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.

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



St. Andrew's Episcopal Church,


St. Andrew's Episcopal Church,

306 North Division Street

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 1868-69

St. Andrew's Church in Ann Arbor was organized in 1828. As the church grew in numbers and wealth, its history was filled with names that are familiar as well in the progress of the town. The early congregation included the Dexter, Kingsley, Clark and Chapin families. George Corselius, popular editor of Ann Arbor's early Western Emigrant, conveyed one acre of land to the church in 1835, upon which a church building was constructed in 1839 and enlarged in 1856 to provide "free sittings" (in contrast to pew rents) for University students. This building stood just north of the present structure at some elevation from the street, and was approached by a flight of twenty steps ???_ an interesting topographical note.

When the congregation needed a larger church building, it was decided to start with only the nave, and to accept the plans and specifications of Detroit architect Gordon W. Lloyd, who, the Michigan Argus stated, "is doing so much for church architecture in the west." The corner stone was laid in June of 1868, consecration of the finished building taking place on November 10, 1869. In 1879 a chapel and rectory, also designed by architect Lloyd, were added and in the 1890s the recessed chancel and choir stalls were built. Finally, in 1903, a gift from Mrs. Love Palmer in memory of her husband Alonzo made it possible to complete Lloyd's design by constructing the tower, which added to the long, low church "just the culmination and decision which it has always needed." (Arthur Lyon Cross, History of St. Andrew's Church, 1906).

The style is English Gothic, after the style of the parish churches of Lloyd's native land. The construction material, selected field boulders, generally granite and beautifully varied in hue, were split and laid in courses, each course varying from ten to fourteen inches wide. The gable is surmounted by a stone Greek cross. The roof is laid in diamonds of different colored slate, finished with ornamental cresting of cast iron on its ridge. Lloyd incorporated unusual long clerestory windows along each side wall under the patterned roof, with quatrefoil windows to let more light into the nave. The stained glass in these windows was furnished by Friedrichs of Brooklyn, New York. The interior plan follows the typical basilica form of a central long nave flanked by side aisles. The tower, topped by battlements and conical pinnacles, is over eighty feet high. In an attached turret on the front of the tower are stairs to the second story and belfry. A pleasant enclosed cloister to the north of the sanctuary was finished in the 1960s.

Memorial gifts over the years have further embellished the interior. Of special note are the walnut eagle lectern (circa 1875) and a brilliantly colored central south windown by the renowned Louis Comfort Tiffany. Two stained glass windows were installed behind the organ chancel by Willet & Company of Philadelphia in the late 1970s as a memorial to George Hunschey, organist and choir master in the church for many years.

St. Andrew's was included in the Division Street Historic District at the request of the vestry or governing board, which is mindful of the treasure in its custody. New front doors, careful copies of the deteriorated originals, were installed in 1975.

Go to St. Andrew's Church web site...

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



First German Methodist Church, 1896


First German Methodist Church, 1896

520 West Jefferson Street

First German Methodist Church (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints), 1896

German settlers in Ann Arbor maintained cultural unity through close religious ties formed in their homeland. Their faith was a rock, an unwavering refuge of strength for immigrants in this strange new land. Key to their faith and traditions was the mother tongue, the language of their Bible, catechism, and beloved hymns. So even though Ann Arbor already had a Methodist Church, Germans of that denomination petitioned for one of their own, and a congregation the Erste Deutsche Methodisten Kirche was organized by the Ohio Conference in 1847, with their church building at the southwest corner of Liberty and Division.

Erected in 1896, this was the second building for the congregation. It later changed its name to the West Side Methodist Church with services conducted in English, after early generations of German-speaking members had passed away. Today's West Side Methodists worship in larger quarters on South Seventh Street.

Since 1951 this cheerful little building, an example of simplified Gothic Revival style, has been the home of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Gothic windows and the tower with matching single doors at the base distinguish the building. Careful maintenance seems to assure its continued presence as a neighborhood landmark.

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



First Baptist Church, 1880


First Baptist Church, 1880

512 East Huron Street

First Baptist Church, 1880

So important was the construction of this church building, the third in the history of the First Baptist Church since its organization in 1828, that members monitored its construction and personally selected and arranged the square-cut fieldstones into pleasing designs. Parishioner John Nowland provided the black walnut for the interior from his farm and Edward Olney, a nationally-known Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan, mortgaged his own home to raise funds to build the church.

Historically Baptists have been champions of individualism and this freedom has often been translated architecturally into non-standard church forms. In this church, however, the reigning Gothic style, with its hammer beams reminiscent of medieval English churches, was adapted to Baptist sensibilities and rituals. Accustomed to a semicircular arrangement around a preacher with parishioners close to the pulpit, the Baptists manipulated the cruciform plan to suit their purposes.

