A Virtual Tour Of Ann Arbor Architecture

Did you know that the Judge Robert S. Wilson House has been called the most famous house in Ann Arbor? It was built as early as 1835 and has perfect proportions.

Learn the history of the many fascinating buildings around us with the Ann Arbor Architecture Archive, AADL's online gallery of images and text about Ann Arbor's historic buildings.

Joe T. Jacobs House (Muehlig Funeral Chapel)


Joe T. Jacobs House (Muehlig Funeral Chapel)

403 South Fourth Avenue

Joe T. Jacobs House (Muehlig Funeral Chapel), 1874, 1928

This brick house was originally constructed by local builder John Gates as a private residence for Joe T. Jacobs, a clothier. The house features pairs of curved brackets supporting the roof, tall windows capped by stone keystones, and small attic windows?????all hallmarks of the late Italianate style. Although partially obscured by the funeral parlor's additions, these original features are still quite visible. It was one of four high-style buildings which graced this intersection. Today, only this house and the Eberbach house across the street, remind us of this era of gentility.

Jacobs came to Ann Arbor from Ohio and started his clothing business in 1867. In 1880 he was nominated by the Republicans for State Senator from Washtenaw County. He was also a major benefactor of the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Michigan Railway and helped it to succeed.

Jacobs sold his house to Dr. J. B. Lynds, who used it as a private hospital until he died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. In 1928 Muehlig's Funeral Chapel purchased the property and added the porte-cochere (covered driveway) and a large garage accessible from two directions. More remodeling occurred in 1951 and again in 1964 when the front portion was added and the parking lot expanded.

Muehlig Funeral Chapel itself has a long history. Florian Muehlig began a coffin and cabinetry business in 1852 in the upper floors of the 200 block of South Main Street. Today it is the oldest funeral parlor in the state and the oldest continuously operating business in Ann Arbor.

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



Anson Brown Building, 1832


Anson Brown Building, 1832

1001-1007 Broadway

Anson Brown Building, 1832

This building, the oldest surviving commercial structure in Ann Arbor, has a symmetrical front facade, and parapet end walls characteristic of eighteenth century Dutch-influenced buildings on the east coast. Hand-hewn timber framing of oak is visible in the attic.

Anson Brown had worked for seven years on the Erie Canal before he arrived with his fortune in Ann Arbor, where he became the principal landowner of Lower Town, north of the river. He wanted his business district to be the commercial center of a fine metropolis, and he named his streets Broadway, Wall, Maiden Lane after the major avenues of the Empire City of his native state. He erected as a merchandising center this building and two similar blocks (The Exchange Building and, across the street, the Ingalls Block, replaced in 1959 by a motel and restaurant). The Washtenaw Hotel nearby was one of the largest hotels on the route from Detroit to Chicago, a comfortable stop before crossing the Huron River. The new buildings were an attraction to trade, and Brown was successful in securing an appointment from the Territorial Governor to be postmaster of the town. His brief but intense rivalry with the "hilltoppers" for control of Ann Arbor's development ceased abruptly when Brown died in the cholera epidemic of 1834.

The upper town regained political dominance, the new University of Michigan drew development in that direction and the railroad came through on the south side of the river. Brown's building outlasted all the other commercial structures of his time and is the only survivor of the town he envisioned and partially built.

The well-maintained building, somewhat European in flavor, was owned by the Colvin family for more than sixty years until it changed hands in 1989.

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



James Petrie House, 1916


James Petrie House, 1916

1111 Fair Oaks Parkway

James Petrie House, 1916

In early 1914 developer Charles Spooner planned a subdivision named Scottwood that promised to be: "a group of handsome residences... amid a landscape setting not hitherto attempted...Unlike most additions to the modern city, platted with straight streets and small lots giving scarcely breathing room between the houses, it has winding roads (and) a large garden space... indeed, each house stands on a little knoll, commanding a pleasing view. "Such was the setting for the James Petrie home.

