True Confessions of an Ann Arbor Historian

History is boring. Local history is even worse. You must be a spectacular geek to be interested in, much less involved with, the local history scene.

Well, that might be true, but here I am anyway. I have loved this town for as long as I can remember and, like the people I love, I want to know Ann Arbor's whole story. That's all historians do. Fall in love with a place, person or era and find out all they can about it.

For example, what did Ann Arbor look like when she was a baby? How about as a teenager? I look at the book Historic buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan, by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg like an old family album. I study it and try to recognize something of the past in the town I know today. (FYI, if you click here you can look at this book online.)

I also like to hang around people who will tell me stories about when Ann Arbor was young. So imagine my delight when I heard that Kempf House is having a big ol' party in September. I imagine there will be plenty of folks there who would be more than willing to share a tale or two. There will also be food and beer so count me in!

See you there?

SEPTEMBERFEST

Date: Sun 7 Sep 2008
Time: 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Location: Kempf House Museum Garden
Description: Beer and brats! Four flavors of beer from Arbor Brewing, brats on a bun with sauerkraut and mustard, hot pretzels baked specially by the ladies at Bethlehem Church, and ice cream and toppings from the Washtenaw Dairy - all for $40 ($30 for members)!
Contact: 734-994-4898

Local Frank Lloyd Wright House for sale

Palmer House
Click image for larger view and the text from Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor.

The William and Mary Palmer House, Ann Arbor's only Frank Lloyd Wright house, is on the market for the first time and the asking price is 1.5 million. The house, at 227 Orchard Hills Drive near the Arboretum, comes with original furniture and a collection of Wright's papers, but there's a catch--the house must remain as-is. Find out more about the Palmer House through AADL's Ann Arbor Architecture Archive, which includes the entry on the Palmer House taken from Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Anton Eisele House

Anton Eisele HomeAnton Eisele Home

Next time you're dining on the patio at Argiero's, look across the street at the stone lintels above the windows of the Anton Eisele House (216 Catherine), one of the few surviving buildings that illustrates Eisele's craft (another is 320-322 South Division) and his prosperous stone-cutting business that thrived on this block in the late 1800s. Eisele's home, built in 1869, and business are also featured in the 1874 plat map. When Eisele died in 1887, his stepson John Baumgardner continued the business, building a two-story structure across the street (demolished in the 1930s to build a gas station). The barn survives today as part of Argiero's restaurant.

Fire destroys Delta Upsilon fraternity

Delta UpsilonDelta Upsilon

A Friday morning fire raced through the historic Delta Upsilon fraternity at 1331 Hill St. Read the story on mlive. The fraternity was designed in 1903 and restored more recently by U of M alumni who valued the house and its history. You can read about the building in Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, MI, by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg, and zoom in for a closer view through its accompanying image database. (The text and images are available to search and browse online; the book is also available for checkout.)

Historic buildings on the go

Raeder CenterRaeder Center

A stroll through the Arboretum's lovely Peony Garden (which should bloom within the next couple weeks), will take you past the Reader Center on Washington Heights, formerly the Nathan Burnham house, built in 1837 and previously located at 947 Wall Street/940 Maiden Lane. More information on historic buildings around town (including another house that's moved from one location to another) can be found among the 200 images in AADL's Ann Arbor Architecture Archive. The archive includes text from the book Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, MI, which is also available to check out or browse online.

Video of Grace Shackman discussing her book 'Ann Arbor Observed' now available

One of the newest additions to our ever-growing collection of AADL Videos on Demand is an event from December 2006 featuring Grace Shackman discussing her book Ann Arbor Observed. This event, from our Sunday Edition Author Series, features Shackman discussing the process of becoming a writer for the Observer, reading excerpts from her book, and answering questions. Over twenty-five years, Shackman's articles on all aspects of Ann Arbor and its history became a highly popular feature of the Observer. Download a high-quality version of the video or an audio version you can put on your iPod or mp3 player from our AADL Videos on Demand collection.

Map of Washtenaw County Indian trails

Indians map
Click image for larger view. A key to trails and historical markers appears below the map image.

We recently spruced up the Making of Ann Arbor site with a new design and some additional content, including a map of Indian trails in Washtenaw County taken from the 1927 book The Indians of Washtenaw County, Michigan by W. B. Hinsdale. This map and others are available on the Making of Ann Arbor maps page. Additional maps and atlases of Washtenaw county are available through the Michigan County Histories and Atlases digitization project.

Col. John L. Burleigh was not "apocryphal."

submitted by Wystan Stevens

While I was doing a Google search on John L. Burleigh, I noticed an item about him in the online pages of Stanley Wertheim's A Stephen Crane Encyclopedia (1997), where he is referenced (p. 43) as being "probably an apocryphal character invented by Elbert Hubbard." Nay, it is not so.

Col. John L. Burleigh got his law degree, and his start in politics, in my home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Early histories of this area contain references to his activities, especially as the founder in 1878 of a weekly newspaper, the Ann Arbor Democrat. Two years later, it was noted that Burleigh had sold out his interest in that publication to a business partner and left to seek opportunities in Chicago. From Chicago he evidently migrated to New York. The New York Times on January 9, 1895, posted a reference to him as an attorney practicing in NYC:

A Washtenaw County (Michigan) history notes that Burleigh had been an alderman in Brooklyn. Burleigh's death notice (no obit, alas) appeared in the NYT on May 10, 1909, a day after his demise. His death notice in the New York Tribune (again, no obit) stated that the funeral would be held on May 11 at the Church of the Redeemer, in Brooklyn.

In 1877, Burleigh participated in ceremonies at the laying of the cornerstone of the Washtenaw County Courthouse in Ann Arbor (1881 History of Washtenaw County, p. 346).

Stunning, sharp view of Lower Town

lower town
Click image for larger view.

Stunning, sharp view of Lower Town from across the river shows flooding in slaughterhouse area. Date unknown. From the Burton Historical collection.

Submitted by Wystan Stevens

New old photo of Winchell octagon turns up.

Octagan house
Click image for larger view.

University of Michigan Professor Alexander Winchell's octagon house in Ann Arbor, 1904-06, built on the site where Hill Auditorium was later erected. From Early Detroit Images from the Burton Historical Collection.

The best-ever image of the lost landmark.

Submitted by Wystan Stevens

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