.

Recognizing the great improvement both to the building and to the street as a whole, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission awarded Tisch a Rehabilitation Award in 1986 for his sensitive restoration of the building's interior as well as its exterior.


Article Keywords: Commercial Buildings, Frederick Sorg Block, Rehabilitation Award
People: Addie Munyon, Daniel H. Jacobs, Edgar Munyon, Frederick Sorg, Robert Tisch
Places: 216-218 E Washington St
Date: 1871

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 Adam Volz House, 1873


John Adam Volz House, 1873

716 North Fifth Avenue

John Adam Volz House, 1873

This exceptionally handsome and symmetrical Italianate house, with its bracketed eaves, segmental arched windows and brick detailing, was built for John Adam Volz in 1873. The intricate carving of the wood entry porch is still in fine condition. A summer kitchen to the rear was converted to a dining room and a new kitchen added in two stages in 1880 and 1890.

Volz had been the proprietor of the Ann Arbor Central Brewery next door at the corner of Fifth and Summit, since its opening in 1858. Water for the brewing operation was obtained from a spring behind the house. Volz sold the brewery the same year he built the house and two years later he sold the house as well to Jacob F. Beck, one of the new owners of the brewery. John Volz' daughter, Amelia, married John Jacob Muehlig. The second of their five children was Ann Arbor dry goods merchant and philanthropist, Bertha Muehlig, born in 1874.

In 1885, another young German emigrant, Frederick Walther, a miller by trade, purchased the house. His family and its descendants occupied it for more than eighty years. The Walther family took cuttings from a garden of lilac varietals in the Nichols Arboretum. The arboretum lilac garden is gone but the large old lilac shrubs which shelter the garden of this house grew from those cuttings.


Article Keywords: Houses, Italianate Architecture, John Adam Volz House
People: Frederick Walther, Jacob F. Beck, John Adam Volz
Places: 716 N Fifth Ave
Date: 1873

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 George Koch House, 1874


John George Koch House, 1874

530 South Division Street

John George Koch House, 1874

Showcased by its high-profile location next to Hanover Square at the intersection of Division, Packard, and Madison Streets, this brick Italianate "cube" was built in 1874 for John George Koch. Koch was a local furniture maker who had originally apprenticed in Germany. Like many other Germans in Ann Arbor, Koch immigrated from Wurttemberg in 1866. Also like many men of this era, he worked and traveled through many parts of the country including New Haven, Connecticut; Columbus, Ohio; and Dexter, Michigan before finally settling in Ann Arbor in 1872. For seven years he was a stockholder and assistant superintendent of the Keck Furniture Company. In 1880 Koch attempted to go into business on his own but soon teamed up with Jacob Haller in the firm of Koch and Haller, furniture dealers.

Koch sold the house in 1888 to Sarah and William Rice, a wealthy farmer descended from pioneer families of Washtenaw County, who had retired to Ann Arbor that year. A 1906 biography of him states that "he removed to the city of Ann Arbor and there his wife purchased a residence which he made his home until the time of his death, enjoying in well earned ease the fruits of his former toil." The house remained in the Rice family until about the time of World War I, after which it was rented and its tenants changed every decade.

In the late 1940s, it was purchased by the present owner who has maintained the seven room house in pristine condition, preserving original brackets and the heavy brick arches over the windows. The woodwork in the two downstairs parlors has been refinished after seven layers of paint were removed. Recognizing that these efforts were a contribution to the entire community of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission awarded the owner a Preservation Award in 1988 for keeping this "gem" in top-notch condition.


Article Keywords: Houses, Italianate Architecture, John George Koch House, Preservation Award
People: John George Koch, Sarah Rice, William Rice
Places: 530 S Division St
Date: 1874

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.


Ottmar Eberbach House, 1875


Ottmar Eberbach House, 1875

402 South Fourth Avenue

Ottmar Eberbach House, 1875

Ottmar Eberbach, like his pharmacist father, Christian, received his professional education in Germany. Returning to Ann Arbor, he joined the firm of Eberbach and Sons, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and scientific equipment.

When Ottmar married Katherine Haller in 1870, he began to build this red brick Queen Anne house. Cherry panels were used for the interior trim and the house was furnished with six handsomely decorated fireplaces. The finest of these, the parlor mantel, was removed with the permission of the Eberbach family when the house was occupied by the Harris Tire Company many years later. Efforts to locate it have been unsuccessful.

The original lot is still defined by two "rustic" iron hitching posts, one at the corner and the other at the far side of an adjacent house which occupies what was the Eberbach garden area.

