David Rinsey's Queen Anne Monument

Author: 
Susan Wineberg

It Symbolized an Immigrant's Success

This time of year, travelers on Division Street can once again see the large, elegant Queen Anne house at the corner of Lawrence and Division, which is shrouded in summer by the foliage of a substantial gingko tree. The intricately detailed house was built in 1890, when Division Street was still considered a very fashionable address. It was intended as an emblem of both the prosperity and the good taste of its owner, immigrant grocer David Rinsey.

Rinsey was a true American success story. Born in Baden, Germany, in 1838, he apprenticed to a baker in Switzerland before immigrating in 1854. As a sixteen-year-old indentured servant, he worked for seven years as a farmhand, earning only $50 his first year. He later clerked for a local grocery store and in 1867 was able to set himself up in the grocery and bakery business in partnership with 'another immigrant from Baden, Moses Seabolt. Rinsey & Seabolt—located on Washington Street where the Washington Street Station restaurant is today—was the largest grocery in town for over forty years. Rinsey also married, fathered six children, and became a director and stockholder of the Ann Arbor Savings Bank and a prominent member of the Ann Arbor Fruit and Vinegar Company.

In 1890, at the age of fifty-two, Rinsey purchased the estate of the venerable James Kingsley. He proceeded to move Judge Kingsley's house to the north end of the property (now 412 North Division) so that he could construct a new house at the highly visible corner of Lawrence.

The Rinseys, like many of Ann Arbor's German Catholics, preferred to live near St. Thomas Church two blocks away. But the new house was meant to be not only a convenient place to live but a statement that the Rinseys had arrived.

Most early American homes weren't really designed at all. Carpenters knew a few traditional layouts and chose one appropriate to the means of the owner. But in the mid-nineteenth century, as the nation grew richer and building materials more abundant and adaptable, building a home became an important personal statement. "Pattern books," showing many different designs, sold well all over the country. Many of these books began to exhort men of means to exhibit their noblest characteristics through their homes:

"A man's dwelling is not only an index of his wealth, but also of his character," asserted Sloan's Victorian Buildings in 1852. "The moment he begins to build, his tact for arrangement, his private feelings, the refinement of his tastes and the peculiarities of his judgment are all laid bare for public inspection and criticism. And the public makes free use of this prerogative."

The increasing distribution and diversity of these pattern books in subsequent decades raised the architectural pressures on newly wealthy men like Rinsey. At the same time, improvements in machinery allowing the mass production of building elements gave them more to work with. The ultimate result was the Queen Anne house: lavished with fancy wood trim inside and out, replete with gables, dormers, bay windows, and elaborate porches, all arrayed for the most picturesque effect.

Rinsey's version of this style was on the conservative end of the spectrum, more balanced than asymmetrical. His flashiest effects were fairly elaborate porch railings, a cutaway corner on the second floor—and the letter R proudly displayed in a special dormer facing Division Street.

The house had the desired effect. The 1891 Portrait and Biographical Atlas of Washtenaw County described it as "the latest style of architecture . . . of elegant construction ... the most perfect taste [having been] brought to bear in the finishing and furnishing." It added that "the success which has attended our subject is the more flattering as when coming to Ann Arbor he had but $5 in money."

Rinsey died in 1914. His wife, Jennett, lived in the house with her two unmarried daughters until her death in 1938. In 1915, her son, George, built his own house next door (406 North Division) in the much more restrained bungalow style. Today, the two houses provide an interesting comparison of the tastes of the 1890's with those of the World War I era.

After Jennett Rinsey's death, her two daughters converted the house into apartments, while continuing to live there themselves. The elaborate gingerbread porch was replaced by a porch with simpler lines, and the entrance was changed to the Lawrence Street side. The cutaway corner upstairs disappeared, and so did the R at some point. But a 1938 Ann Arbor News articlementions the retention of a cherry mantle from the Kingsley house and the preservation of oak woodwork that had been the first of its type used in Ann Arbor. Cherry and maple parquet floors, oak-paneled ceilings, wainscoting, and the lincrustra wall coverings (linoleum-like coverings designed to simulate embossed leather) in the hallways were all preserved, according to the article, along with delicately tiled fireplaces.

Today the house is owned by Ray Detter, whose mother, Helen Hooley, lives in an apartment that contains much of the fancy woodwork and the fireplaces. In 1990, the two were recognized by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission for their preservation of the house and its interior details. That summer, Detter and Hooley celebrated the hundredth birthday of the house by throwing a birthday partv. They invited the neighborhood and celebrated with a cake baked in the shape of the house!


[Photo caption from original print edition]: The David Rinsey residence, c. 1910 and today. Wealthy Victorians were urged to make their homes personal statements: "A man's dwelling is not only an index of his wealth, but also of his character," Sloan's Victorian Buildings warned in 1852. More balanced than asymmetrical, Rinsey's design was actually toward the conservative end of the ornate Queen Anne spectrum.

Rights Held By: 
Susan Wineberg

Treasure Mart

Author: 
Susan Wineberg

As Herman Krapf's Planing Mill, it Made Fancy Trim for 19th-Century Builders

The Treasure Mart resale shop is a ritual stop for many Ann Arbor-ites, one that's been drawing people to Detroit Street since long before there was a Zingerman's—or a Kerrytown, for that matter. It is housed in a very old building with an interesting history of its own. It was built as a wood planing mill, specializing in "sash, doors, blinds [shutters], moulding and scroll work." An engraving of the mill and the miller's house (still standing next door at 521 Detroit Street) appears in the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County. It was constructed in 1869, after an earlier mill on the site burned down.

Detroit Street hummed with industrial activity in the mid-nineteenth century. Connecting the railroad depot to the county courthouse, it was the main gateway to the center of town. Other industries on the street included two buggy factories (one where Auto-Strasse is now, another on the site of the Old Brick) and Luick's Planing Mill, now the old part of the Kerrytown complex.

American woodworking underwent an industrial revolution in the last half of the nineteenth century. Steam planing mills—of which the Treasure Mart and the Luick Building are Ann Arbor's remaining examples—freed woodworking from its historic dependence on waterpower. The newer mills could be located in industrial districts close to their raw materials, and they utilized elaborate labor-saving machinery. This allowed them to produce economical finished products for the home building industry, which boomed after the Civil War.

Mills like these specialized in details—fancy brackets, cut shingles, doors, moldings, and the ornate ornamentation known as "gingerbread." A distinct American architecture, lavished with such wood detailing, climaxed at the end of the century. With a paucity of labor and an abundance of raw product, America gained world prominence in the design and production of woodworking machinery. A British team visiting the U.S. in 1854 was astonished at the specialized machinery for mortising and tenoning, boring, slotting, edging, and grooving.

John G. Miller operated the original mill (at first with a partner, John Reyer), beginning in the early 1850's. He rebuilt it after the 1869 fire, and finally sold it in 1878 to Herman Krapf, who operated it as the Detroit Planing Mill.

According to O. W. Stevenson's history of Ann Arbor, Krapf's mill was one of three that for many years supplied a good share of the lumber and interior materials used in constructing the growing city. Krapf was an Ann Arbor native, born five years after his father immigrated from Germany in 1836. He fought in the Civil War and married a local girl—which may explain why he became a Presbyterian, highly unusual among Ann Arbor's overwhelmingly Catholic and Lutheran nineteenth-century Germans. He served as an officer of the Old Fourth Ward from 1895 to1900.

