Fischer and Finnell Building: 1910 and Now

Fischer and Finnell Store, 1910
(Click for larger view.)
Photo montage by Kim Scarborough. Comments, below, by Wystan Stevens.

An interesting partnership -- Fischer was the son of German immigrants, and James Finnell was Irish, from a Northfield Township family. Although most of Ann Arbor's German settlers were Protestants, Fischer was a parishioner of St. Thomas Catholic Church. He and Finnell probably had gone to the parish school together. Finnell later became a traveling auctioneer, in the style of Braun and Helmer of these latter days.

The horse-drawn delivery van was one of a fleet of dozens operated by the Merchants' Delivery Company. A housewife could shop downtown on foot, or by way of the trolley, and not have to lug her packages home --the Merchants' Delivery took care of that chore.

The donkey was a photographer's prop. He would lead the docile animal through the neighborhoods, getting parents to pose their children with it. He probably charged a fee up front, then delivered the prints in person or by mail. As a child in the '30s, my brother posed in a cowboy outfit on the saddle of a pony led around in just this way. (My parents lived on Marshall Court, just a few blocks from this intersection.)

In the 1920s, this building was called "The Delta" because of its shape, but I don't know if that was the original name.

Zion Lutheran Church

Zion Lutheran Church
(Click for larger view.)

Submitted by Wystan Stevens

This view from ninety+ years ago looks west on Washington Street, across Fifth Avenue, and gives us a glimpse of the square Doric columns on a Greek Revival house (visible through trees at far right) which also is depicted on the 1880 birdseye-view map of Ann Arbor. It resembled the Kempf House. It is regrettable that no good photo of that house has survived. It must have been replaced by the Bell Telephone building, which was erected in 1925.

When this photo was taken, Zion Lutheran Church was located on the northeast corner of Washington at Fifth Avenue. For a few years in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the parish hall beside the church served as an annex (one of several) to Ann Arbor's cramped 1907 City Hall. (The Lutherans by then had moved to their present location on West Liberty.) The city abandoned these quarters in 1963, when offices were moved to the new (now Larcom) City Hall. The old church was then demolished, and Huron Valley Bank ("The Apple Bank") rose on this site.

Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, University of Michigan, c. 1902

Beta Theta Pi house

(Click on image for larger view.)

Beta Theta Pi house, State Street at Monroe (SW corner).

Submitted by Wystan Stevens

Angell Hall, U-M campus, featured in September, 1941, Ford News

Angell Hall
(Click on image for larger view.)

The University of Michigan was featured in the September, 1941, issue of Ford News, a magazine which was sent to dealers and buyers of Ford automobiles. The striking cover photo, in color, shows several U-M scholars on the front steps of Angell Hall, where they appear dwarfed by the massive neoclassical columns.

Submitted by Wystan Stevens

1955 Magazine Advertisement

John-Bean fog truck

Ann Arbor Fire Department's John-Bean fog truck illustrated in 1955 magazine advertisement. Also shown is the ivy-covered dining hall of the University of Michigan Law Quadrangle.

(Click on image for larger view.)

Submitted by Wystan Stevens

Argo Mill a Total Loss

Ann Arbor Milling
image from the Downtown Historical Street Exhibits Program online.

from the Ann Arbor Daily Argus, Tuesday, January 5, 1904

"The Fire Yesterday Could Not be Subdued"


Property Insured in Six Companies for $32,000 -- Origin of the Fire a Mystery

The Argo mill, which caught fire at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon, burned to the ground, causing a loss of nearly $50,000. Insurance to the amount of $32,000 is carried in six milling companies, but this amount includes the grist mill and 9,000-bushel elevator, valued at about $4,500, which were saved.

The fire broke out in the roller room and was discovered by head Miller Sherk and his assistant, H. F. Wolf, who had been in the room only a few moments before, when everything was all right. An alarm was turned in at once, but the flames spread with almost incomprehensible rapidity and by the time the fire department arrived the entire interior of the building was a raging furnace.

It was very evident that the building was doomed and the department devoted their energies to saving the grist mill and elevator and three cars of grain that stood on a siding.

Click READ MORE, below, to view the rest of the article.

Argo Flour Mills Destroyed By Fire

Huron River
image from the Making of Ann Arbor Postcard collection.

Text from the Ann Arbor Daily Argus, vol. 6, no. 26, Monday, January 4, 1904

"As we go to press the Argo Mills situated on the foot of Broadway street are on fire and the mill proper will undoubtedly be a total loss.

The fire appears to have originated in the room in which is located the roller machine used for grinding and was discovered shortly after three o'clock, by Head Miller Church and his assistant, H. F. Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe was in the room just before three o'clock [p.m.] and there were no signs of fire, but when he returned to the room at 3:05 it was all ablaze. The alarm was given and the department responded promptly, but it was soon discovered that the mill was doomed and the efforts of the firemen were directed to saving the elevator which adjoins the mill."

Take a closer look at the image above, a postcard of the mill prior to the fire, in the Making of Ann Arbor Postcard collection.

submitted by Wystan Stevens

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

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.

Large Group Study Rooms Available Downtown

Downtown exteriorDowntown exterior

Looking for place to gather your book group, hold a study group or have a small committee meeting? Consider the Library! We have two study rooms on the second floor of the Downtown Library that hold eight to ten people. Each has tables on which to spread out your papers and a door to close, keeping your conversations private. We also have study rooms at our Malletts Creek and Pittsfield Branches, which hold two, three or even four people if you don't require that much space. All of them are available on a first-come first-served basis and all of them are free!

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