The result is a blending of the shape of the cross with a spread-out seating arrangement that produces in the onlooker a pleasant sensation as one enters the church. Prominent balconies sweep down to meet the front altar on each side and the hammer beams further accentuate the sensation. Although the altar and front entrance were remodelled and the steeple replaced some years ago, the church remains remarkably the same as it was over 100 years ago. "Shaded by magnificent oak trees, its sharply rising roof line and slender central spire and its capping front ornament of 'Cross and Crown' the church is still the pride of the congregation." These words, written by Lela Duff in 1961, still hold true today.

The First Baptist church was organized in 1828 in a farmhouse three miles west of Ann Arbor. Four years later services were held in town above Anson Brown's store on Broadway and construction of a church building began on Wall Street in 1835. In 1849 the congregation erected a brick church on Catherine Street between Division and Fifth Avenue in order to be closer to the university students. In 1880 they commenced building the present church and the old brick church was demolished shortly after the new one was completed.

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



John M. Wheeler House, 1859


John M. Wheeler House, 1859

1020 West Huron Street

John M. Wheeler House, 1859

When local historian and school teacher Lela Duff first encountered this house, it piqued her curiosity because it was so different from the others in the area. She noted that it seemed "closed and aloof" with its gray paint, sharply pointed gables, and fancy mill work around the eaves, reminding her of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables. People remembered its grounds surrounded by a low picket fence with a deep wooded ravine at the back and a mysterious Dutch windmill. (In the late 1930s the West Side Women's Club voted to restore this windmill but, for reasons unknown, never did so.) By the time Duff wrote an article about the house for The Ann Arbor News in 1960, the house was "teeming with apartments" and had lost its fence and windmill. A bulldozer was working nearby, busy subdividing the grounds.

The house was probably built in 1859 for attorney John M. Wheeler. Noted architectural historian Fiske Kimball believed the house was designed by Gordon W. Lloyd, well known Gothic Revival architect in Michigan. Wheeler was admitted to the bar in Indiana in 1843 and practiced there for 15 years before settling in Ann Arbor. After retiring from his legal practice, he became Treasurer of the Univesity of Michigan in 1872.

The house was once a fine example of Gothic Revival, a style rare in Ann Arbor. It is often compared with the Douglass House, as both houses are stucco over brick. Early photographs show the elaborate porch entry with its Gothic clustered columns and quatrefoil balustrade, features which appeared on the former porte cochere. These distinctive Gothic style details were unfortunately destroyed in the 20th century. Hints of the former grandeur still remain, however, in the ornamental "gingerbread" or barge boards under the eaves.

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



Alonzo Palmer House, (Laubengayer-Ryan House) 1855/1867


Alonzo Palmer House, (Laubengayer-Ryan House) 1855/1867

205 North Division Street

Alonzo Palmer House, (Laubengayer-Ryan House) 1855/1867

One of the finest Gothic Revival houses remaining in the city, this home was built in stages. Dr. Alonzo Palmer, an early member of the University Medical School faculty, came from New York before 1850 to teach and practice in Ann Arbor. With his young wife he purchased a small square brick house on Ann Street. His wife lived only a few years, and in the mid-1860s Dr. Palmer went back east to marry Miss Love Root of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 1867, as a new bride wealthy in her own right, Love Root Palmer added the larger and more elaborate portion of the house facing Division Street.

Love Palmer survived her husband by many years. Upon her death in 1901 the house was purchased by Tobias and Sarah (Staebler) Laubengayer to be used as their residence. Their daughter and son-in-law, Wanda and Mack Ryan, lived in the house until Mr. Ryan died in 1970. Since then the ownership has changed several times.

In 1957, the Ann Arbor News was effusive in describing the interior: "a myriad of oak doors, suspended from huge hand-carved hinges, swing open to all sorts of interesting rooms and closets, large and small. The walls are like those of a fortress while the fireplaces are small and adorned by ornate marble hearths. Elaborate chandeliers, their crystals clustered in serried ranks, hang from high paneled ceilings ... Wide, winding stairs, built of solid walnut and at least one other small, tunnel-like stairway join the first and second floors which include an estimated thirteen rooms. A mural in the hallway and up the stairs, painted by an Italian artist in the early 1930s, depicts the history of the Staebler family in Germany and the United States."

The attractive carriage house has been converted for residential use and the house itself is now a multi-family conversion.

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



Forest Hill Cemetery, 1858 & 1867


Forest Hill Cemetery, 1858 & 1867

415 Observatory

Forest Hill Cemetery, 1858 & 1867
Creator: Morwick, James

In 1856, a Cemetery Company was formed to choose a site for a new cemetery in Ann Arbor. The cemetery then in use (now Felch Park) was too small and was hemmed in by the expanding town and university. After offering $50 for the best plan, the Company chose a hilly part of town south of the Observatory, known as the Taylor farm, to construct a new type of cemetery. No longer to consist of rows of tombstones next to the church, the new approach called for a scenic setting, reflecting the peacefulness and repose of death. In the 1850s, this new view of cemeteries saw them as places for contemplation. In fact, the movement towards the creation of the public parks system in the United States began in the picturesque or "romantic" cemetery movement.