At the turn of the century, the intersection of Fourth and William was a distinguished residential area, with a fine home on each corner. By 1908, however, the DeFries home on the northwest corner had been converted to the Alpha Hotel-Boarding; the southeast corner home had become the Ann Arbor Sanitarium (now Muehlig's Funeral Home); the Bach house was on the lot now occupied by the Ann Arbor Y. Although the tire company began use of the house in 1928, the Eberbach family retained ownership until 1974. The beer depot addition was made in 1938. The house is now a multifamily conversion.


Article Keywords: Harris Tire Company, Ottmar Eberbach House, Queen Anne Style Architecture, The Beer Depot
People: Katherine Haller Eberbach, Ottmar Eberbach
Places: 402 S Fourth Ave
Date: 1875

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.


First Congregational Church, 1872-1876


First Congregational Church, 1872-1876

608 East William Street

First Congregational Church, 1872-1876
Creator: Lloyd, Gordon W.

The First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor was organized on March 23, 1847. According to the 1947 history of the church written by Calvin O. Davis, "...its founding was the result of a schism within the membership of the local Presbyterian Church, the separation taking place primarily in protest against the stand maintained by that church on the question of Negro slavery." The secession was led by a small group of liberals who also differed with the Presbyterians on questions of faith and dogma. In 1849 they built a church on Washington Street at Fifth Avenue, but by March of 1870, having outgrown their church building, they voted to build a new one. They chose the corner of State and William Streets, and in June of 1872 the cornerstone was laid. The dedication of the finished church was held on May 10, 1876.

Detroit architect Gordon W. Lloyd, also the designer of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, chose the Gothic style in multi-colored cut fieldstone and Indiana limestone. The elaborate slate roof with lozenge motifs in contrasting colors is a hallmark of the Gothic style, as are the wooden hammer or collar beams on the inside. In 1942 the interior of the building was refurbished, and in 1946 stone entrance steps and 21 stained glass windows were added. Dr. Leonard Parr began the effort to add a parish house to the original building. Its cornerstone was laid on May 10, 1951.

The Douglas Memorial Chapel, named after Dr. Lloyd C. Douglas, minister of the church from 1916 to 1921, and the parish house were designed by University of Michigan Professor of Architecture Ralph Hammett and completed in 1953. Famous for his preaching abilities, Douglas was also the author of two popular novels, The Robe and Magnificent Obsession, which were later made into movies.

In 1986 the church completed a three-year renovation, which included the restoration of the collar beams in the main sanctuary, the installation of the Wilhelm Tracker Pipe Organ, and a ramp and elevator for handicap access.

The church complex is of remarkable beauty and interest. It graces a major traffic corner and provides a balance to the University campus just across the street, as well as a fitting transition to the State Street commercial district to the north.


Article Keywords: Churches, First Congregational Church, Gothic Revival Architecture, Lloyd Douglas Memorial Chapel, Wilhelm Tracker Pipe Organ
People: Gordon W. Lloyd, Ralph Hammett
Places: 608 E William St
Date: 1876

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.


DKE Shant (Delta Kappa Epsilon), 1878


DKE Shant (Delta Kappa Epsilon), 1878

611 East William Street

DKE Shant (Delta Kappa Epsilon), 1878
Creator: Jenney, William Le Baron, 1832-1907

Constructed in 1878 by the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity as a meeting place for its members who lived in rooms scattered around the campus, this was the first fraternity building at the University of Michigan.

The "Shant" was designed by William LeBaron Jenney during his tenure as professor of architecture at the University of Michigan (1876-79). Later Jenney returned to Chicago, where he achieved fame for the pioneering use of a steel skeleton frame in the Home Insurance Building, generally considered to be the world's first skyscraper. The DKE Shant, built in what was described by Jenney as a thirteenth century French style, resembles the Grace Episcopal Church in Chicago, designed by Jenney a few years earlier. It is thought to be Jenney's only remaining work in Michigan.

After the Dekes' chapter house on Geddes burned in 1968, the chapter ceased to hold regular meetings and the empty Shant was repeatedly vandalized. In 1971 the late Detroit industrialist Wilfred V. Casgrain and other Omicron chapter alumni renovated the structure to function again as an on-campus club for DKE student members.

The original stone foundation, woodwork, and Jenney's characteristic brick work have not been altered. The building is a gem of nineteenth century Victorian eclecticism, having a basic Gothic character with Italianate trim. The interior is now contemporary. The high brick wall that was added in 1901 shelters a tiny marble tombstone in memory of the dog "Abe," the Dekes' long-time mascot.


Article Keywords: Delta Kappa Epsilon, University of Michigan - Fraternities & Sororities
People: Wilfred V. Casgrain, William Le Baron Jenney
Places: 611 E William St
Date: 1878

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.


Margaret Kearney House, circa 1880


Margaret Kearney House, circa 1880

601-603 Lawrence Street

Margaret Kearney House, circa 1880

In 1879, when Miss Margaret Kearney purchased this lot, it may still have contained the older house that appears on maps from 1853-1870. Since the bird's eye view for 1880 indicates no building here, it is likely that she built this fine brick Italianate soon afterward. Although its window sash have been replaced, the Italianate features, including the porch with its chamfered columns, the star cutouts in the front gable, and the long narrow windows with their arched tops remain intact.

