A 1956 Urban Renewal Plan


A 1956 Urban Renewal Plan

In 1956 civic leaders launched a plan, using federal urban renewal funds, to remove "blight" and rebuild this mostly black neighborhood. Many buildings around you were proposed for demolition. Both black and white leaders disagreed among themselves whether the plan would improve the neighborhood or destroy the fabric of the black community. At least 500 residents would have been displaced, 400 of them black. In 1959 City Council narrowly passed the plan, but newly elected Mayor Cecil Creal vetoed it as too disruptive.

Other forces changed the neighborhood. City Council passed a fair housing law in 1963 and a stronger one in 1965. The neighborhood school, Jones Elementary (later Community High), was 75% black in 1965 when it was closed and its students dispersed by bus to other schools in an effort at desegregation. By the 1970s blacks were leaving the neighborhood. The churches moved. In that decade, black and white citizens working together defeated plans for a downtown bypass that would have split the neighborhood.

Frame location: Corner of North Fifth Avenue and Detroit Street

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Margaret Dow Towsley, 1953


Margaret Dow Towsley, 1953

In 1953 Margaret Dow Towsley and African American Russell H. Howard broke council's all-male, all-white ranks.

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IMG_8235


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City officials, all male, in council chamber, 1909


City officials, all male, in council chamber, 1909

Frame location: On City Hall lawn, northeast corner of Fifth and Huron, inside sidewalk crossing and south of large spruce tree, facing southwest

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Ann Arbor's first City Hall, 1907-1963


Ann Arbor's first City Hall, 1907-1963

Completed in 1907, Ann Arbor's first City Hall provided first-floor office space for expanding public services and a council chamber above. The eight-man Police Department had a separate entrance on Fifth Avenue. The Fire Department was already located across Huron Street in the landmark 1882 Firemen's Hall. After incorporation in 1833, the village council met sporadically in the Courthouse office of Ann Arbor's founder, John Allen, the first village president. Ordinances adopted at the first meeting dealt with matters of public safety, such as the discharge of firearms, and hogs and dogs running wild. In 1836 the village established a volunteer fire department. Putting out fires and providing cistern water to fight them cost over a third of the village's total 1848 income of $2,152. The village hired workers to ring the Presbyterian church bell to mark the hours, erect and light street lamps around the Courthouse, and repair the dirt streets. The 1851 charter made the village a city governed by a mayor and aldermen with enlarged taxing powers. The first paid police force was organized in 1871, funded by license fees on saloons and billiard tables, which were considered "sources of disorder." Until 1895 the city continued to lease space in the County Courthouse. Expanding services then made it necessary to rent offices on North Fourth Avenue in the new "City Building" and by 1907 to build a new City Hall.

Frame location: On City Hall lawn, northeast corner of Fifth and Huron, inside sidewalk crossing and south of large spruce tree, facing southwest

Collection info: Sturgis Collection

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Firemen's Hall, 1860


Firemen's Hall, 1860

In 1882 this brick firemen's hall replaced an 1860 wooden building. Each building had a tower with a bell to summon volunteers and an upstairs hall for meetings of city council and other public groups.

Frame location: On City Hall lawn, northeast corner of Fifth and Huron, inside sidewalk crossing and south of large spruce tree, facing southwest

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Michigan National Guard, 1898


Michigan National Guard, 1898

Little more than four weeks after the sinking of the battleship [i]Maine[/i], volunteers in Company A of the Michigan National Guard posed on the courthouse steps on April 26, 1898, before leaving to fight in the Spanish-American War.

Although Company A saw no combat in Cuba, they were nonetheless greeted as heroes on their return to Ann Arbor in May 1899. Citizens raised $3,000 toward the purchase of a local armory as a gift to them, and city council appropriated $300 to buy medals for all who had served in the war.

Frame location: On West wall of Courthouse

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