Forest Hill was inspired by the first and most well-known of the Romantic cemeteries in America, Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts, which had introduced the naturalistic English landscape style to American cemeteries. Like Mt. Auburn, Forest Hill has a varied topography. While it is flat along Geddes and Observatory, it has several hills and vales in the interior. And also like Mt. Auburn, it features curved paths that follow the slopes, many of which bear the same floral names: verbena, myrtle, snowdrop, eglantine, and moss.

Although the $50 does not appear to have been awarded to anyone, we do know that the original map of the cemetery was drawn by Colonel J.L. Glen of Niles who is also believed to have been the designer. Colonel Glen was a civil engineer who had surveyed and laid out the city of Lansing and had been in charge of the construction of the State Capitol.

The new cemetery was dedicated on May 19, 1859 and what a dedication it was. It is described by O. W. Stephenson in his 1927 Ann Arbor The First Hundred Years: "...Under the direction of George D. Hill... a great procession marched to the grounds. First came a band, then several military companies, officiating clergy, the orator for the day, the President of the Cemetery Board, William S. Maynard, and other members. In order after these came the Common Council, the faculty of the University, the members of the Board of Education, teachers of different schools, editors and printers, the student body of the University, members of the fire companies, another band, the Masons, Oddfellows, private citizens and children of the public schools."

After the dedication, the graves of many early settlers buried in the old cemetery were moved to Forest Hill. In its 103-year history over 17,000 people have been buried there, from Elisha Rumsey, co-founder of Ann Arbor, to University presidents, prominent citizens, and foreign students. The first person permanently interred was Benajah Ticknor, the Navy surgeon who built Cobblestone Farm.

In 1866, the Cemetery Board instructed the Building Committee to solicit designs for an office, gatehouse, and caretaker's house at the entrance to the cemetery. The plans selected were by noted architect, Gordon W. Lloyd, and the builder was James Morwick, who had recently built the chapel addition to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and the home of Dr. Alonzo Palmer at the corner of Division and Ann Streets. In the Gothic Ravival style, the cemetery buildings exhibit typical features including lancet windows, slate roofs with colorful lozenge and diamond patterns, a quatrefoil window in the gable of the caretaker's house, and wavy bargeboards curving under the roof eaves of each gable. The original metal roof cresting is some of the last remaining in Ann Arbor.

The walls are cut fieldstone of various soft colors and the entire effect is one of picturesque beauty, further enhanced by the charming cemetery gate: a pointed stone arch capped by a copper topped belfry. Two stone pillars flank the entrance on which are inscribed: "J. Morwick, Builder" and "Walker Bros, Masons."

Forest Hill today retains much of its original design. Flat gravestones along Observatory preserve the open view to the large monuments. As trees and shrubs have matured, however, the contrast between the wooded areas and the grassy meadows has been obscured. Just beyond the gateway and dominating the entry stands the Washtenaw county Civil War Memorial, moved here from the courthouse lawn at Main and Huron Streets when the new courthouse was built in 1954.

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



Silas Douglass House, 1848


Silas Douglass House, 1848

502 East Huron Street

Silas Douglass House, 1848
Creator: Marshall, Arthur

The Silas Douglass home is the first in Ann Arbor to be designed by an architect, Arthur Marshall. Begun in 1848, it is a splendid example of Gothic Revival residential architecture, with steeply sloped roofs, gingerbread carving under the eaves, stucco walls scored to resemble masonry, and the use of Gothic motifs such as quatrefoils and trefoils. The east wing was added in 1855, the west wing in 1856, and a bay window, gas piping and marble mantel in 1858. They added a well and cellar in 1863 and the dining room bay window in 1864. The water for the bathroom came from a six barrel tank anchored in the attic and filled with rain water. A small picturesque porch along the east front and a picket fence were removed years ago after they fell into disrepair.

Douglass, a brilliant and energetic man, came from Chautauqua, New York, to study medicine with Drs. Rice and Pitcher of Detroit. In 1844, he joined the University of Michigan faculty as professor of chemistry, where he was a leader in establishing Michigan's pioneer chemical laboratory and library. Twice mayor of Ann Arbor, dean of the University's medical faculty, head of the chemical laboratory, Douglass led a full and varied life and was often at the center of controversy. In his spare time he supervised the construction of the University water mains, a classroom building, and the Observatory. "Believing the city to have groped in darkness long enough," Douglass urged the founding in 1858 of the Ann Arbor Gas Company. While mayor in 1871-72, he reorganized the city's tiny police force and introduced a licensing system to regulate liquor traffic.

Helen and Silas Douglass raised their seven children and lived out their lives in this house. In 1902 the local Baptist Guild acquired the property for student activities. A few years later it was turned over to the Baptist Church, where it has been used as church offices and housing for the sexton. The Ann Arbor Observer had its birth in this house when Don and Mary Hunt were serving as sextons of the church. The Douglass estate is now filled in with church structures and a parking area, but one can still imagine the fine old trees and extensive garden beds that once were there.

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



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