Looking west on Liberty From Main Street, German American Day, 1870s


Looking west on Liberty From Main Street, German American Day, 1870s

Residents living on the west side in the 1870s drove their buggies or walked across the bridge over Allen Creek, climbing the Liberty Street hill to join the celebration of German American Day. In the distance you can see the rooftops of their homes built after 1845 in what is now the Old West Side. Close by, saw mills, grist mills, tanneries, foundries, and breweries, mainly German-owned, took advantage of the creek as a source of power and water. From Ann Arbor's founding in 1824 until today, the presence of the waterway has defined the shape of the center of town. The creek provided the site for the city's earliest known bathhouse, an octagonal Victorian structure built over the creek at Liberty and First Streets. Early skating parks and swimming areas also were located along the creek. In 1878 the first passengers on James Ashley's new Toledo & Ann Arbor Railroad arrived in town. The railroad followed the valley and spurred increased industrial development along the creek. By Ann Arbor's centennial in 1924, property owners near the creek, upset by frequent flooding and pollution, demanded that the city put the creek into a storm sewer. Although it was buried in twelve miles of pipe, heavy downpours sometimes exceeded the capacity of the pipe, resulting in flooding along its watershed.

Frame location: North side of Liberty, east of northeast corner of Ashley, in front of #120 West Liberty, near curb

Collection info: Sturgis Collection

This image may be protected by copyright law. Contact the Bentley Historical Library for permission to reproduce, display or transmit this image. Repository: Bentley Historical Library




Katherine Staeb House, 1895


Katherine Staeb House, 1895

212 Third Street

Katherine Staeb House, 1895

This is one of the homes which makes the Old West Side an area of special architectural interest. Built in the Queen Anne style popular in the late Victorian period, this charming house is particularly notable for the contrasting geometric patterns in the wood siding of the upper story and for the ornamentation of the porch. Katherine Staeb, widow of J. George Staeb, was the first resident and continued to live in the house until the 1930s.

Present owner, Susan Fisher, is taking great care to restore and maintain the exterior wood trim. She is adding a kitchen wing on the rear with care not to impair on the two principal facades.

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Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.



J. Frederick Schaeberle House, Circa 1880


J. Frederick Schaeberle House, Circa 1880

420 West Jefferson Street

J. Frederick Schaeberle House, Circa 1880

Particularly notable for its ornamental porch, gabled roof and fishscale siding, this inviting wood frame Queen Anne house was built about 1880 for the J. Frederick Schaeberle family.

Frederick came to Ann Arbor in 1853 at the age of nine. While a youth he worked in Christian Mack's department store, then made harnesses with his father. His leisure time was devoted to music, and he was sent eventually to study with a master in Chicago. He finished his education in Germany where he also found his bride, the former Katherine Kemmler. Returning to Ann Arbor, Schaeberle began a long and distinguished career as a music teacher. His music store at 114 West Liberty, which opened in 1896 carried musical instruments "from the best houses." Townspeople relied upon his piano tuning and his performing, which a biographer noted was "far beyond mediocrity in the interpretation of the masters."

After Mr. Schaeberle's death in the late 1920s, his widow Katherine continued to live in the house for a few years. Their son, Ernst, kept a music store in Ann Arbor well into this century.

In 1944 Jacob F. Fahrner converted the house to four apartments. Ownership has changed frequently and it is still a multifamily home. In recent times the house has been faced with aluminum siding. Its porch has been rebuilt with care to maintain the decorative details. It is a part of the Old West Side Historic District.

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Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.



John Keck and Company (Argus Building), 1866-1884


John Keck and Company (Argus Building), 1866-1884

405 Fourth Street

John Keck and Company (Argus Building), 1866-1884

Situated in the heart of the Old West Side Historic District, this red-brick building began as a furniture factory. It was constructed in three phases, beginning with a wood-frame building facing William Street built in 1866 by John Keck and Company and now covered with brick veneer. In 1879 additional stock in the company was sold in order to finance a four-story brick building along Fourth Street. More construction followed in 1884 when the company was reorganized as the Michigan Furniture Company and a four-story building was built at the corner of Fourth and William, thus connecting the two older structures.