Krapf remained in business until 1905, when he closed the mill and retired. By then, Michigan's lumber was almost gone. Without cheap local wood supplies, small mills like Krapf's found it hard to compete with trim produced by bigger operations in prime lumber areas, like the American South. The building was used as a machine shop in 1910, but by 1920 the City Directory listed it as vacant. The Barnard Toy Company occupied it for a short while, but by 1930 it was again listed as vacant. By 1940 it was the Warehouse Furniture Store, and in the 1950's it was the home of Ann Arbor Fruit and Produce, which moved in 1960 and rented the building to Mrs. Demaris Cash. Her Treasure Mart has been there ever since.

The idea of a retail consignment shop came to Mrs. Cash as she groped for ways to cope with a series of family troubles, including a daughter diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a mother with a broken back, and a husband with a heart condition. Several "miracles" followed: the idea of a resale shop was suggested by a friend; Mrs. Cash was able to buy display cases and open the store on the same day; she prayed for and found a business partner, Mrs. Grace Bigby; and her first customer—who bought a crystal chandelier—appeared after she prayed for one.

Mrs. Cash bought the onetime mill, and the Miller's house next door, in 1983. Now finishing her thirtieth year of business, she is an active eighty-something. Her store, which some call resale shop and she calls a "junk shop,"is on many visitors' lists of places to see and is an addiction for many of its regular customers. (I allow myself to go only once a week.) The Treasure Mart is still a family enterprise, with Mrs. Cash's daughter, Elaine Johns, as its manager.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Detroit Street was a bustling industrial district when this engraving appeared in the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County. Moribund for much of the century, the street began a comeback when Demaris Cash rented the one-time mill as a resale shop in 1960. Above: the Treasure Mart today.

Rights Held By: 
Susan Wineberg

Wall Street Journey

Author: 
Susan Wineberg

How a Lower Town family's modest home solved the century-old search for a county historical museum

On Sunday, June 10, an early-morning jogger along the Huron River looked up in astonishment as he ran along the boardwalk beneath the Broadway bridge. There on the bridge, blotting out Detroit Edison's Argo substation beyond, loomed a white frame house. It was mounted on wheels and being pulled along by a snorting dump truck. More than 150 years after it was built, 1015 Wall Street was on the move.

Escorted fore and aft by police cars to handle traffic, and half a dozen utility trucks to remove overhead wires, the house was soon across the river. Progress slowed on Beakes Street: tree branches that couldn't be dodged or shouldered aside by a worker riding the house's roof had to be trimmed away by workers in bucket trucks wielding buzzing chain saws. Still, by late afternoon, the building had traveled nearly a mile from its starting point and was ready to take its new spot at the corner of Main and Beakes.

Named the Kellogg-Warden house after the families that built it in about 1837, the house passed its century and a half on Wall Street as an unassuming residence in a backwater neighborhood. In its new spot, now officially designated as 500 North Main Street, it is scheduled to be rehabilitated, landscaped, and opened to the public as a museum of the Washtenaw County Historical Society.

A long process of fund-raising and construction lies ahead before the tentatively titled "Museum on Main Street" (MOMS) is ready. But the completion of the move itself brought a sigh of relief to society members. For over a year beforehand, the project was hanging by a thread.

The U-M, which owned the house, was eager to turn the site into badly needed parking for its Turner Clinic. The university was willing to donate the house to the city, but the city had neither a use for it, nor the money to finance a move. And even after the historical society stepped forward and won the U-M's agreement to donate the house and the city's agreement to lease the new site, problems kept cropping up.

First, the long-abandoned gas station at Main and Beakes had to be demolished and its underground fuel tanks removed.Then came further delays: to remove soil contaminated by the leaking tanks, to scramble for more funds for cleanup, and finally to negotiate with the state Department of Natural Resources for a clean bill of health for the site.

While the university patiently delayed demolition, state Senator Lana Pollack and Representative Perry Bullard helped the society work out an agreement with the DNR that allowed the move to proceed. Even after it was scheduled for the first Sunday in June, there was one more delay: a windstorm on June 2 knocked down power lines across southeast Michigan, tying up Detroit Edison crews needed for the move. Fortunately, the weather the weekend of June 10 was fine.

The goal of all these efforts is to properly showcase a collection of documents and artifacts dating back to the society's founding in 1857. Despite the fact that the Washtenaw County Historical Society is the oldest local group of its kind in the state, the acquisition of the house marks the first time in its history that the society has owned property.

As a result, the society's collections have led a gypsy existence. They have been moved in and out of the county courthouse three times over sixty-one years, were kept in various U-M quarters for thirty-three years, were stored in the old city Water Department twice, and reposed in the Cole-Pool barn for sixteen years. They are currently scattered among the Kempf House, Cobblestone Farm, |Clements Library, Bentley Library, and Dexter Historical Museum. Now, thanks to the generosity and patience of the U-M and the city, the society can begin to create a museum in which its collection will be reunited, coaxed at last into telling the coherent history of Washtenaw County.

Boom and Bust in Lower Town
The area just north of the Huron on Broadway was platted in 1832 as part of Brown and Fuller's Addition to the village of Ann Arbor. Although Anson Brown and Edmund L. Fuller called it "Ann Arbour on the Huron," it is better known in local histories as Lower Town.

The lot where 1015 Wall Street stood was one of a group sold in 1835 by Desire Brown, Anson's widow, to Thomas Peatt. The price—$124.27—sounds suspiciously like an auction for back taxes. The lots were resold repeatedly over the next four years at swiftly rising prices. The prices probably reflect the construction of the 1015 Wall Street house and several neighboring houses, as well as the wild land speculation in Ann Arbor at the time.

In 1837, 1015 Wall was one of five lots Peatt sold to Dan W. Kellogg. Kellogg, in turn, resold them the following year to Ethan A. Warden (who I believe was his business partner and brother-in-law). By 1839 Warden sold two of the lots, including 1015, to Charles Kellogg (his father-in-law, I suspect) for $1,800. But that was the end of easy, profitable sales in Lower Town. Although Charles died in 1842, it was not until 1853 that the executors of his estate were able to sell this property. In that year, Samuel Ruthruff purchased 1015 and a neighboring lot for only $600. The Land Panic of 1837 and the general depression of the 1840's had taken their toll: land values were substantially reduced and did not begin to recover until after the Civil War.

Based on sales prices and details of the house itself, I believe the house at 1015 Wall was built sometime in the period 1835-1837. It still isn't clear whether Peatt, Kellogg, or Warden was responsible. Since Peatt doesn't appear in any city records or newspapers, though, I'm betting on Dan Kellogg as the builder.

The Kellogg and Warden families were actively involved in the development of Lower Town. They were millers, and ads for their products appeared in local newspapers until the 1840's. The Kellogg brothers, Dwight, Dan W., and Dorr (sometimes spelled Dor), are mentioned in passing in several histories of Lower Town, but most of the family except Dorr had died or returned to New York by the time Washtenaw County's first history was written in 1881.

Fortunately, in the Bentley Library I uncovered a cache of over 100 letters sent between family members in Ann Arbor and their loved ones back east in Auburn, Moravia, and Kelloggsville, New York, between 1835 and 1842, along with large folders stuffed with invoices, deeds, and other paper ephemera from the same period. They provide details about one family's move into the Michigan Territory and of their motivations, successes, and failures. They give us a new perspective on the history of Ann Arbor, too.

For example, we know from local histories that Anson Brown's sudden death in 1834 proved traumatic to the development of Lower Town. But here is Dwight Kellogg writing to Ethan Warder in Auburn, New York, in September of 1835, still fairly bursting with a boomer's optimism:

Well! On the first day of this month Mrs. Brown and E. L. Fuller made me a written offer that if I would pay them $32,500 by or before the 1st of November next they would convey to me by a good warranty deed all their interest in the property of Brown and Fuller and Brown and Co. The time is nearly half out now and I don't know as I shall raise it or as any other will for me—Dan took the statement of the affair and of the property to the east with him. I however have not yet heard from him. I have no hesitationin saying the property is at this moment worth not less than $12,000 more than they ask for it. ...

