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

Grisly Local History: Wicked Washtenaw County

For those of you who enjoy history with a morbid twist, the AADL now offers Wicked Washtenaw County: Strange Tales of the Grisly and Unexplained. This new collection of short stories from local Ypsilanti historian James Thomas Mann offers up true tales of murder, mystery, grave robbing, scandal, etc. culled from old newspapers of our area. Mann's book is a short, quick read garnished with photos and drawings of the people and places involved. It gives a glimpse into Washtenaw's darker history, like the unsolved 1913 murder of a Chelsea woman who was strangled and found buried under a pile of cornhusks in her barn.

An Intimate look inside one of the oldest estates in Barton Hills

Brushwood_frontBrushwood_front

Jean Spero, granddaughter of former Detroit Edison president, Alex Dow (1862-1942), recently sent us several photographs of her childhood home in Ann Arbor. Known as "Brushwood," this country estate was one of the first homes to be built on the rolling slopes above Barton Dam, which eventually became Barton Hills. Local historian Grace Shackman covers the origins of this area in her article, "The Buried History of Barton Hills."

Spero's childhood memories color her personal tour of Brushwood. For example, here's one about the Brushwood Library, her grandfather's favorite hideaway:

"There were two walls filled with books, a special radio, a fireplace, two desks, one his and one for the secretaries who often came out for a week or so to work with him....they were very sweet and two became especially good friends of mine. As a teen when Grandfather wasn't there I would use that room to 'entertain' my friends by listening to the radio in front of a roaring fire...wonderful atmosphere. As a little one I read all I could get my hands on, including the Encyclopedia Britannica which was thoughtfully put on a lower shelf! The collection was very diverse, lots of folklore, philosophy or religious tomes of every sort of religion, history, plus, of course, current novels, etc. I have two of the books, Willa Cather's My Antonia and a huge coffee table-sized book on Scottish tartans...." (J. Spero)

AADL Productions Podcast: Michael Erlewine

Michael ErlewineMichael Erlewine

Michael Erlewine, author, archivist, and founder of the All Music Guide recently spoke at the Library about his new book with photographer Stanley Livingston, Blues in Black & White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals. In this interview prior to the public talk, Ann Arbor's old music clubs and coffee shops come alive as Michael takes us on a personal journey of the Ann Arbor music scene circa 1962-1972. He covers a range of musical topics, including the early folk era, when he hitch-hiked with Bob Dylan; the influence of pre-hippie culture on Iggy Pop; the influence of John Sinclair on Ann Arbor culture; and his personal passion for Chicago city blues, which led to the Ann Arbor blues festivals and inspired the formation of his band, The Prime Movers Blues Band, shown below playing at the Schwabin Inn.

You can listen to the interview below. You can also view Michael's public talk at the Library.

Attachment Size
AADL_Productions_Podcast-Michael_Erlewine.mp3 28.3 MB

Halloween in Ann Arbor, 1957

halloween parade, 1957halloween parade, 1957

Here are a few photographs from the Ann Arbor News archive to give you a taste of what Halloween was like in Ann Arbor 50 years ago. The first photo, below, is of a girl trying on a mask in a Main Street dime store. The second photograph is of a boy looking at candy. Both were taken on October 21, 1957. Does anyone recognize the store? Could it have been Kline's? Or maybe Kresge's?

The two photographs at the bottom are from the Burns Park School Halloween Parade in 1957: children marching in the parade ; and, my favorite, the Burns Park band playing in costume.

University of Michigan's First Homecoming Queen

Homecoming Queen Christine AndersonHomecoming Queen Christine Anderson

We’ve come across many “firsts” in our work with the Ann Arbor News archives and just in time for the University of Michigan’s Homecoming on October 16th, we found an article on the U’s first Homecoming Queen, Christine Anderson. Considering that Wolverine football started in 1879, we were surprised to learn that they waited until 1966 to crown the first queen. Michigan trounced the Golden Gophers that year, 49-0. However, it was not a perfect Homecoming as vandals set fire to the parade floats.

The Peace Corps turns 50 on October 14

kennedykennedy

The University of Michigan will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps with a variety of events during the month of October, including an exhibit at the Hatcher Library (running through November). Travel writer, Paul Theroux, will speak on October 13 at 7:00 p.m. and Tom Hayden, past editor of the Michigan Daily and founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society, will be speaking on October 14 at 8:30.

Also, the Downtown Historical Street Exhibit Program will unveil a new exhibit about the Michigan Union and the Peace Corps across the street from the Michigan Union. Get a sneak peek right here!

Back to Schools

Fourth Ward SchoolFourth Ward School

If you're wondering what going back to school looked like around here decades ago, here's the original Ann Arbor High School, circa 1894; its ruins (from a fire), 1904; and the "new" Ann Arbor High School, rebuilt in 1907.

There's also the old Fourth Ward School, built in 1867 on Division St, which was replaced by the building that eventually became Community High School. And here are the students at the Fifth Ward school, c. 1880.

There's also the old University School of Music from 1894...and the Di Gregorio Driving School in 1974.

Ann Arbor Blues in Black & White

Lightnin' Hopkins, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Albert King, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Junior Wells--that's the short list. The Ann Arbor blues festivals of 1969 and 1970 saw one of the most astonishing lineups of musical artists of any genre at any time (including the more famed Woodstock festival of 1969).

"Were you there?" was the question many blues fans were asking each another in 1969. But they didn't mean Woodstock, they meant Ann Arbor.

Michael and Stanley and thousands of others were here in Ann Arbor to witness and facilitate the spread of electric city blues as it made its way from the small Chitlin' Circuit to an enthusiastic larger audience hungry for this new, powerful roots-inspired American "folk" music.

Join us Thursday, August 19, 7-9 p.m. as Michael Erlewine, chronicler of popular music and founder of the largest music review database in the world, All-Music Guide, discusses Blues in Black & White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals, with stunning photographs by Stanley Livingston. A book signing, with books for sale, will follow the talk.

Dexter, Chelsea, Manchester and Saline: Then & Now

Dexter villageDexter village

Thanks to local historian Grace Shackman, we've recently added to Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now dozens of past articles from the Community Observer tracking the histories of our neighboring communities Dexter, Chelsea, Manchester and Saline. Some articles, including one about the origins of area libraries, another on the county's one-room schoolhouses, and a third detailing Christmases past cover the history of the subject in all four locations. You can also read many feature-length articles about the architectural landmarks, businesses and people that characterize the towns, from the Chelsea Private Hospital and the Dexter Underpass to the Manchester Mill and Saline Valley Farms. Grace has also written about the smaller villages of Dixboro and Delhi.

Visit the Underground Railroad in Michigan

Underground RailroadUnderground Railroad

A new book, The Underground Railroad in Michigan, by Ann Arbor's Carol Mull, is a comprehensive exploration of abolitionism and the network of escape from slavery in our state. The book includes both an overview of national events and vivid first-person accounts taken from The Signal of Liberty, an 1840s-era abolitionist newspaper published in Ann Arbor, to explore Michigan's role in the antislavery movement. The Signal of Liberty is available for full-text searching and browsing at: http://signalofliberty.aadl.org/.

For an overview of Ann Arbor's role in the Underground Railroad, you can listen to our podcast with Carol from last year or read Grace Shackman's article from the Ann Arbor Observer. You can also take your own walking tour: Start with this plaque on the Broadway Bridge, then make your way to lower Broadway to the former site where the Signal of Liberty was published (across the street from the Anson Brown Building, which today houses the St. Vincent de Paul store), followed by a brief stroll to 1425 Pontiac Trail for a glimpse of Reverend Guy Beckley's home.

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