Thomas Ready House, 1858


Thomas Ready House, 1858

206 North Thayer

Thomas Ready House, 1858

When Thomas Ready constructed this Greek Revival cottage in the late 1850s, its only neighbor was the former Ellsworth Boarding house up the street at the southeast corner of Catherine and Thayer Streets. Both were built after the University of Michigan decreed that students could no longer live on campus. President Tappan's edict in 1852 prompted a mad scramble by local citizens to accommodate the new demand for housing (see Harvey Bannister House). This overlapped with the expansion of the Irish community into this neighborhood.

The chain of title for this property reveals an almost unbroken string of Irish names, from Ready to Timothy Keating, James Evans, and Patrick O'Hearn. O'Hearn purchased the property in 1885 and his family owned it for the next 70 years. In 1888 O'Hearn built another house on the north half of this property (see Patrick O'Hearn House) which he used as a rental and never lived in himself.

Simple in shape and style, the main attraction of this clapboard house is its beautiful, intact Italianate porch with the filigree scroll work and thin chamfered columns typical of the style. Also characteristic is the absence of any porch railing. The house is an excellent example of vernacular architecture in Ann Arbor.

The current owners have taken meticulous care of their home and were given a preservation award in 1989 by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission. They too are of Irish descent, though not related to the earlier owners.

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



John George Koch House, 1874


John George Koch House, 1874

530 South Division Street

John George Koch House, 1874

Showcased by its high-profile location next to Hanover Square at the intersection of Division, Packard, and Madison Streets, this brick Italianate "cube" was built in 1874 for John George Koch. Koch was a local furniture maker who had originally apprenticed in Germany. Like many other Germans in Ann Arbor, Koch immigrated from Wurttemberg in 1866. Also like many men of this era, he worked and traveled through many parts of the country including New Haven, Connecticut; Columbus, Ohio; and Dexter, Michigan before finally settling in Ann Arbor in 1872. For seven years he was a stockholder and assistant superintendent of the Keck Furniture Company. In 1880 Koch attempted to go into business on his own but soon teamed up with Jacob Haller in the firm of Koch and Haller, furniture dealers.

Koch sold the house in 1888 to Sarah and William Rice, a wealthy farmer descended from pioneer families of Washtenaw County, who had retired to Ann Arbor that year. A 1906 biography of him states that "he removed to the city of Ann Arbor and there his wife purchased a residence which he made his home until the time of his death, enjoying in well earned ease the fruits of his former toil." The house remained in the Rice family until about the time of World War I, after which it was rented and its tenants changed every decade.

In the late 1940s, it was purchased by the present owner who has maintained the seven room house in pristine condition, preserving original brackets and the heavy brick arches over the windows. The woodwork in the two downstairs parlors has been refinished after seven layers of paint were removed. Recognizing that these efforts were a contribution to the entire community of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission awarded the owner a Preservation Award in 1988 for keeping this "gem" in top-notch condition.

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



Jacob Vandawarker House, 1844


Jacob Vandawarker House, 1844

220 North Fifth Avenue

Jacob Vandawarker House, 1844

Jacob Vandawarker came to Ann Arbor from Herkimer County, New York in 1834 and wasted no time in getting married and setting up a shoemaking business. After a decade he was able to purchase two large lots and construct this fine brick "Philadelphia townhouse." The elaborate front door surround, with its transom and sidelights, was a common design feature in the 1840s but had almost disappeared by the 1850s when the Greek Revival style was at its height in Ann Arbor. In addition to the door, the house has other features reflecting the mingling of the Federal and Greek Revival styles. These include the simple stone lintels over the windows, the six-over-six window pane arrangement, the long side of the house facing the street, and the modillion detailing under the eaves. One interesting feature is the "blind" or fake window placed on the north wall for the sake of symmetry. The full front porch dates to the 1860s when porches, particularly with Italianate gingerbread and thin chamfered columns, were the height of fashion.

The Ann Arbor Courier lamented Vandawarker's death in 1881: "Soon none will be left to tell the tale of the early settlement of Michigan." Local artist Charles Ciccarelli recently immortalized in a print, the shoemaking enterprise Vandawarker operated on the west side of Main Street between Huron and Washington for almost 50 years.