Kellogg goes on to offer Warden a piece of the action if he's interested, noting that their goods were selling well and they'd sold $30,000 worth since last October and could have sold $70,000 worth.

It appears that Dwight Kellogg was successful in luring family members to Ann Arbor to take advantage of this opportunity, for we find Ethan Warden in Ann Arbor by 1836. Dan W. Kellogg appears to have arrived earlier, in 1835. Dorr Kellogg, according to the 1881 History of Washtenaw County, spent several weeks in Ann Arbor in 1825 and bought land, then returned in 1836 and built a mill on the Huron River with Dwight. Two years later, they were joined by their father, the Hon. Charles Kellogg.

Already in his sixties, Charles Kellogg had served as a judge of the county court of Cayuga, as a member of the New York legislature, and as a member of the U.S. Congress, in addition to being the proprietor of a mill in Kelloggsville, New York. It is astonishing to think that a man his age would willingly pioneer in the Michigan wilderness, but that's precisely what he did. The former congressman set up a meager little hardware store in the Huron Block at the comer of Wall Street and Broadway (demolished about 1961), selling nails, sperm candles, files, shirting, and window glass.

Ethan Warden set up a grocery and dry goods store in the Huron Block, in partnership with Dan W. Kellogg. The Warden and Kellogg partnership did not last long, but Ethan maintained the business by himself until 1839.

In the 1840's it appears that things were starting to unravel. Dorr dissolved his partnership in the mill with Dwight in 1841. Dan's wife Esther Almira died in 1842. Charles died that same year, and his widow Mary Ann died in 1844. Dan returned to New York, where he beam a successful businessman. The fate of Ethan Warden and Dwight Kellogg remains unknown.

Dorr Kellogg maintained a residence at 510 Lawrence from about 1866 to 1884, where he lived with Ethan Warden's widow and his sister. The letters now at the Bentley were found in the 1960's in the attic of this house by student tenants, who brought them to Russell Bidlack, dean of the School of Library Science. It was Bidlack who donated them to the Bentley
Library. All Kellogg family members who died in Ann Arbor are buried together in a single plot at Fairview Cemetery.

A Quiet Century
The house at 1015 Wall took its present form during the ownership of Samuel Ruthruff, the man who bought it from Charles Kellogg's estate in 1853. The 1860 city directory lists the tenant as Ruthrop, res Lower Town, with no profession given. In the 1868 Directory he is listed as Saml Ruthrauf, res 29 Wall; in 1872 lie's Ruthruff, and in 1874 he's Ruthrauff!

Maps of Ann Arbor from 1853 and 1854 show only the front portion of the house. By 1869, however, a surveyor's map indicates the presence of both rear additions, one of them 1 and 1/1 stories and the other a single story. The latter of the two additions has a roof that slopes below the roof of the primary addition, forming part of what is commonly referred to as a "hens and chicks" arrangement.

The fact that this house is in such good condition and has had so few alterations reveals the conservative stewardship that followed Ruthruff s tenancy. The exterior, with the beautiful door frames and lines of the Classic Revival period, remains almost unchanged. Inside, a federal-style staircase with curved newel post and spindles and a bone "amity button" in the center remains intact. So do the interior wood trim, the double fluted pilasters surrounding the fireplaces, the paneled aprons below the windows, and several original doors. Several doors upstairs that were painted to look like expensive hardwood are also in remarkably good condition.

The house's excellent preservation reflects both the long tenure of subsequent owners and their limited means. By the 1890's, Charles G. Greiner, a gardener, was living in the house with members of his family. The inside of the door leading to the attic has penciled on it: "Louise Greiner, Lillie, Mabel, Laura, Frieda, Ella, Pa G., Ma G., wrote this June 7, 1901." It appears that the house remained in the care of the Greiner children for most of the next century. Laura Marz, who I believe was this family's last surviving member, died in 1988 at the age of ninety-two.

For nearly forty years, from about 1915 to 1955, Laura and her husband, John Marz, shared the house shared the house with Ann and Fred Bauer. Laura worked as a bookkeeper at various companies around Ann Arbor and as a saleswoman at a local clothing shop. John was a bus driver, Anna a laundress, and Fred a machinist. The Bauers disappear from city directory listings after 1955, but the Marzes remained for several more decades; John Marz died between 1970 and 1975.

Laura and the Bauer family, too, were also musicians, and they were recorded on tape by longtime neighbor Thelma Graves. This family, or families, were typical of people living in the Lower Town area in the twentieth century. Struggling to make ends meet with fairly low-paying jobs, they managed to survive and even have time for musical pursuits.

The Society's Frustrating Search
Though the Bauers and Marzes preserved their modest home well, they would probably be startled to learn of its new life as a museum. So would many of the early members of the Washtenaw County Historical Society. For most of this century, they held out for something considerably grander.

Delays and disappointments have plagued the society's search for a home. Founded in 1857, the society was reorganized in 1873 as the Pioneer Society of Washtenaw County and began in earnest to accept donations and to search for a suitable home. From 1879 to 1929 a room was provided in the county courthouse. Some materials were also kept in a log cabin at Burns Park (which eventually dissolved into rot due to termite and water damage). Membership in the society initially was restricted to twenty-year residents of the county; later, the rules required that a member must also be at least forty years old.

The first president of the society was Alpheus Felch, former governor of Michigan and justice of the state supreme court. Other officers were a veritable Who's Who of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and surrounding townships. Their aims, according to a society document, were "to cultivate social relations, collect and preserve biographic sketches and historical facts and reminiscences, and transmit the same to future generations." Their first venture along these lines was to commission and help produce the voluminous (almost 1,500 pages) 1881 History of Washtenaw County.

Thanks to the ill-advised ban on younger members, the Pioneer Society gradually dwindled away, and no meetings were held after 1925. In 1929, stimulated by U-M president Alexander G. Ruthven, the group was rejuvenated, renamed the Washtenaw Historical Society (it became the Washtenaw County Historical Society in the early 1970's), and opened to anyone who wished to join. New goals were incorporated into a new constitution, which stated the group's aim to "foster interest in the history of Washtenaw County and to assemble and preserve in permanent collections all materials relating to that history." The renewed society resumed the search for a permanent home for its collections.

Hopes were high in 1942 when the Douglas home at 502 East Huron (now offices for the First Baptist Church) was willed to the university for use by the society as a home. Though promoted by Emil Lorch, dean of the School of Architecture, the plan was rejected by the regents because the society had no endowment with which to restore and maintain the property. In 1955, a fund drive for $40,000 to acquire what is now Cobblestone Farm fell short of success. The next year, when a small space being used by the society at the Fritz School was no longer available, President Katherine Groomes wrote that the society was "hunting for sorely needed space." In 1967, Ann Arbor News editor and society president Arthur Gallagher stated that "time is running out" and "action is urged to create a historical museum." A year later, custodian of possessions Harry M. Cole cited the "desperate need" for a permanent home.

The society attempted unsuccessfully to convince the city to buy the historic Danforth house at 303 East Ann Street (sincedemolished). Efforts to obtain the Tuomy house, now the Home of the Historical Society of Michigan, were equally unsuccessful. The old fire station, now the Hands-On Museum, was considered in the early 1970's but thought unsuitable due to lack of parking! The Parker Mill was also considered, but thought too expensive!

