Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

Welcome to AADL's local history page!

We have a large local history collection located on the second floor of the Downtown Library where you'll find a variety of sources for genealogy research. We've also produced several online collections you may be interested in, including...

50 Years of Originality: A History of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair The 50 year history of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair including an exhibit on the path the Art Fair has taken, a collection of over 100 images including photos and promotional materials, audio memories of art fair participants and visitors, and videos.
Ann Arbor Architecture Archive Learn the history of the buildings around us with this gallery of images and text about Ann Arbor's historic structures. Includes the full text of Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Minutes A chance to view the history of Ann Arbor through the eyes of its governing body. Search the full text of Ann Arbor City Council meeting minutes from 1891-1930 or browse available meetings. All sets of minutes can be viewed as images or as searchable pdfs.
Ann Arbor Cooks Online collection of heirloom recipes and cookbooks from Ann Arbor area community organizations, churches and businesses. Browse or search recipes, or view cookbooks in their entirety. Includes access to Repast, the acclaimed culinary history magazine.
AACHM Living Oral History An oral history project in partnership with the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. The interviews serve as a road map illustrating what local African-Americans witnessed, experienced, and contributed to building the community we share today.
Ann Arbor Facts Data, facts and trivia on our hometown.
Ann Arbor Film Festival Archive The history of North America's longest running festival for independent and experimental film is told through programs, posters, flyers, photographs, newspaper articles and original interviews.
Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now Online collection of over 130 articles from the Ann Arbor Observer covering a wide variety of local history topics, fully searchable and browsable by subject. Also has an image gallery of historic Ann Arbor photos.
Ann Arbor Police Department History An online exhibit of the history of the Ann Arbor Police Department. Includes full-text of True Crimes and the History of the AAPD, The History of the Outdoor Range and hundreds of photographs and images of memorabilia collected by the department since 1847.
Ann Arbor Summer Festival Archive Learn about the history of one of Ann Arbor's largest cultural events, featuring programs and posters from each year, contemporary newspaper articles, hundreds of photos, and original interviews with past Festival directors.
Downtown A2 Historical Street Exhibit Program Tour the permanent sidewalk exhibits at sixteen landmark sites throughout downtown Ann Arbor. Includes full-text and keyword access to an image database of hundreds of images from each location.
The Ford Gallery of Ann Arbor Founders Who are the people who made Ann Arbor the city we all know and love? From the earliest pioneers to twentieth-century philanthropists, here are the stories of businessmen and women, visionaries and artists, educators and entrepreneurs, doctors, ministers, and mayors.
Freeing John Sinclair: The Day Legends Came to Town Learn about a piece of Ann Arbor's radical past with photos, essays, newspaper articles, the entire run of the Ann Arbor Sun, and original interviews. This website documents the activities of John Sinclair, the day John Lennon and Stevie Wonder played a concert in Ann Arbor, how an Ann Arborite ended up on the FBI's Most Wanted List, and the actions the White Panther/Rainbow People's Party.
Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice: 50 Years of History An online exhibit in partnership with ICPJ, including photos, local news articles, and documents spanning five decades of social justice advocacy and activism in our community.
Making of Ann Arbor Discover the history of Ann Arbor through full-text access to several books and several image collections. Includes a collection of postcards, historic buildings, advertisements, and maps of early Ann Arbor.
Old News Read newspapers from Ann Arbor's past to learn more about the places around you. Old News includes over 115,000 articles and photos from the Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor Courier, Ann Arbor Argus, and Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat. Read full issues of 19th century newspapers and browse or search articles and photos from the 20th.
pictureAnnArbor An online photo collection of Ann Arbor past and present. Search for images of Ann Arbor and add some of your own.
Signal of Liberty Ann Arbor's prominent abolitionist newspaper, with issues from 1841-1847 now available online. Browse the articles in the original or search all newspaper items.
University Musical Society: A History of Great Performances This collection includes full text searching and browsing access to the first 100 years of historical programs from University Musical Society concerts, as well as hundreds of photographs from their 131-year history.
Ypsilanti Gleanings Ypsilanti Gleanings is the official publication of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, which through painstakingly-researched articles, first-hand accounts, and historical photographs, presents a clear picture of the Ypsilanti that once was and still is all around us. Explore this online archive by searching, browsing by issue or browsing by subject, and check out the image gallery of photographs and illustrations from the collection of the YHS.

