Alexander Winchell House, 1870s


Alexander Winchell House, 1870s

In 1913 Hill Auditorium replaced science professor Alexander Winchell's 1858 brick octagon house. It was among several large homes on North University, one of four tree-lined boulevards surrounding the original campus. Harper's Weekly reported in 1880, "The enormous college piles that almost crowd each other on the forty-acre campus are mainly severely plain, but are all the more impressive in consequence. Facing them around the sides of the campus are many stone and brick fraternity houses, many frame dwellings, and a block or two of shops." In the twentieth century, Winchell's entire neighborhood was replaced by the University's northward expansion of cultural facilities. Hill Auditorium, donated by Regent Arthur Hill and designed by Albert Kahn, culminated a two-decade effort by the private University Musical Society and UM regents to erect a large hall for musical events. The Frieze Memorial Organ was moved from University Hall to Hill's 4,200-seat auditorium with its renowned acoustics. Before the end of the century, the carillon of Burton Tower (1936) would ring over the women's Michigan League (1929), Rackham (1938), and Power Center for the Performing Arts (1971), buildings funded largely by private contributions. Gordon Mendelssohn gave the League's theater in honor of his mother, Lydia. The building, with its ballroom, dining room, and meeting rooms, was the result of years of fundraising events - plays, bazaars, flower shows, and rummage sales uniting women students and alumnae.

Frame location: South side of North University, east end of the Diag, facing northeast toward Hill Auditorium

Collection info: Winchell Box 1, Sturgis AA273-8

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Michigras Parade, 1954


Michigras Parade, 1954

The 1954 Michigras parade, with elaborate student floats, passed the Michigan Theater on its way up Liberty Street. The parade and the theater were part of an entertainment tradition of "gown" and "town" coming together to shape Ann Arbor's cultural identity. In the nineteenth century local acts and touring companies played in downtown ballrooms, churches, the courthouse, and Hangsterfer's Hall. Students, faculty, and townspeople contributed talent and enthusiastic audiences. In 1871 Ann Arbor's first real theater, Hill's Opera House with 2,000 seats, opened on Main Street. Local actors in "The Spy of Shiloh" packed the house. On campus that same year the cornerstone was laid for University Hall, with a 3,000-seat auditorium for concerts, graduations, and the town's largest events. Many celebrated guests appeared, including lecturers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Susan B. Anthony, and Mark Twain, actress Sarah Bernhardt, and dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. After 1913 audiences attended the new and larger Hill Auditorium. The Michigan Theater opened in 1928, dedicated to "the faculty and students of the University of Michigan and the residents of Ann Arbor". A full orchestra and the Barton theater organ accompanied live shows and silent films. The following year, Broadway stars first performed in Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the UM's new Michigan League. The Ann Arbor Symphony, Civic Theater, and UM Gilbert and Sullivan Society continued the tradition of combining town and gown through the twentieth century.

Frame location: East side of South State Street, near the curb, facing west down East Liberty Street.

Collection info: OOH

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Rights Held By: 
Ann Arbor District Library



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