Sons Edwin and Frank Vandawarker took over their father's business and continued to live in this house until World War I. Occupied as a single family house until the 1930s, it became a rental property during the Depression and was somewhat neglected. In 1978 it was restored inside and out by local realtors Casey and Myra Jones, who received a preservation award in 1984 from the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission for their efforts.

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



Henry Cornwell House, 1894


Henry Cornwell House, 1894

538 North Division Street

Henry Cornwell House, 1894

The exterior of this impressive brick structure belies its owner's renown as a self-made lumber baron. Only the lavish use of wood in the 17-room interior provides a clue to his occupation. In 1840 Henry and his brother Harvey established a paper mill on the Huron River west of Ann Arbor. By the 1860s they were already wealthy men, owning lumber mills in Ypsilanti as well. When Henry built this Queen Anne /Colonial Revival house, he was replacing his earlier Italianate house which had stood on the same site. The new house was one of several highlighted in the 1896 Ann Arbor Headlight.

Henry's son Frank and his family remained in the home after Henry's death but moved out after World War I when the house became too big for them. In December 1927 the house was sold to the Beth Israel Congregation and served as its synagogue for nearly 20 years. In 1946 it was sold to Mrs. Ruth Farley Pack, a local realtor, and in April of 1949, to the Pentecostal Church of God.

In 1951 St. Thomas Church bought it for a youth center. It was used in this capacity until the late 1970s when it was sold to William DeBrooke who began a restoration of the house as a residential property. In 1983, Deucalion Resources Group, a computer software company, completed the restoration of the house, this time for offices. Deucalion preserved the 15 black walnut trees on the front lawn as well and in 1984 received a Preservation Award from the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission. The house today is the home of Baseview-Macintosh Publishing Systems for Newspapers.

[Note: This building has been the office of the law firm of Ferguson & Widmayer, P.C. since 1998.]

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



Moses and Jane Gunn House, 1851


Moses and Jane Gunn House, 1851

712 East Ann Street

Moses and Jane Gunn House, 1851

This handsome Greek Revival structure with its two-story pedimented portico is often overlooked because of its cramped location. When the house was completed in 1851, however, it stood on a large landscaped lot at the southeast corner of State and Ann Streets. It was purchased by Dr. Moses Gunn, a newly hired Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the just-opened University of Michigan Medical School.

Gunn's wife Jane, in a memoir published in 1889 after his death, noted that when they "purchased a roomy house nearly completed," the long pillars in the front "suggested a style of Grecian architecture now almost obsolete." Born in East Bloomfield, New York, Moses Gunn entered Geneva Medical College in 1844. After receiving his medical degree in 1846, he travelled to Ann Arbor where he joined with Silas Douglass and Abram Sager to open a private medical school in the Washtenaw County Courthouse. In 1850 he was appointed to his positions in the University Medical School where he worked for the next 13 years. Though a bit aristocratic, he was very much respected and today two portraits of him hang in the present University Hospital. A student described him as a "...striking figure of a man with an erect military carriage, clad in a snug-fitting, carefully buttoned-up black frock coat... who frequently raised his gold-rimmed eyeglasses to note the architectural peculiarities of each house he approached... then the eyeglasses were allowed to swing from their long gold chain to be quickly readjusted should anything seem worthy of attention"

The house is a fairly unusual example of the domestic Greek Revival in the Midwest. Built entirely of wood, it has a full pediment supported by four very tall two-story columns. These columns are square, not round and fluted as are those on more high style examples. It also has "shouldered" or "eared" trim around the doors and windows, a detail that is repeated on the interior.

The residence of a former governor of Michigan, Alpheus Felch, stood just to the south of this house on State Street. The two houses were reputed to be almost identical, designed by local builder Andrew DeForest. They must have made a spectacular impression on people entering the city coming up State Street from the railroad depot on their way to campus.

Although Gunn remained a faculty member until the 1860s, he left Ann Arbor in 1854 for Detroit where he could find more patients for his private practice. The house was sold to Richard Hooper, owner of the city's oldest brewery. The Hooper sons continued to live in the house after their father's death in 1866 until the Depression of 1873 drove them and many other brewers out of business.

The house was then empty until William H. Payne bought it in 1883. Payne was a new professor at the University of Michigan teaching a new subject: the science and art of teaching. He pioneered what later became the University of Michigan School of Education. He lived in the house only four years, but his diaries about his life in Ann Arbor, dictated to his wife many years later in 1901, reveal his interest in this house. He noted that the house was believed by the townspeople to be haunted by the ghost of a Hooper who had committed suicide. The oldest known photograph of the house, probably from 1915, comes from Payne's papers at the Bentley Library.