We've also invited some local historians to contribute to a local history blog, which begins below. Thanks for your interest, and enjoy!

Happy 95th Anniversary Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor

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On May 13, 1921, the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor was founded. Old News has published hundreds of photos and articles chronicling the history of one of Ann Arbor's oldest and most generous organizations. Only a few of these great photos made it into the Ann Arbor News and we hope Kiwanians enjoy this expanded look back at their history.

The Kiwanis have donated time, money, expertise and compassion to such a wide variety of needs that it's impossible to name them all. First and foremost is the Kiwanis long association with University Hospital (later Mott) Children's ward. In the 1920s the Kiwanis realized that polio was consigning hundreds of Michigan children to years of hospitalization and determined they would make life as normal and enjoyable as possible for the kids. They funded a school, a therapuetic pool, arts and crafts rooms, a professional staff, and a bright atmosphere to counter the effects of polio. How did they do it? In 1927, the Kiwanis launched the most famous Rummage Sale in Ann Arbor. The Kiwanis paper sale began in 1932 and ran for more than 30 years.

The Kiwanis sponsored 4-H Club picnics, rang bells for the Salvation Army, built Boy Scout cabins and a Juvenile Center play shelter. Schools, the YWCA's Camp Takona, the Public Library, area high schools and nursery schools, the County Farm Bureau, city parks, the Police Department, the Special Olympics, the Y, whatever the need, the Kiwanis stepped up.

The Kiwanis took time to have fun with card parties, club picnics, meetings and conventions, baseball, and one a very cool road trip . Happy Anniversary Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor, here's to 95 more.

View all Kiwanis photos
Read all Kiwanis articles

60th Anniversary of 'New' Ann Arbor High School, April 1956

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the 'New' Ann Arbor High School in April 1956. Old News has published the photos and articles that tell the story from students campaigning for new digs in February, 1953 to the first commencement in June, 1956. Voters had barely passed the bond when the earth movers starting clearing the old Stadium Hills Golf Course to make way for the new high school. There are great shots of the construction and the various buildings that make up the complex. A cornerstone ceremony was held in December, 1954, led by the AAHS Marching Band. By May, 1955, the building was ready for a Student Council inspection and in November, 1995, the School Board sponsored a public tour that brought a real crowd to the site.

Moving-in started in earnest in February, 1956. On March 30th an army of student volunteers turned out to help AAHS staff to fight the mud and get the school ready for opening day, April 9, 1956. Students filled the halls, tested the equipment, hit the books and had some fun at the not-quite-finished school. Check out the lunch room. While the new school filled up, 'Old' Ann Arbor High School at State & Huron emptied out and silent hallways awaited remodeling by the University of Michigan as the Frieze Building.

The official public tour of the new high school was held on April 15, 1956 and thousands turned out. Guests were welcomed at the door, toured a sleek new lobby, and attended a formal dedication. You can view the original Dedication Program on Old News.

On June 14, 1956, the first Commencement was held at the new high school, featuring both an 1891 graduate and an engagement. Many of the photos we've published on Old News never appeared in the Ann Arbor News so be on the lookout for townies you know.

Building the Ann Arbor News Building

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2016 marks the 80th anniversary of the former Ann Arbor News Building at 340 E. Huron St. - the only commercial building in Ann Arbor designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn. Watch the above slideshow to see the construction of this iconic art deco-style building, week by week, from the first shovelful on August 28, 1935 through its completion at the end of January, 1936.

Between January and April 1936, the News building was outfitted with furnishings, equipment and a new printing press. On May 21, 1936, an open house was held for the public. Longtime News photographer Eck Stanger took dozens of photos of interior spaces and staff after construction was completed, including the News room and equipment operators, and he continued to shoot photos of staff at work writing, composing, printing, and delivering the News through 1937.

The Ann Arbor News occupied the building until the paper's first print-run closure in 2009. It is now owned by the University of Michigan Credit Union.