Six of the houses in Scottwood were designed by Dr. Fiske Kimball, at that time an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan. Later nationally famous as the head of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kimball described this house in a 1918 issue of Architecture. Since this lot was at the intersection of Norway and Fair Oaks, Kimball chose to place the house facing the corner, rather than either of the streets. The unique floor plan combines circular rooms in the center of each floor flanked by rectangular wings set at an acute angle to the main axis. The round portico in front with its elegant two-story columns exhibits Kimball's fondness for classical detailing. As stated in the brochure for the development, Kimball's designs were to have the "quiet unobtrusiveness of good taste. Each completely individual, they nevertheless harmonize in charm of design and refinement of detail."

The house was built for James N. Petrie, Esq., his wife Clara and sons Warren and Floy. In 1918 the Petries sold the house to Osteopathic Physicians Thomas and Dorothy Sellards. After a succession of occupants, Dr. Norman Maier purchased the house in 1944. In 1979 it was sold to Robert and Carol Mull who continue to live in the house with their three children. The Mulls have researched the history of the house and sensitively maintain it.

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



Philip Bach Building, 1867


Philip Bach Building, 1867

126 South Main Street

Philip Bach Building, 1867

A photograph taken in 1867 pictures this impressive Italianate block built at a cost of $20,000, and newly opened for Philip Bach's dry goods business. "Prices were quite high at the time and a single stair-case cost $500," a later historian recalled. The photo shows the original wide flat cornice supported by ornate Italianate brackets. The name, Philip Bach, is over the awning, and a large "Business College" sign above the cornice indicates the use of the third floor.

Bach formed a partnership with Peter H. Abel in 1867. Some years later the firm became Bach and Roath. Around the turn of the century, Bruno St. James, Jr., left the firm of Goodyear and St. James to purchase the store, hiring Miss Bertha E. Muehlig as the bookkeeper for the new firm. She took over management of the business in 1911 and in 1924 she became the owner of the building as well as the business, continuing to do the bookkeeping as before.

Bertha's paternal grandparents emigrated from Germany in 1840. A devoutly religious family, they were part of the early Lutheran congregation led by the Reverend Frederick Schmid. Bertha was certainly a successful business woman, but she was even better known for her readiness to provide food and clothing for those struck by misfortune. She became a special patron of the Patrick Donovan School on Wall Street, where the pupils did not have the normal advantages. When the Donovan School was replaced by the new Northside School, she donated the dining room furniture, a silver tea service, and an aquarium. Each year she sent the children candy at Christmas time and pencils on Valentine's Day. A friend of the ladies at the Anna Botsford Bach Home on Liberty Street, she remembered their birthdays and provided many necessities.

Bertha Muehlig received many honors in recognition of her services to the people of Ann Arbor. After her death, several local businessmen invested in the store, continuing the business as before and perpetuating the name of the kind and generous woman until the late 1970s. The store retained the interior decor and services of the beginning of the century, including a spring operated cash carrier system which was probably the last of its kind in the state.

The law firm of Hooper, Hathaway, Price, Beuche and Wallace purchased the building in 1981 for their offices. A thorough and elegant renovation was done, for which the owners received a Bicentennial award. Windows were unblocked and the original appearance was restored as much as possible, with an iron entry created to mimic the original store front. They have also kept the old elevator and the oak staircase inside. (See previous photograph)

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



Anton Eisele House and Marble Works, 1869


Anton Eisele House and Marble Works, 1869

216 Catherine Street

Anton Eisele House and Marble Works, 1869
Creator: Eisele, Anton

The unusual carved stone lintels above the windows of this house are a clue to the profession of its builder. Anton Eisele, an immigrant from Germany, owned a stone-cutting business specializing in American and Italian marbles. Originally in partnership with his brother John W. in a business organized in 1868, he was prosperous enough to build this house in 1869. By the time the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County published an engraving of the house and Marble Works at the southeast corner of Catherine and Detroit Streets, Eisele was in business for himself.
Using stone and marble cutting skills learned in Germany, Eisele supplied both the marble and the carving for tombstones and other cemetery work. Recent renovations to a nearby building at 216 North Fourth Avenue yielded discarded fragments of his carving art.