Things seemed to take a more positive turn in the later 1970's with the renewed interest in local history generated by the city's sesquicentennial in 1974 and the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. A major grant of $20,000 in the late 1960's by Katherine Dexter McCormick, a descendant of Judge Samuel Dexter (after whom the city of Dexter is named), was the beginning of a building fund.

In 1977, the society acquired lease rights for the Barton Dam and powerhouse with the intention of creating an historical museum and garden. Elaborate plans were drawn up, but only$60,000 was collected toward the project, far short of the goal of $750,000. Problems of access, water, and money grew, and eventually the city decided to reclaim the powerhouse to generate electricity. Past president Patricia A. Austin laments that "it was the wrong time at the wrong place."

In 1986, then-president Galen Wilson, a curator at the Clements Library, declared the "biggest push ever" to find a permanent home and showcase for the collections. He cited documents from the 1820's, a torch from Abraham Lincoln's Washtenaw County campaign, early American paintings of the Dexter family and by local artist Katie Rogers, an 1860's watch worth $10,000, and an eighteenth-century chair worth $5,200. A committee was established to study space needs, but again, nothing suitable was found.

1015 Wall Fills the Vacuum
The house at 1015 Wall fell into this vacuum in 1988 largely by chance. I was the one who learned of its historic importance and its threatened demolition, but it was Karen O'Neal who did more than anyone to save it.

In 1987, 1 was trying to find houses that were standing in Ann Arbor when Michigan became a state 150 years earlier. I was struck by 1015 Wall Street's unusual formal simplicity and odd positioning on the street, and after further research I discovered that, indeed, it had probably been constructed between 1835 and 1837.1 also soon learned that not only was it one of a mere fifteen or so houses surviving from the time Michigan became a state, but it was in danger of being demolished to create a parking lot.

I immediately wrote to the university's head planner, Fred Mayer, telling him of the antiquity of the house and asking if the university would consider moving it to preserve it. Remarkably, within a few weeks I received a reply that the university was very concerned about preserving the house and was offering it to the city of Ann Arbor. I was ecstatic.

But then enthusiasm waned when six months after accepting the house the city decided they had no use for it. At that point, Thelma Graves, a WCHS member who grew up on Wall Street across the street from this house, approached the society's president, Karen O'Neal, about attempting to acquire the house. Through O'Neal's determined leadership, the society managed within weeks to receive the house from the university as a gift (along with $5,000 they were going to use for demolition) and to gain a promise of the site at Main and Beakes from the city of Ann Arbor. The house fit perfectly on the site, the neighbors were enthusiastic about the possibility of a museum nearby, and the society would have a Main Street address. "Things seem to be falling right into place," O'Neal noted in September1989.

But it would not be so easy. Month after month went by with little activity on the part of the various actors in this drama. Eventually a large hole did appear at Beakes and Main where the gas station and tanks had been. Things seemed to be progressing when the bad news arrived: the DNR said the dirt was still contaminated. But eventually, with the help of Lana Pollack and Perry Bullard, an agreement was worked out. The university got its parking lot, and the society got its new home.

Why did this attempt to create a museum succeed where so many previous attempts had failed? Board members, including Elizabeth Dusseau, Alice Zeigler, Dave Pollock, Esther Warzynski, Louisa Pieper, and Rosemarion Blake, agree that it was a fortunate combination of circumstances—particularly the willingness of both the university and the city to help. There also was our realization that we were never going to be given a beautiful mansion needing no repairs and sitting on a large beautifully landscaped lot in central Ann Arbor. There just aren't enough of them, and the cost of real estate in Ann Arbor is just too high.

Board members also cited the energy, efficiency, and determination of Karen O'Neal. By training a civil engineer, O'Neal was able to understand the complicated aspects of preparing a site for such a project, saving money that would otherwise go to a consulting engineer. Once she was assured of the enthusiastic support by the board and the membership at large, O'Neal worked with officials from the U-M's Planning Department; the city Parks and Planning departments, and members of city council; and members of the state legislature and the Department of Natural Resources. When things got tight in the schedule, O'Neal's husband, Joe, and O'Neal Construction often rescued us, providing expertise and help in compacting the soil at the site and storing the original foundation bricks. "We could not have swung this without Karen and O'Neal Construction," says Elizabeth Dusseau.' They were indispensable.'',

Making a Museum
Now that the house has been moved, the serious work of its restoration and adaptation will begin. A fund-raising committee, chaired by Dave Pollock and Cliff Sheldon, has set a goal of $400,000 and will begin its work in September and October.

A second committee, the museum planning committee, is working on how best to use a small structure to display and interpret the history of Washtenaw County. Members have already established a collections policy, visited other area museums, and salvaged vintage plants from the site on Wall Street. The house needs a climate-controlled basement where materials can be stored and processed. The interior must be altered to provide handicapped access and restrooms and to comply with the Fire Code. New security measures, new electrical wiring, and a new furnace are also "musts." A new roof may be necessary.

Once these basics have been accomplished, the next major task will be the enormous job of sorting and cataloging the thousands of artifacts now in storage and developing a computerized accessions system. Once we have a handle on the number and types of artifacts in the collection, we will be able to develop distinctive exhibits dealing with various aspects of life in Washtenaw County over the years, beginning with the Indian occupation.

The first exhibit may, however, be the letters written by the Kellogg family between Ann Arbor and upstate New York that are now housed at the Bentley. While their letters deal in detail with the hopes of these immigrants and of life on the frontier, their house is the physical expression of their aspirations. Display of the Kellogg letters would fittingly mark the end of the house's life on Wall Street and the beginning of its new one on Main Street as a center of county history.


[Photo caption from original print edition]: The Kellogg-Warden House at 1015 Wall Street (above) and at 500 North Main Street. One of Ann Arbor's oldest houses, it was in danger of being demolished until the historical society, helped by the U-M and the city, moved it across the river to a new life as a county historical museum.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: By the 1890's gardener Charles Greiner's family lived in the house. Penciled inside the door leading to the attic are the words: "Louise Greiner, Lillie, Mabel, Laura, Frieda, Ella, Pa G., Ma G., wrote this June 7. 1901."

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Thelma Graves (left), who grew up across the street from 1015 Wall, had the inspiration that the house could be moved to become the museum the society had always wanted. Society president Karen O'Neal was vital in making it happen.

Rights Held By: 
Susan Wineberg

When Ann Street Reigned Supreme

Author: 
Susan Wineberg

Once a Street of Grand Houses, it's Slowly Reclaiming its Former Respect

Twenty years before the Civil War, wealthy citizens built their houses near the center of town, often at street intersections. From the County Courthouse east along Ann Street, elegant Greek Revival structures stood at successive corners: a bank president lived at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ann; an attorney at Fifth Avenue and Ann; a judge at Division and Ann; and a founder of the U-M medical school at State and Ann.

After the Civil War, during the building boom that occurred all over the U.S., the blocks between the corner buildings on Ann Street were filled in. In 1866 James F. and Rhoda Royce paid $900 to the heirs of George Danforth for "a strip of land off the east side of Lot 2" and built the house tthat still stands at 311 East Ann Street.

The house is a perfectly preserved example of what is known as an Italianate cube. The cube part comes from the fact hat the roof is not a pointed gable but a four-sided hip roof, which sits atop a square structure. (Houses in previous periods had been more rectangular.) Italianate refers primarily to decorative details:pairs of carved ornamental brackets under the roof eaves; long, narrow windows, often with rounded tops (here only the door is rounded); and the exuberant scroll-sawn decoration on the porch.