By the 1890s the neighborhood was no longer fashionable and the house became a rental, though it had the same owner for many years and was never divided up into apartments. In 1898 it was moved to the rear of its original lot, its orientation was changed to face Ann Street, and three newer houses constructed where it had been. Some of the earliest tenants included the well-known librarian Nellie Loving, who lived here with her mother for a short while.

Dr. David James, a respected orthodontist, and his wife Naomi, an interior decorator, purchased the house and lovingly restored it while they raised their two children here. In 1986 Mrs. James received a preservation award from the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission but by 1987 was forced to sell the house due to illness. The new owners, Lars Bjorn and Susan Wineberg, continue to maintain this historic structure and recently added a classical "deck" above the rear kitchen wing which is very much in keeping with the classical facade.

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



Robert MacKenzie House, 1916/1927


Robert MacKenzie House, 1916/1927

1422 West Liberty Street

Robert MacKenzie House (Anna Botsford Bach Home), 1916/1927

Dr. Robert MacKenzie, a prominent physician and head of the University of Michigan's Obstetrics Department built this neo-classical Italian villa in 1916. Unlike most of his colleagues, MacKenzie and his wife preferred to be in the "country" and have more acreage. Thus they built their new home on the far west side of town where many of Dr. MacKenzie's patients lived. Dr. MacKenzie was fluent in German, which made him popular among the many Germans living on the West Side.

When construction began in 1916, the architect suggested a third floor with a ballroom, but Mrs. MacKenzie vehemently objected to such ostentation. Even without a ballroom it was a grand house, with spacious rooms, verandas, a central hall big enough to play football, and two large fieldstone fireplaces. Ten years later Dr. MacKenzie's health began to fail and in 1926 he and his wife moved to their summer house in Frankfort, Michigan. He died on June 8, 1934.

The spacious house soon proved it could handle a larger family. MacKenzie had been instrumental in expanding St. Joseph Mercy Hospital from its beginnings in a house on North State Street. That house later became the first Old Ladies Home. After the addition of a third floor, the Old Ladies Home moved into the MacKenzie house in 1927 and has been here ever since. The name soon changed to the Anna Botsford Bach Home, in honor of the energetic woman who had worked tirelessly to create a home for elderly women.

Today, more than 75 years later, the goal of the Anna Botsford Bach Home remains the same: to provide a homelike atmosphere for its sixteen elderly residents. The women are friends and companions, and there is a sense of affection and respect for the special care provided there. Through careful maintenance by the Board of Trustees, this structure and its beautifully landscaped site provide grade and charm to Liberty Street, one of the city's main thoroughfares. In 1990 much of the original interior woodwork in the dining room was restored by Jim Stacey. The Ann Arbor Historic District Commission presented the Home with a Preservation Award in 1989.

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



Hildene Manor, 1926


Hildene Manor, 1926

2220 Washtenaw Avenue

Hildene Manor, 1926

This Tudor Revival style building is actually eight six-room apartments, cooperatively owned. When it was built it was the only cooperatively owned apartment house in Ann Arbor. The large roomy apartments reflect the 1920s when apartment living was chic and largely confined to the wealthy. The builders of this venture, the Group Homes Apartments, chose the Tudor Revival or "Olde English" style as a way of expressing their taste, their refinement, and perhaps their lineage. Half-timbered with stucco on the exterior, it has symmetrical stone arched entries, a steeply pitched roof punctuated by chimneys, and groups of double hung windows with small panes of glass.

The owners of each unit are free to decorate them individually while the group as a whole maintains the grounds and the exterior. Though many such cooperative ventures fail, this one succeeded, "because of the spirit of the people living there."

The apartments adopted the name Hildene Manor in 1927, a year after the building was completed. A newspaper article from that year stated that it acquired a name because it was located outside the city limits, and no number could be given to it for mail delivery, "so the residents decided to name it to avoid confusion." Perhaps they also liked the idea of referring to themselves as living in a "manor."

Recognizing that Hildene Manor has never fallen into disrepair and has always been maintained in the high standards with which it was built, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission gave it a Preservation Award in 1990. Though it has long been part of the city of Ann Arbor, its setting on Washtenaw beneath massive trees still gives the sense of a country estate today.

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



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