After Eisele died in 1887, his stepson John Baumgardner continued to live in the house and run the business for which he built a two-story brick building across the street. It too exhibited the fine carving which characterized the family home but it was demolished in the 1930s for a gas station (now Argiero's Restaurant). Baumgardner expanded the business from tombstones to building stone, used primarily for sidewalks. Some of these still line the east side of Main Street between Washington and Liberty Streets. The house remains as a testament to the stone carving skills brought to Ann Arbor by Eisele and other Germans. It is now the home and office of attorney Pauline Rothmeyer.

Keywords: marble works, houses, stone

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



First Congregational Church, 1872-1876


First Congregational Church, 1872-1876

608 East William Street

First Congregational Church, 1872-1876
Creator: Lloyd, Gordon W.

The First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor was organized on March 23, 1847. According to the 1947 history of the church written by Calvin O. Davis, "...its founding was the result of a schism within the membership of the local Presbyterian Church, the separation taking place primarily in protest against the stand maintained by that church on the question of Negro slavery." The secession was led by a small group of liberals who also differed with the Presbyterians on questions of faith and dogma. In 1849 they built a church on Washington Street at Fifth Avenue, but by March of 1870, having outgrown their church building, they voted to build a new one. They chose the corner of State and William Streets, and in June of 1872 the cornerstone was laid. The dedication of the finished church was held on May 10, 1876.

Detroit architect Gordon W. Lloyd, also the designer of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, chose the Gothic style in multi-colored cut fieldstone and Indiana limestone. The elaborate slate roof with lozenge motifs in contrasting colors is a hallmark of the Gothic style, as are the wooden hammer or collar beams on the inside. In 1942 the interior of the building was refurbished, and in 1946 stone entrance steps and 21 stained glass windows were added. Dr. Leonard Parr began the effort to add a parish house to the original building. Its cornerstone was laid on May 10, 1951.

The Douglas Memorial Chapel, named after Dr. Lloyd C. Douglas, minister of the church from 1916 to 1921, and the parish house were designed by University of Michigan Professor of Architecture Ralph Hammett and completed in 1953. Famous for his preaching abilities, Douglas was also the author of two popular novels, The Robe and Magnificent Obsession, which were later made into movies.

In 1986 the church completed a three-year renovation, which included the restoration of the collar beams in the main sanctuary, the installation of the Wilhelm Tracker Pipe Organ, and a ramp and elevator for handicap access.

The church complex is of remarkable beauty and interest. It graces a major traffic corner and provides a balance to the University campus just across the street, as well as a fitting transition to the State Street commercial district to the north.

Keywords: Gothic Revival, churches

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



Solomon and Jacob Armstrong Houses, 1843 & 1851


Solomon and Jacob Armstrong Houses, 1843 & 1851

1219 Traver Street

Solomon and Jacob Armstrong Houses, 1843 & 1851

Solomon Armstrong was born in 1821 in Ballston Spa, New York. He arrived in Ann Arbor in 1843 to work as a carpenter and millwright together with his father Jacob and his sons John and Frank A. Armstrong. Solomon's papers are now housed in the Bentley Library in Ann Arbor and include notebooks of his work on houses such as the Jonathan Lund house at 1324 Pontiac and the Kellogg Mill. Even his recipe for paint is included.

The house at 1219, probably built in 1851 when the Armstrongs purchased the two lots, represents the more common style of Greek Revival house with its simple rectangular massing and side gables with returns. The house at 1223 is an example of an unusual Greek Revival house from known as "hen and chicks." Said to be unique to southern Michigan, this house type has a tall central portion with a roof gable facing the street, flanked on either side by shorter wings giving the overall appearance of a mother hen sheltering her baby chicks. "Hen and chicks" houses were popular during the 1830s and 1840s, so this is probably the older of the two houses and may have been moved from Armstrong's original property down the road.