James Royce was an old pioneer, having arrived in Washtenaw County in 1830 from New York. He was a skilled cabinet- and chair-maker who later owned a carriage manufactory. Those endeavors evidently did not leave him wealthy: in later years, he worked as a clerk in the Bach and Abel dry goods store at the comer of Main and Washington (later B. E. Muehlig's and today the law offices of Hooper Hathaway Price Beuche & Wallace).

Bach had been Royce's son-in-law (his first wife was Royce's daughter), so it seems appropriate that he provided work for Royce in his old age. Bach later became mayor (Bach School is named after him). In 1878, when Royce was seventy-two, Bach purchased the house at 311 East Ann and allowed the Royces to stay there for as long as they lived. This may have been a form of pension for a good employee, a dodge to avoid creditors left over from Royce's business ventures, or even a gift for a former father-in-law.Whatever the reason, the Royces were able to live in the style to which they were accustomed until their deaths. James died in 1883 and Rhoda died in 1889.

In 1892 the house came into the possession of two unmarried half-sisters, Harriet and Electa Knight, daughters of early Washtenaw County pioneer Rufus Knight,whose cobblestone house still stands at 4944 Scio Church Road. Harriet was sixty-three years old when she moved from the cobblestone house to 311 East Ann. She remained there until her death in 1910 at eighty-one. Electa was kicked by a horse in 1901 and was thereafter confined to a wheelchair and forced to rely on her sister, who was nearly twenty years older. Despite their afflictions, they "bore their suffering with fortitude," according to Electa's obituary in 1919.

By 1907, the sisters began taking in boarders. The first were children of relatives who took advantage of the sisters' Ann Arbor residence to send their children to the esteemed Ann Arbor High School, which at the time functioned as almost a prep school for the U-M.

In the early 1970's, when I lived at 311, a managed to find and interview one of these boarders, Edith Knight Behringer. Mrs. Behringer lived at 311 from 1907 to 1915. She was the great-niece of Harriet and Electa Knight, and the house passed to her mother, Clara Knight, when Electa died in 1919. Mrs. Behringer remembered seeing her first car when a suitor came to call on Miss Gertrude Breed, who lived next door. Her aunts preferred to take the air with their Shetland pony and pony cart.

Later on, her aunts' lodgers tended to be doctors and nurses working at University Hospital, then located on Catherine near Glen. Three bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs were rented out. Despite depending on roomers to make ends meet, the Knight sisters never lost their pride in their fine home. While Mrs. Behringer lived at 311, a U-M professor built a house next door at 305. Her aunts dismissed it as a "little snot of a house" because it seemed so small compared to theirs.

By the 1920's, the automobile had taken hold in America, and many in the middle and upper classes moved to the suburbs, away from the decay that they saw throughout the central city (by then over fifty years old). The Ann Street neighborhood was no longer fashionable, and the area went into a decline. Both the bank president's house at Fourth and Ann and the attorney's house at Fifth and Ann became hotels. The former building survives (its biggest tenant is now Wooden Spoon books), but the latter—in its last years the Town House Hotel, catering to immigrants arriving from the South—was demolished in 1971 after part of the rear end collapsed on a neighboring house.

The doctor's house at Ann and State was moved across the street to 712 East Ann in the 1920's to make way for the Wil-Dean apartments. The judge's house at Division, now known as the Wilson-Wahr house, survived to become one of Ann Arbor's favorite historic buildings. Though less lovingly cared for, the Royce house at 311 also endured almost intact. It became a rooming house for U-M students in the 1960's: a rent roster from that era shows tenants from Thailand, Egypt, and Pakistan, as well as from all over the U.S.

Ann Street has begun to win back some of the respect its name once commanded. Beginning in 1977, a group of residents of the area began studying ways to protect the historic houses in the area. Eventually, two city ordinances were passed, establishing the Ann Street Historic Block (between Division and State) and the Old Fourth Ward Historic District, an association of owners of historic houses in the area east of Fifth Avenue to Glen and north from Huron Street to the river. Today, renovation is occurring all along Ann Street, from Main to Glen, and both owners and renters take pride in the rebirth of their historic neighborhood.


[Photo caption from original print edition]: (Above) In 1866, the neighborhood around tourney George Danforth's Greek Revival Mansion at Ann And Fifth began to fill in, starting with a fine "Italianate cube" at 311 E. Ann St.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: (Below) In this century, a much plainer house (at left) was shoehorned in at 305. The Danforth house was demolished in 1971, but the newer buildings both survive.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Harriet (left) and Electa Knight shared 31 with student roomers to make ends meet.

Rights Held By: 
Susan Wineberg

A Former Estate at Fourth and Ann

Author: 
Susan Wineberg

June is the time when catalpa trees, with their distinctive, heart-shaped leaves, bear their big white flower clusters, to be followed by seed pods that look like long, brown string beans. But Ann Arbor’s most famous catalpas—indeed, the trees from which many of the central-area catalpas are said to have been propagated—are only a memory. They stood in front of the old Chapin house, a once-handsome Greek Revival building on Ann at Fourth Avenue. The building now houses the Yoga Center, the De la Ferriere book store, and, on the Fourth Avenue side, the People’s Produce Co-op and the Wooden Spoon book store. For three decades, from 1890 to 1920, the place was known as the Catalpa Hotel.

Today it takes a practiced eye to see beyond the cracked stucco and plastic entryway and recognize the dilapidated building as a once-imposing structure dating from before 1850. The house was built some time around 1840 to house the Washtenaw Bank and provide a home for its president and his family. Its solid brick walls were covered with stucco, which was then scored to resemble the stone masonry the Greek temples which inspired the Greek Revival style so popular in early nineteenth-century American architecture. Ann Arbor had so many such imitation-stone houses that it was sometimes called a “little stucco village.”

In 1847, Volney Chapin, the prosperous owner of an agricultural implement foundry on West Huron, purchased the house and converted it to a private residence. For thirty years it was a local showplace, renowned for its large catalpa trees and rose-bordered paths winding through the extensive grounds extending all the way back to Catherine and up to Fifth Avenue. After Mrs. Chapin’s death in 1876, the house was sold. The gardens gave way to commercial development, while the house served as a hotel with a succession of different names. The side along Fourth Avenue was remodeled into several storefronts with plate glass windows. They housed a variety of shops, including a saloon, a billiard hall, and a barbershop. In 1913, Joe Parker, proprietor of Joe Parker’s College Saloon (the famous “Joe’s” that figures so prominently in that favorite college song, “I Want to Go Back to Michigan”), moved his establishment into the Catalpa Hotel, where it thrived until Prohibition. Joe’s went out of business in 1920, and the next year the Catalpa Hotel was sold to the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce. The famous college hangout is still remembered with a small tile mosiac “Joe” in the corner of the Wooden Spoon book shop.

The Chamber drew up plans for remodeling the building in the then-popular colonial mode, taking advantage of its classical lines and details. Published drawings provided for an outdoor tea garden, an auditorium, and a banquet hall. But these changes never materialized. By 1925 the Chamber had more ambitious and metropolitan plans for its property, as it began a long campaign to construct a modern, fireproof hotel, on the site. These plans, too, never came to pass. Throughout the Depression and early war years the building housed the offices of many service and welfare organizations, as well as the local bus station.

In 1942, citing its inability to meet operating expenses, the Chamber sold the building for $11,000 to Christ Bilakos. He renamed it Peters Hotel for his son, Peter Bilakos, who now has his law practice down the street in the recently-restored building at 109 East Ann. That building housed his father’s restaurant. The Bilakos family still owns the Chapin building.