Keck came to America from Wurttemberg in 1854 at the age of 15 and apprenticed to cabinetmaker and coffin builder Florian Muehlig. By 1866 he was able to establish his own furniture factory with his brothers Frederick, George and Martin. The 1860s and 70s had been decades of rapid mechanization in the furniture industry. The steam engine had replaced water as a power source and specialization accompanied expansion as machines became more and more specialized. Despite the Depression of 1873, Keck employed 40 to 50 men and became one of the town's major businesses.

By 1879, when Keck formed a stock company, the decision had been made to specialize in bedroom suites (pronounced "suits"). They concentrated on making bedsteads, commodes and dressers and would continue this emphasis until they ceased operations in 1929. Unfortunately for antique collectors, Keck never marked his furniture and thus his products today are, in the words of journalist Mary Hunt, "distressingly anonymous."

Keck's designs were in the then-popular Renaissance Revival style, massive pieces with layers of elaborately carved woodwork, topped by carved pediments. A collection of Keck's drawings, recently discovered in the Grand Rapids Public Museum, gives a sense of the range of designs he produced. In 1884 the prominence of the buildings of the Michigan Furniture Company was noted in a local paper, which asserted that every visitor to Ann Arbor always inquired 'What is that large four-story building?" Keck, who was no longer with the company, had opened another factory on Detroit Street in the mid-1880s. His success there was short lived, however, and he spent the rest of his life working in Detroit and Grand Rapids.

After furniture making ceased in 1929, Charles Verschoor acquired the building and began manufacturing his popular Kadette tabletop radios. Never one to sit on his hands, Verschoor traveled to Germany in 1936 to study camera manufacturing. When he returned, he began to mass produce a small 35mm camera -- the famous Argus Model A. The camera was an instant success, selling 30,000 units in its first week on the market. In 1939 the name of the company was changed to Argus and the Argus C-3 camera was introduced. It remained the staple of the company until 1957.

During World War II, Argus received many contracts from the government for telescopes, binoculars, periscopes, and gunsights. However, after the war Argus was unable to compete with Japanese cameras and the company was sold to Sylvania. In 1963 the building was sold to the University of Michigan which used it for various research institutes including an amphibian lab.

The recession of the 1980s prompted the University to sell the building in 1983 to C-3 Partners who undertook the enormous task of restoring and renovating this historic structure in 1986. Quinn/Evans Architects provided the expertise and the newly renovated space preserves the best of the old and the new. O'Neal Construction, one of the C-3 partners along with First Martin Corp., is now headquartered here and their offices feature the original heavy timbers and red bricks walls that characterized these simple factory buildings.

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Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.



John and Andrew Jackson House, 1847/1863


John and Andrew Jackson House, 1847/1863

603 West Liberty Street

John and Andrew Jackson House, 1847/1863

John and Andrew Jackson wasted no time in purchasing this lot from William S. Maynard after he platted the land and added it to the City of Ann Arbor in 1846. It is likely they built the Liberty Street portion of this house sometime in the fall of 1847, for, when they sold the property eight years later in 1855, they tripled their money.

The south wing, which appears on the 1866 "birds-eye" view was probably added by laborer John M. Weitbrecht, who purchased the property in 1862. The Weitbrecht family occupied this corner until the turn of the century. The estate sold the property to John and Lydia Kuehnle (she may have been Weitbrecht's daughter) for $1400 in 1898 and it remained a single family house throughout the 20th century. By the 1930s it also had a commercial use. The rear portion facing Fourth Street housed the Lunsford Bakery, famous for its cinnamon rolls, from 1935 to 1970.

The main part of the house, which is clapboard, is the New England folk form known as an "I" house: two stories high, two rooms wide, one room deep, with a central hallway. The fieldstone foundation of this portion is much lower than the brick foundation of the south wing, where the land slopes away from the house. This rear section also has a central entry, but is only one story high. The four-over-four windows in the wing appear to be original as does the glass.

William and Susan Johnson, the present owners, restored the exterior by removing the asphalt siding and corrugated canopy that had hidden the classical front doorway and original clapboards. Today the Johnsons are extending the south wing and the house remains a fine example of the vernacular type of house built in the Old West Side up to the Civil War.

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Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.



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