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

Antiques Shows in Ann Arbor

I don't think we should assume a connection between the Art Fair Antique Show on North U and the one that began at the Farmer's Market on Sundays, but quickly got too big (and caused neighbors of the market to complain about the lack of parking) and moved to the Saline Farm Council Grounds, where it became a phenomenon. The Farmers' Market-cum- Saline show was begun by Margaret Brusher, who had got her start as the impresario of the Good Samaritans' Antique Show, an annual nonprofit event, staged by Catholic women to fund Catholic Social Services and other charities. The Good Sams show was a fancy event with ritzy dealers from New York, Florida and California, which set up in the ballroom of a hotel on the south end of Ann Arbor.

submitted by Wystan Stevens

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The Ugliest Building in Ann Arbor?

Federal BuildingFederal Building

"Dear Wystan, since I know you will eventually stumble upon this photograph can I just go ahead and preemptively ask for information about the Masonic Temple? Thanks!" (photo and quote by Phil Dokas)

Phil, I am touched by your faith in my proclivity for stumbling . . . . I also stumbled across this page from Jim Rees, who concurs with your aesthetic assessment of the Federal Building.

Even as the Federal Building was taking shape, witnesses realized that it was not going to turn out well. Its insipid obtrusiveness compounded the felony that had been committed already in removing the Masonic Temple and several inoffensive houses, merely so that several dozen USPS trucks could be parked on a barren lot behind. The building's greatest sin was that it was not special enough for the site. As a structure, it was obviously unworthy of the sacrifice that had been made in the loss of the Temple.

Notwithstanding the negative impact that the new building made on the public mood, and on the downtown streetscape, within a few months of its completion it received awards from the Michigan chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and from some kind of academy of masonry contractors. Coincidentally, these outfits appear to have represented the only people anywhere who actually profited from its existence. I read stories about their awards in the newspaper, and snickered. Everyone could see that the emperor had no clothes.

In a memorable sally, Ann Arbor News columnist Jane Myers referred to the glassed-in staircase bay out in front as "King Kong's shower stall." (DeLaurentiis' 1976 version of the King Kong movie was still fresh in memory.)

John Baird supplies this photo of the Frehsee "Corner House" Building, on State Street at Washington, another worthy contender for your "ugliest" honors.

submitted by Wystan Stevens

Check out our new local history blog

Beer deliveryBeer delivery

The Library's new Local History page now features a local history blog with contributions by local historians. Here you can discover (and comment upon) interesting facts about Tree Town, stumble across obscure bits of local lore, and learn about events, organizations, and collections relating to Ann Arbor history.

Packard Brick Street ...

Packard Brick St.
Taken by Piotr Michalowski in May 2007

Packard St. bricks before they re-paved between Main and Division

In an image in 1789, the bricks were between the parallel lines of the car tracks. When the car tracks were taken up, the space between them was also disrupted, and then sometime repaved with bricks as on Detroit Street. The original street railway line consisted of two lines- one out Packard and one up Williams street to circle the campus, both connecting to the MC Station. I do not think the original 1890 street car line went out Huron, since the interurban to Jackson in 1901 had a fight with the Ann Arbor Railroad over the crossing of tracks on Huron, which were at grade. The Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor Street Railway, which was steam operated with a "dummy engine" was built in 1890 and operated from Main and Huron out Packard to Ypsilanti, ending on the south end of town at Harriet Street, which may have been the end of the horse car line, which did go down Washington Street in Ypsilanti.

--- Mark H.

Prof. Guthe home on Brookwood, Ann Arbor, after gas line explosion during storm, May 11, 1959

AA Storm 1959
Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.

Line squall blew over trees, tree roots broke gas line, house filled with gas, exploded, burned. Visible damage to house on right as well. The Ann Arbor News in 1959 labeled this storm "The Worst Ever to Hit Ann Arbor" -- but the newspaper's historical perspective tends to be limited to the memory of the oldest person on the staff at any given time . . . .

Chris Guthe was in University School with me then (Remember ‘U High’-Kindergarten thru 12th grade, associated with the U of M from 1924 to it’s demise in 1969?-Now School of Ed.) we were at the end of first grade then—- I remember the storm, it did scare us kids. The protocol during storms at school there was to sit on the floor of the hallways or to go down into the tunnels below the school, part of the U of M service tunnels—we used to sneak down in those, it was fun. As I recall Chris was telling people that a tornado destroyed his house.

Morgan horses grazed where Huron High now stands

Ruthven after he retired from the UM bought a house on the Huron out there on Fuller, not the cobblestone house but another house, and started raising Morgan Horses across the street where the Huron playing fields are now. If you will remember, the school didn't have playing fields for the first couple years as they had to buy Ruthven's land separately.

This explains the spatial disconnect between the school and the playing fields. The land on the other side of the school, towards the VA, is owned by the UM and there's a medical waste dump there so Huron can't go that direction for expansion or playing fields.

I do remember the horse riding stable on the other side of the river where the tennis courts club is now. There was a barn and a lot more wooded land which I guess is the golf course now. I had my first (horrifying) horseback riding experience there at age 11 or 12.

-- Fran Wright

Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary

museummuseum

Join in the Sesquincentennial celebration of the Washtenaw County Historical Society on Saturday, June 16th, 2-4 p.m. at the Museum on Main Street. They’ll be dedicating a 1857 American flag and hosting a garden party so come stroll through the beautiful grounds and take a tour of the Sesquincentennial Exhibit inside the Museum.

Buggy Factory on S. Main at Moseley

Does anyone have a picture of the Ann Arbor Buggy Factory in its early days before the storefront was added?

The only photo of it that I know of it, pre- the George Brigham show window addition, is a small one, printed on a publication of the Ann Arbor Cooperative Society (the building was the Ann Arbor Co-op store then). This is with other papers of the co-op that my dad donated to the Bentley Library in the 1950s.

-- Wystan Stevens

Ann Arbor Police Department Online Exhibit Debuts

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The Ann Arbor District library's web site is now home to an online pictorial exhibit and history of the Ann Arbor Police Department. The exhibit, one of four local history collections on the library's research page, features a large assemblage of images of the police department and its officers, police vehicles, artifacts and documents. The pictorial collection is accompanied by the complete text of Lieutenant Michael Logghe's True Crimes and the History of the Ann Arbor Police Department which traces the history of the department from its beginnings in the 1870s to the late 1990s. The narrative is filled with fascinating accounts of the organization, development, and controversial issues which faced the department, as well as inside information on the large array of major criminal investigations which have been part of that history, such as the 1908 student riot at the Star Theater, the murder and aftermath of Officer Clifford Stang in 1935, the student unrest of the 1960s and and 1970s, the shocking co-ed murders, and numerous others.

Dexter Michigan Central Railroad Viaduct

Dexter Railroad Viaduct

Reference Questions of Local Interest:

Who Designed the Viaduct (Bridge, Tunnel) and When Was It Built?

Frederick Blackburn Pelham (Fred Pelham), according to an Ann Arbor News article on February 22, 2000 (page D-1), "designed 18 to 20 bridges for the Michigan Central line between Detroit and Chicago."

"Amtrak passengers whiz over two of them in Dexter. One over Dexter-Pinckney Road at the village edge is familiar to drivers who must slow down to pass under it. The narrow opening creates a bottleneck for today's heavy auto traffic and has sparked debate about possible traffic rerouting." The bridge was built in 1890.

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