[Photo caption from original print edition]: The Chapin house in Judge Chapin’s day, circa 1870. The catalpas are the three large-trunked trees in front of the house. MICHIGAN HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: The Chapin house today: a rare downtown survivor from a more gracious era.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: An artist’s conception of the bar at Joe’s when that famous college saloon was in the Calalpa Hotel. The bald bartender is Joe Parker himself.

Rights Held By: 
Susan Wineberg

The People's Ballroom: Seeing the Light, Taking the Heat

Author: 
Mike Gould

The first time I heard the term "politically correct," I was sitting on John Sinclair's bed. It was mid December 1972, and the week before, the Light Opera had put on a light show at the People's Ballroom.

I was seriously into doing lightshows at the time. Gather up some used slide and overhead projectors, mix well with colored oils and a variety of home-made psychedelic apparatus, and voila: a swirling visual treat just right to shine above a stage filled with sweaty rock and rollers. The Light Opera consisted at the time of myself, aided and abetted by Mike Lutz (not the rocker, the lab tech) and photographer Henry Seggarman.

Before the show I had borrowed my mom's camera and shot a bunch of logos of the Tribal Council, the umbrella organization through which Sinclair's Rainbow People's Party (RPP) supervised a host of countercultural activities-the Ballroom, the Tribal Network (the loose collective of the Ann Arbor Sun newspaper, and other media entities), the People's Defense Committee (which provided legal aid), and various other groups. Along with the logos, slides from the 1972 Blues and Jazz Festival, and the usual assortment of psychedelia, our show had featured my collection of tasteful classical nudes, garnered from my travels through the art museums of Europe.

That was what got us in trouble. I was being called to account before the Tribal Council's Music & Ballroom Committee, which met in the big house that the Rainbow People lived in on Hill Street. Sinclair's bedroom was the only meeting space available that day. Sinclair had come to town in the 1968 and formed the White Panther Party. By 1971, the year I graduated from Kalamazoo College and returned to Ann Arbor, the White Panthers had evolved into the Rainbow People's Party.
The on-line introduction to the John and Leni Sinclair Papers collection, now housed at the Bentley Historical Library, describes the party thusly:

"Rainbow People's Party embraced Marxism-Leninism as its guide to action and concentrated on building a strong local political organization to promote the revolutionary struggle for a "communal, classless, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist...culture of liberation..."

The "strong local political organization" was the above-mentioned Tribal Council, and the Light Opera was up on charges of sexism.

The People's Ballroom wasn't owned by the Rainbow People. It shared a former Cadillac dealership with the Community Center Project, a federally-funded group of agencies consisting of Drug Help, Ozone House, and the Free People's Clinic. While the actual political ins and outs are too complicated to go into here (that would take a book, perhaps two), suffice it to say that the Ann Arbor Tribal Council Music & Ballroom Committee was a committee of dedicated lefties, and politics were never far from the matter at hand.

My own involvement was as non-political as I could make it. I saw myself as a simple artiste bent on photons and merriment. I was a child of the upper middle class (I grew up on the other side of Washtenaw from the Rainbow house, three blocks up Hill St.) and while of libertarian inclinations, I was in no way a radical.

Given John Sinclair's own legendary love of marijuana, his description of the Ballroom in a letter to the Musician's Union may seem surprising:

"Ann Arbor People's Ballroom is a non-profit, community-operated rock and roll dance center ... It has been funded under a federal grant designed to help combat the hard drug problem in Ann Arbor's rainbow community by providing activities and programs which give young sisters and brothers a constructive, positive context for their energy."

Note that Sinclair and the Rainbow folks (and almost everyone else in Ann Arbor) made a clear distinction between hard drugs (heroin, speed, etc.) and the non-menace of reefer. The Ballroom was at 502 E. Washington Street, where the Tally Hall parking structure is now. It was the result of years of planning, politicking, and involvement from the local hip community. Members of several local bands assisted in the construction, including the Wild Boys. I was in a band at the time, and remember making it to at least one of the pounding parties, after which we all went skinny dipping in Dolph Park.

The ballroom opened September 1st, 1972. The front offices held the various community center organizations and an open meeting room, and the ballroom was in the back, where the former Cadillac garages were. There was a continuing problem with street people hanging out in the meeting room, and a lot of discussion among the agencies as to how to deal with the issue. This would have serious repercussions, as we shall see.

The ballroom was around 100' wide by 40' deep, with a raised stage area at the east end and food and drink at the west end. A team of local volunteers had built an incredibly beautiful suspended dance floor for the Ballroom, and all were delighted with its dance-worthiness. The grand opening "tribal stomps" featured the Wild Boys, the
Mojo Boogie Band and Guardian Angel on Friday and Petunia (a jazz ensemble), Stone School Road, and the Rainbow People's house band, the Mighty UP, on Saturday. The total take was $928.50 and the place was packed, with lines out into the street.

The Ballroom had a total capacity of 540, was open Fridays and Saturdays, and was filled most of those nights. During the week there were art shows and other activities. I remember being at the Saturday opening show, and being blown away by how freakin' cool the whole thing was. Fillmore Ann Arbor! Just down the street from my church! (That would be the First Methodist Church, where I did time as Boy Scout, acolyte, and junior choir member).

Food was provided by the People's Food Committee, the RPP's Psychedelic Rangers provided security, and the Friday show was broadcast on WNRZ, the hip radio station of the time. In between bands, the Tribal Council Communications Committee interviewed musicians and community workers, and presented the whole ballroom story live on the radio.

The Ballroom became a must-play venue for bands across the state. At the Bentley Historical Library there are 76 boxes of cultural artifacts donated by John and Leni Sinclair from this era. In a folder called "Peoples Ballroom" are long lists of bands clamoring for dates, as well as the contracts for those bands that appeared. Also found are notes from Ballroom committee meetings, on which some of this story is based.

Dr. Arwulf Arwulf remembers the People's Ballroom

My most enduring memory of the People's Ballroom is of Mighty Joe Young's Chicago Blues Band. This was so different from anything us young white kids had ever experienced before. To stand in close proximity to this powerful blues engine, the punchy percussion, the electric lead, rhythm and bass guitars augmented by a no-nonsense alto saxophonist who never removed his hat and a wild trumpeter who screamed and hollered with abandon, this changed me permanently, and I'm sure that everyone else present that night was similarly altered for life."

The man who set the building on fire was a black Vietnam War veteran who later admitted that he wanted to be a hero but then couldn't extinguish the blaze in time, having set it in a room filled with cans of paint and turpentine. Knowing he had some problems left over from the war, I was not surprised when I heard he'd inadvertently torched the place. There was something else that might have exacerbated his problems. I vividly recall a scrawny little southern cracker hassling the hell out of him for being black, only weeks prior to the fire.

We were all hanging out on the overstuffed furniture in the front of the Community Center and this little shit was making the most incredibly offensive comments regarding the man's beautiful dark brown flesh. I remember the look on the black man's face as he bottled up his anger, and the tension I felt in the air, it was suffocating. His white girlfriend confronted the chump, angrily pointed out the fact that the individual he was hassling was a human being and ultimately chased the fool out of there.

On the wall of the Community Center was a big photograph of George Jackson. Peaking on my first acid trip after the last night of the Blues & Jazz Festival 1972, I'd stood in front of that picture for about an hour. Contemplating it again once the racist knucklehead had left the building, I remember asking myself why this poisonous racism was sullying our socially progressive space. It was a reminder that we all had our work cut out for us. And we still do."

--Dr. Arwulf Arwulf

The Ballroom was custom-made for light shows, so naturally we wanted to do a show there. My connection in was a high school student named Hugh Hitchcock, who was a phenomenal Moog synthesizer player. He had a band called Pyramus and I got them a gig at the Ballroom on 12-8-72 with the proviso that the Light Opera would accompany them.