View all photos of the new Ann Arbor News building.

You can also catch a related exhibition, "Albert Kahn: Under Construction", at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), now through July 3, 2016.

Oldnews posts articles, letters to the editor and photos on the history of the Pall-Gelman dioxane groundwater contamination

Editorial Cartoon, 1992

The Pall-Gelman 1,4 dioxane groundwater contamination has a long and troubled past in Ann Arbor history.

AADL Archives staff, with the assistance of Scio township resident Roger Rayle, founder and leader of Scio Residents for Safe Water, has posted over 1,000 historical articles, editorials, letters to the editor and photos from the Ann Arbor News covering the history of the Pall-Gelman dioxane groundwater contamination cleanup from the late 1960s, when Gelman Sciences (now the Pall Corp.) pumped contaminated water into a holding pond at their 600 S. Wagner facility, through the close of the first iteration of the Ann Arbor News in 2009. Coverage includes not only attention-grabbing headlines but considerable detail about the company's earnings, personnel changes, and related environmental concerns at the state and local level throughout this period.

The discovery of the 1,4 dioxane in water wells in the 1980s caused a public outcry and set off much finger-pointing and several legal battles between the Pall-Gelman Corporation; Scio township residents; the city of Ann Arbor; and the state of Michigan concerning responsibility for the cleanup that's now stretched over three decades. Former Ann Arbor News assistant metro editor Lynn Monson has written a special feature story for Oldnews to bring readers up to date as the dioxane plume continues to spread toward the Huron River.

Leni Sinclair, 2016 Kresge Eminent Artist

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Congratulations to Leni Sinclair, recently named the 2016 Kresge Eminent Artist!

AADL was privileged to work with Leni on the events and website surrounding the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally in 2011. You'll find several of Leni's photographs relating to the Rally and her years in Ann Arbor on AADL's Freeing John Sinclair site. Here you can also listen to an interview with Leni in which she recalls the origins of the Detroit Artists Workshop and their strategic retreat to Ann Arbor following the Detroit Riots, or a joint video interview with John Sinclair on their memories of the 1971 Rally. Read Leni's essay about her life in Ann Arbor's Hill House commune, or check out her work in Detroit Rocks (2012), co-authored with Gary Grimshaw.

Old News Way Back Day: January 29, 1951

This month Old News travels back 65 years to January 29, 1951 and the grand opening of Eberwhite School. We found a wealth of material on Eberwhite so we've posted over 200 articles and photos all the way back to the original land swap with the University of Michigan, the laying of the cornerstone in 1950, construction, and the hundreds of events and milestones throughout the years. Many of the photos we've posted were never published in the Ann Arbor News so we don't have names to go with the faces. We'd love to hear from the alumni, faculty and families of Eberwhite to make the history more complete.

There was plenty of other local news reported on the 29th. Fire destroyed the Riverside Bar and Bowling Alley in Ypsilanti. The Ann Arbor Public Schools announced the first annual Bands In Review program featuring bands from Ann Arbor High School and Slauson and Tappan Junior Highs. On the sports front, Dave Dingman dominated the All-City Skating Meet at Burns Park. The University of Michigan opened its track season with a meet that featured a mysterious missing lap in a medley relay. While the Kiwanis thanked city residents for their generous support of the fundraising Rummage Sale, an Ann Arbor News editorial wondered why the citizens of Washtenaw county were failing to support the Polio Drive. Weddings and births were announced, plays produced and movies promoted. Television replaced radio as the mainstay of home entertainment with shows like Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Milton Berle and Studio One. Our favorite advertisement of the day was the Modern Appliance Co. display ad for the amazing Spindrier that featured several ladies dancing, celebrating and hugging the appliance.

 

AADL Talks to: Barbara Barefield

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November 18, 2015 at 4th Floor Meeting Room

Downloads:

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aadl_talks_to_barbara_barefield.mp3

Barbara worked on the alternative newspaper The Ann Arbor Sun in the 1970s. The newspaper was the mouthpiece for the White Panther Party and the succeeding Rainbow People’s Party before being an independent publication devoted to local issues, left-wing politics, music, and arts. In this interview, Barbara talks about her days working on The Sun, how a newspaper actually came together in the days before computers, and the relationship between art and social justice.