Armstrong sold 1219 in 1861 to Amos Corey, another carpenter. In the 1920s, 1219 passed into the hands of the Schlemmer family, who occupied it until the mid-1970s. The house at 1223 was occupied by the Hatch family for almost the identical period and then by Mrs. Adaline Barbiaux for several decades.

The houses have been featured in books on Ann Arbor's historic buildings, most recently in Ann Arbor Architecture, A Sesquicentennial Selection, published by the University of Michigan Museum of Art in 1974. Unaltered until recently, the two buildings form a unique grouping and present an idealized version of our rural and unhurried past.

Keywords: Greek Revival, houses

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



Samuel Miller House, 1893


Samuel Miller House, 1893

1136 Prospect Street

Samuel Miller House, 1893

This house, which current residents refer to as "the castle" was built by Samuel and Harriet Miller. It appears to be modeled loosely after Design No. 27 in Goerge F. Barber's The Cottage Souvenir, Revised and Enlarged (1892). It is a particularly fine example of the Queen Anne style, with a very tall curved chimney enveloping an oriel window on the first floor. Adding to the effect of grandness is the conical topped tower to the right of the entry. The use of different materials and shapes of windows and roofs in odd relationships with one another adds to the effect of extravagance.

The Miller house site was created from the acreage of Christian Eberbach's vast estate on packard named "Woodlawn" since Harriet was Christian's sister. The 1874 map of Ann Arbor shows a tree-bordered drive running east from Packard to Eberbach's estate of orchards and gardens. The Millers' romantic Victorian house was placed on a hiltop at the edge of the orchard. Prospect Avenue was opened as an access road and the drive from Packard became a part of the Miller Addition to the City of Ann Arbor.

Although Samuel and Harriet Miller died early in this century, their daughter Aura lived in the house until 1936. Older residents of the area remember her, the orchard (of which a few trees remain) and a bog at the bottom of the hill which closed off Church Street in wet weather. Despite some unsympathetic alterations to the front as a result of the conversion to nine apartments, the house is still considered a major neighborhood landmark in the Burns Park area.

Keywords: Queen Anne Style, houses

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



Nickels Arcade, 1916


Nickels Arcade, 1916

326-328 South State Street

Nickels Arcade, 1916
Creator: Pipp, Hermann

This small but charming example of the glass-roofed shopping arcade popular in Europe, but rare in the United States, was designed by Ann Arbor architect Hermann Pipp. Other existing Pipp designs include the Barton Hills Country Club and the Marchese Building.

The Arcade's State Street facade, faced with terra cotta, is essentially Beaux Arts Classic in design and proportion with details anticipating the Art Deco designs of a few years later. The Maynard Street facade is similar in design but it is of yellow brick with terra cotta trim. A glass sky-light illuminates the passageway of the steel and brick structure. Of the eighteen shops which open into the 265 foot tiled arcade, three - Van Boven's, the Caravan, and the post office - have been there from its earliest days. Shops and offices occupy the second and third floors.

The land extending from State Street to Maynard was owned by John H. Nickels, proprietor of a meat market on State Street. When his son, Tom E. Nickels, inherited the market, he razed the building and bought out other portions of the property left to his brothers and sister. A man with strong feelings about Ann Arbor's need to grow, Nickels began the Arcade in 1915. He moved to a residence at 513 East William to be near the construction, which took three years to complete.

The Farmers and Mechanics Bank, which originally occupied the south corner on State Street, owned its portion of the Arcade. Only after its successor institution, the Ann Arbor Bank, moved its branch to Liberty Street in 1960 did the Nickels family finally complete its ownership of the entire structure.

Today, some seventy years after its construction, the Arcade remains essentially unchanged. In 1987, when the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a thorough refurbishing was done. The terra cotta interior and exterior were repointed, the mosiac tiles reset in the floor, and new lamps were hung. It is today, as when it was built, one of Ann Arbor's unique and most attractive structures.

Keywords: Arcades, Shopping facilities, Beaux-Arts

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



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