To reach the Ballroom, you walked down the alley between the wings of the main building and entered through a small ticket-taking enclosure. Atop the enclosure was the area for the lightshow crew, accessible via a ladder. Which meant we had to pass up all our heavy projectors, slides, and other equipment before the show, hauling it all down thereafter. We had a wheel with holes in it spinning in front of the slide projectors, so we could flash the slides through colored filters, and the slides would flicker back and forth from one projector's output to the other. That way we could juxtapose nude females with nude males in a (to me, at least) humorous suitably-psychedelic fashion. And so, on the night Pyramus played, the first thing that greeted concert-goers was a big slide of the Tribal Council graphic, backed by naked people flickering in and out.

This, I thought, was pretty hilarious. But alas, I was politically incorrect. It seemed there was also a People's Lightshow Committee that I was unaware of, made up of a cadre of women who used to do lightshows at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. Hard-core politicos, they didn't find our show funny at all.

They called us on it at the meeting on John Sinclair's bed. We (myself and Henry Seggarman) took a lot of flack from the cadre sisters (all the Rainbow people were brothers and sisters), who were incensed that we had the unmitigated audacity to feature naked women in our little presentation. The nude women in question were Aphrodite, the three Graces, and other alabaster figures familiar to anyone who has taken Western Art 101. The point was raised that nude men (Apollo, David, the Laocoön Group, etc.) were also involved, but somehow the cadre sisters missed seeing those.

There was much discussion of what was politically correct here, my first exposure to the term. There was much made of the idea that the show should reflect the community as a whole (as defined by the RPP cadre), not just be one group's (admittedly cockamamie) take on art and society.

At one point in the meeting, John's 5-year old daughter Sunny, wandered in looking for scissors. John asked her where they were the last time she saw them, and she said that John had them the last time, using them to cut up the peyote buttons. The upshot was that we got kicked out of the Ballroom. Which was a good thing, because the next week it burned down.

The Knock-Down Party Band and Merlin were on the bill for December 15, 1972, and a fire started in the basement. Everyone evacuated safely, and the bands even managed to get their equipment out. But the Ballroom and Community Center were toast.

According to the Ann Arbor Sun, the firemen pretty much stood by and let it burn. While it was certainly true that the whole operation, being of non-traditional brown rice longhair tie-dyed hippy origin, was not beloved by the local power structure, Joe Tiboni remembers the story a bit differently. He says the fire began in the basement of the front part of the building where the offices were (the Ballroom in the back was on a cement slab). When the firemen arrived, the fire, accelerated by silk screen solvent ("rocket reducer") used in the production of posters, had engulfed the entire ceiling and there wasn't anything anyone could have done.

I heard about the disaster the next morning when I went to pick up my week's food from the People's Food Coop. I was majorly bummed, as was the entire community. As I recall, the cause of the blaze was a very disturbed street person who hung around the Community Center. The story I heard was that he started the fire so he could report it and become a hero. He came running out of the basement yelling "Fire!" and grabbed the only fire extinguisher in the building. But the fire was already out of control and that was it for the Ballroom and Community Center.

Efforts were made to resurrect it, with concerts under the Ballroom name held in East Quad. The four main agencies at the Community Center, Ozone House, Drug Help, Free People's Clinic and the Community Center Project were housed temporarily at the former Canterbury House location on E. William St. Eventually all moved to more permanent quarters and all but Ozone House have long since been absorbed into other agencies or disbanded.

Disbanded as well was the People's Ballroom. It had a brief life; three and a half months of rock and roll, peace, love, and (mostly) understanding.

I took away from the experience a determination to continue my artistic tendencies, while avoiding contact with politicos as much as possible. I went on to play bass and guitar in a bunch of fun yet unsuccessful bands, doing lightshows until changing times made that impossible, and finally evolving to doing Mac computer support, web work, writing, and photography. And sometimes, when I take a digital picture, I think about how it would look flashing in colors above a band somewhere, with some nudes tossed in, just for grins.

Thanks Joe Tiboni for his insights and memories, and to Arwulf for taking the time to write down his recollections. And a big "Righteous, dude!" to John Sinclair for making the early 70's an interesting time in Ann Arbor, and for the foresight of donating his archives to the Bentley before his house in New Orleans burned down.


Below are photograph captions from the original print edition, also available from the author's website at: Mondodyne.

Caption 1: The picture above shows various Community Center members posed in front of the building before the renovation. This is from the Ann Arbor Sun newspaper, 7-27-71. According to Joe Tiboni, those pictured are: (On the left of the door) Laura [last name unknown], Matt Lampe, Joe Tiboni. (Right of the Door): Nancy Lessin (front row) Tanner, Michael Pollack, Robin Giber and Blue. Between Tanner and Pollack, Gayle Johnson. Others unknown. Photo by David Fenton. Photo courtesy of the John and Leni Sinclair papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Caption 2: The photo above, taken during an art show at the Ballroom, shows John Sinclair on the left and Walden Simper in the foreground, flanked by Bob Sheffield (standing), others unknown. Photographer unknown, but probably David Fenton. Photo courtesy of the John and Leni Sinclair papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Rights Held By: 
Mike Gould

Learning from the Halo

Author: 
Grace Shackman

Burned by the firestorm over its controversial Michigan Stadium halo, the architectural firm of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates is taking a much more conservative tack with its first U-M building.

The Philadelphia firm, headed by the husband-and-wife team of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, is nationally famous for daring designs. When U-M president Lee Bollinger hired VSBA to work on a campus master plan two years ago, one of their first suggestions was to ditch the traditional brick trim planned for the expanded stadium in favor of a maize-and-blue metal halo decorated with gigantic football icons and slogans. The couple, authors (with Steven Izenour) of Learning from Las Vegas, thought the colorful band would, in Venturi's words, "create a gala quality at that end of campus."

They quickly discovered that to many people Wolverine football is more than a game. Infuriated at the halo's breezy irreverence, football fans protested verbally, wrote angry letters, and withheld donations. This past spring, Bollinger finally caved and had the halo taken down.

So when Venturi presented plans for his first U-M building to a group of community leaders in April, the first question on everyone's mind was, Could this be another disaster? Those concerns were soon allayed: presenting the plans for the U-M's new Life Sciences Institute building, Venturi took pains to show how it would fit with the rest of the campus.

After Scott Brown gave an update on the campus plan, Venturi, wearing his usual professorial scruffy sport coat, diffidently held up two poster boards. The audience impatiently craned their necks to see, and then laughed as mayor Ingrid Sheldon stepped forward, seized the boards, and lifted them high overhead. One showed the proposed institute, which will face Washtenaw at an angle south of Palmer Drive. The other compared the new design with similar buildings already on campus.

While saying that he doesn't consider himself a "historical revivalist," Venturi stressed that he does believe that new buildings should harmonize with their surroundings. He called his six-story Life Sciences design "a generic loft building, like the early buildings on campus by Albert Kahn and Smith, Hinchman & Grylls." The simple, functional designs of Albert Kahn (architect notably of the Hatcher Library and Hill Auditorium) and SHG (Chemistry Building, Rackham Auditorium) still look good many decades after they were built, and have proven themselves highly adaptable to changing academic needs—goals that Venturi says he aspires to as well.

The regents approved the Life Sciences Institute plan at their April meeting and went on to appoint VSBA as architects for the Commons—the second new Life Sciences building, which will face Washtenaw in front of the power plant. If VSBA succeed, as they have elsewhere, in combining classic elements in new and unusual ways, they may well be remembered for their U-M buildings long after the halo fiasco is forgotten.