The Kearney family began a long association with this part of town in late 1877 when Ambrose Kearney, a local grocer, purchased the property around the corner at 411 North State Street. Two years later, Ambrose's sister Margaret purchased the Lawrence Street property, which abuts the State Street property on the rear, from William Parker who had bought it at a sheriff's sale. The first tenant listed in the 1883 City Directory was Reverend Russell Pope, pastor of the Methodist Church. By 1886 Margaret Kearney lived here along with her brother Ambrose who moved back to his State Street property the following year. In the 1890s their father, Thomas D. Kearney, a farmer from Northfield Township, moved in with Margaret.

The Kearney family remained associated with the house for many years. Although the house stood vacant for part of the 1920s and 1930s, Ambrose N. Kearney, an insurance salesman with Tuomy and Tuomy, was living here as late as the 1960s. His family moved in to Ann Arbor from Webster Township in the mid-20th century. The house was converted to a duplex about 1952.


Article Keywords: Houses, Italianate Architecture, Margaret Kearney House
People: Ambrose N. Kearney, Margaret Kearney, Thomas D. Kearney
Places: 601-603 Lawrence St
Date: 1880

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.


First Baptist Church, 1880


First Baptist Church, 1880

512 East Huron Street

First Baptist Church, 1880

So important was the construction of this church building, the third in the history of the First Baptist Church since its organization in 1828, that members monitored its construction and personally selected and arranged the square-cut fieldstones into pleasing designs. Parishioner John Nowland provided the black walnut for the interior from his farm and Edward Olney, a nationally-known Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan, mortgaged his own home to raise funds to build the church.

Historically Baptists have been champions of individualism and this freedom has often been translated architecturally into non-standard church forms. In this church, however, the reigning Gothic style, with its hammer beams reminiscent of medieval English churches, was adapted to Baptist sensibilities and rituals. Accustomed to a semicircular arrangement around a preacher with parishioners close to the pulpit, the Baptists manipulated the cruciform plan to suit their purposes.

The result is a blending of the shape of the cross with a spread-out seating arrangement that produces in the onlooker a pleasant sensation as one enters the church. Prominent balconies sweep down to meet the front altar on each side and the hammer beams further accentuate the sensation. Although the altar and front entrance were remodelled and the steeple replaced some years ago, the church remains remarkably the same as it was over 100 years ago. "Shaded by magnificent oak trees, its sharply rising roof line and slender central spire and its capping front ornament of 'Cross and Crown' the church is still the pride of the congregation." These words, written by Lela Duff in 1961, still hold true today.

The First Baptist church was organized in 1828 in a farmhouse three miles west of Ann Arbor. Four years later services were held in town above Anson Brown's store on Broadway and construction of a church building began on Wall Street in 1835. In 1849 the congregation erected a brick church on Catherine Street between Division and Fifth Avenue in order to be closer to the university students. In 1880 they commenced building the present church and the old brick church was demolished shortly after the new one was completed.


Article Keywords: Churches, First Baptist Church, Gothic Revival Architecture
People: Edward Olney, John Nowland
Places: 512 E Huron St
Date: 1880

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.


J. Frederick Schaeberle House, Circa 1880


J. Frederick Schaeberle House, Circa 1880

420 West Jefferson Street

J. Frederick Schaeberle House, Circa 1880

Particularly notable for its ornamental porch, gabled roof and fishscale siding, this inviting wood frame Queen Anne house was built about 1880 for the J. Frederick Schaeberle family.

Frederick came to Ann Arbor in 1853 at the age of nine. While a youth he worked in Christian Mack's department store, then made harnesses with his father. His leisure time was devoted to music, and he was sent eventually to study with a master in Chicago. He finished his education in Germany where he also found his bride, the former Katherine Kemmler. Returning to Ann Arbor, Schaeberle began a long and distinguished career as a music teacher. His music store at 114 West Liberty, which opened in 1896 carried musical instruments "from the best houses." Townspeople relied upon his piano tuning and his performing, which a biographer noted was "far beyond mediocrity in the interpretation of the masters."

After Mr. Schaeberle's death in the late 1920s, his widow Katherine continued to live in the house for a few years. Their son, Ernst, kept a music store in Ann Arbor well into this century.

In 1944 Jacob F. Fahrner converted the house to four apartments. Ownership has changed frequently and it is still a multifamily home. In recent times the house has been faced with aluminum siding. Its porch has been rebuilt with care to maintain the decorative details. It is a part of the Old West Side Historic District.


Places: 420 W Jefferson St
Date: 1880

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.