Length: 00:29:42
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library


Old News Way Back Day: December 17, 1935

This month Old News travels back 80 years to December 17, 1935. Local news dominated the front page that day with the major announcement of the merger of three banks, Ann Arbor Savings Bank, the Farmers and Mechanics Bank, and First National Bank and Trust Co. The merger, in the middle of the Great Depression, was seen as reassuring move in an otherwise shaky banking industry. Economic conditions dominated other local news as the Ann Arbor Public School announced federal funding for nursery schools and adult education. The WPA plan for a "practice house" where girls from relief families would be trained as housemaids was also unveiled. Even the Letters to the Editor were concerned with the Depression as a citizen called on neighbors to drop their opposition to a home for orphan children in the 7th ward. Perhaps related to the dire economic conditions (or not), the Courts took up the case of the stolen hog.

Many of the holiday traditions familiar to Ann Arborites took center stage in 1935. A front page article predicted that thousands would listen to the University Choral Union's Messiah at Hill Auditorium. The Community Sing, begun in 1931, was promoted with a full-page display complete with lyrics to all the favorite Christmas songs for the expected 10,000 carolers. The University of Michigan's Subscription Dance was becoming so popular organizers had to limit ticket sales. The local schools were not to be outdone with the Tappan School students putting on a production of Dicken's Christmas Carol. Check out the list of players and you may recognize a Townie. The annual Yule Lighting Contest deadline was extended to give citizens plenty of time to decorate their yards.

Amateur sports were big, really big, in 1935. Amateur boxing nights at the Armory drew big crowds and prominent coverage in the News. Mill Marsh, the News sports columnist, mused on the growing popularity of Wolverine hockey and basketball. Intrepid wrestling coach Cliff Keen regaled the Ann Arbor Kiwanis with a description of the drama of Big Ten conference matches.

So what kind of routine news would you find in the Ann Arbor Daily News in 1935? Plenty. Birthdays were celebrated, marriage license announced, deaths noted, weather data recorded, and the ever-present promotional contests, with readers competing for prizes with funny verses. Readers looked to the radio listings for their favorite programs and the theater ads for the latest films from Hollywood.

Much has changed in Ann Arbor in 80 years but it's amazing to note how many business are still around. Moe Sport Shop, celebrating 100 years in 2015, had a gorgeous display ad to tempt holiday shoppers. Kroger Co. gave cooks a list of the most-needed holiday items. Arbor Springs reminded readers to stock up on water for the holiday dinners. Stay tuned to Old News for more Way Back Days.

Livin' On The Line ~ The Community High School Line-Up Debacle of 1996

It seemed like a good idea in January,1996: To deal with overwhelming demand for placements at Community High School, AAPS would hold a lottery for the first 50 slots and then the rest could wait in line "for a few days" before the April 1st sign-up date. Except the line started at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday, March 17th when Tappan Middle School student Maisie Wilhelm lined up outside the Balas Building. And they came, and they came and they came, with tents, and cook stations and couches and campfires. Parents set up temporary homes in vans, temporary offices in tents, and a Line-Up headquarters. Hopeful middle-schoolers played Hacky Sack (remember Hacky Sack?), strummed guitars (of course), and exhibited almost-Community High cool.

This being Michigan and March, a late-winter storm hit Ann Arbor on March 20. By March 27, the Ann Arbor News had seen enough of frozen kids and sacrificing parents and called for an end to the Line-Up in favor of an all-lottery system. Apparently the situation got so tense a Community High School student had to remind News readers it was the AAPS and not the students who lined up who caused the Line-Up debacle at Balas. April 1, 1996 finally arrived and a cold and wrapped-up Maisie was officially welcomed by Community High School dean Judy Hamilton Conger. And by April 2, Superintendent John O. Simpson had read enough Letters to the Editor, seen enough images of tents and announced that AAPS would move to a lottery system for filling slots at all three alternative schools. And thus ended another chapter in the colorful history of Community High.

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