Herb Bartlett, early chairman of the Ann Arbor Historical Commission

Submitted by Wystan Stevens

Herb Bartlett was a retired civil engineer who served as president of the historical society and was an early chairman of the Ann Arbor Historical Commission (now the Historic District Commission). The historical society celebrated Herb's 90th birthday at Hathaway's building on Ashley Street, probably around 1980. Dr. C. Howard Ross was in attendance on that day, and we were a bit chagrined to discover that he too had recently turned 90, but didn't get a birthday party. I guess he had neglected to tell anybody.

Herb on two occasions, ten years or so apart, gave presentations to the historical society on the history of the Chicago Road (Michigan Avenue). But he was no good as a speaker; he fumbled and unrolled maps and rolled them up again, and meandered around with his text. But he was a lovable character, and some of us miss him still. His wife was a nice lady, but delicate and quiet. She died a few years before he did.

Herb was born in Coldwater, MI, and one of his first jobs as a lad involved excavation work on the Main Street of that town. He used to show snapshots that had been made then (about 1911), where logs from the old corduroy road had been discovered in a sub-layer of the highway. (His interest in the Chicago Road sprang from this work, and from growing up beside the road, which ran thru Coldwater.)

I was not aware that he researched Indian trails, but I suppose that much of the Chicago Road was an Indian trail, originally.

One of his projects (self-assigned) while he was chair of the AA historical commission was to make a list of all the segments of old stone sidewalks then surviving downtown and in residential areas like Division and Hill Streets. I don't know whether he ever did a really systematic inventory of these. He also wanted to note the location of every house in town with gable "returns" at the cornice -- which indicated a house of the Federal or Greek Revival style.

He died a year or two after the 90th birthday celebration. Hazel Proctor, who organized that party, probably could tell your more about him. Sam Sturgis also knew Herb.

I assume that his papers and maps and photos went to the Bentley Historical Library, but I don't really know for certain.