Rights Held By: 
Grace Shackman

Manchester Mill

Author: 
Grace Shackman

The landmark that shaped the village

Perched on the edge of the bridge in the center of Manchester, the Manchester Mill visually defines the town. Historically, the mill is the reason for the village's existence.

In 1826, John Gilbert bought the land that would later become Manchester. He contracted with Emanuel Case and Harry Gilbert to build a mill on the River Raisin in 1832. Since then, there has always been a mill on that site—although the building has burned down twice and the dam has been rebuilt twice.

According to Chapman's 1881 History of Washtenaw County, Case built a gristmill and a sawmill. Those mills, plus one on the east side of town (now the site of a Johnson Controls factory), furnished the power that made Manchester a leading nineteenth-century industrial town, served by two railroad lines. Case also built the first hotel in Manchester and was the village's first justice of the peace, office in his hotel.

Out of the three mills, the grist the only one that has survived—and it has had to be rebuilt repeated mill burned for the first time in 1853.

Though an exact cause was never determined, fires were common in mills because of the high flammability of grain dust. With wooden buildings and low-tech volunteer fire departments, they would spread quickly. The 1853 fire swept half of the downtown, destroying fourteen businesses and one dwelling before being brought under control.

In 1875 and again in 1908. the River Raisin flooded and washed out the dam. After the second flood, a temporary dam washed out again just two months later. It was replaced with sixty-foot-wide poured-cement structure, which has lasted to this day. Don Limpert, present owner of the Manchester Mill, believes the dam one of the oldest poured-cement structures in the state.

The mill burned for the second time in
By the time the night watchman
red the fire and sounded the alarm,
were shooting through the sides of
ding. The mill was rebuilt again,
it opened for business in January of 1926, it no longer ground flour, just feed for livestock.

Although Henry Ford bought most of the mills in the area, including the one on the east side of town and mills in Saline and Dexter, he decided the Manchester Mill, at a price of $6,000, cost too much. The high price probably reflected the fact that the mill was still in use, unlike the abandoned mills he usually purchased.

E. G. Mann and his two sons, Willard and Earl, bought the mill in 1940. E. G. had been in the mill business since 1927, when he bought a feed mill in Bridgewater, which is still run by his descendants. In 1976, Willard's son, Ron Mann, who had been working at the Manchester Mill, took over. Ron remembers that in the 1960s, the mill was open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and that the workers were grinding all day. But by the time he became the owner, grinding was only about five percent of the business, and more of a service than a moneymaker. The surrounding farmland was being steadily sold off until there were hardly any livestock farmers left. (Today there is only one full-time livestock farmer in Manchester Township.)

In 1981, Mann decided to end the milling part of his business; at the time, it was the oldest operating mill in continuous use on me same site in the entire state. By then, he had expanded into lawn and garden supplies and premixed animal food. He moved this part of the business to the west side of town, where it is still running, under a new owner.

After Don Limpert bought the old building from Mann, he removed the mill equipment, some of which had to be taken out through the roof by a crane. Limpert, who has restored numerous other buildings in Manchester, divided the mill into smaller spaces, starting with an apartment at the top that he calls "Manchester's high-rise." (Bill Farmer, a former member of the Raisin Pickers string band, lives there.) The remainder of the space is rented by stores and businesses. One of the turbines is still in place and could be used to generate electricity if ever needed.

A feeling of the old use still pervades the mill. One of the turbines is used for a coffee table in the Red Mill Cafe, and an original corn-shucking bin empties into the office of the Manchester Chronicle, where editor Kathy Kueffner looks out at the River Raisin while she writes her copy.

—Grace Shackman

Photo Caption: Through fire and flood, Manchester's mill ground grain from 1832 to 1981.

Rights Held By: 
Grace Shackman

House Raising

Author: 
Grace Shackman

Dexter citizens aren't waiting for the U-M to decide the fate of Gordon Hall.

The fate of Gordon Hall is on hold as far as its owner, the University of Michigan, is concerned, but not in Dexter, where children and adults are raising money to buy and renovate the house that the town's founder, judge Samuel Dexter, built in 1841. Recently Dexter kindergartners raised almost $900 with bake sales, while second-graders held a contest that brought in about $5,000 in pledges.

Last October the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners designated Gordon Hall and sixty-seven acres around it as a historic district. But those who thought that the vote meant the village can now use the house for a museum were jumping the gun. Historic protection means only that changes to the outside of Gordon Hall or to the grounds have to be approved by the county historic district commission. The commission would certainly reject such egregious changes as condos on the front lawn—but if a new owner wanted to use it as a country estate or a corporate retreat, that would be legal as long as the owners respected the integrity of the property.

No one knows whether the university will try to sell Gordon Hall on the open market or whether it might be willing to give the village favorable sales terms. Diane Brown, a spokesperson for the U-M's office of facilities and operations, says officials have been too busy with other projects. The leases for the four rental apartments in Gordon Hall have expired, so the house is now empty. The university is discussing having someone live there to keep an eye on it and is working to keep up with maintenance, interior painting, and repairing winter damage to the roof.

Village activist Paul Cousins, former owner of Cousins Heritage Inn, met with then-interim U-M president Joe White, whom he knows from catering events at the U-M business school when White was dean. Cousins reports that White listened very sympathetically to his vision of village ownership of Gordon Hall. But the views of new U-M president Mary Coleman about Gordon Hall are unknown.

In 1940 Katharine Dexter McCormick, granddaughter of Samuel Dexter, hired Emil Lorch, dean of the U-M architecture school, to renovate Gordon Hall. But after he had worked on it for ten years, she suddenly gave it to the university, which scooped out the historic interior and divided the building into apartments. No one knows exactly why she made the donation, and it is not clear whether she knew what the U-M was going to do with the building, but the speculation is that she had problems paying estate taxes after her husband died. Connie Osler, Lorch's daughter, recalls, "Dad was devastated when she gave it to the university. He was so mad."

Even if the university were to return the favor and give Gordon Hall to the village, it's not clear how much money would be needed to renovate it for a museum. But Dexter citizens are continuing to work on the project.

—Grace Shackman

Photo Caption: To help save Gordon Hall, Cornerstone Elementary gave the Dexter Historical Society's Gil Campbell nearly $900 in bake sale profits.

Rights Held By: 
Grace Shackman

U-M Deaf to Preservation Appeals

Author: 
Grace Shackman

The asking price is $2 million for a Dexter landmark.

Does anyone want to buy a historic 1843 Greek Revival mansion for $2 million? That's the University of Michigan's asking price for a Dexter landmark that lots of folks would rather see preserved than put on the market.

Gordon Hall needs plenty of interior work, but from the outside it looks much as it did when Samuel Dexter built it on a hill overlooking the town he founded. It has not just sentimental value as a village landmark but historical importance as well. Dexter and his sons were conductors on the Underground Railroad, and there is strong evidence they hid escaping slaves in the basement.

The U-M, though, views the building mainly as a financial asset. The university has owned the home since 1950, when Dexter's granddaughter, Katharine McCormick, donated the house and grounds. She had been working for ten years with Emil Lorch, dean of the U-M's architecture school, to restore the house—yet, puzzlingly, her gift to the U-M included some money to have the inside gutted and turned into four apartments. One of them was subsequently occupied by Alexander Ruthven, retired president of the university.

In November 2000 the U-M regents voted to sell the house. They had asked the county board of commissioners to designate it as historic, preventing any changes to the exterior. But the county went too far for the U-M's taste. Jim Kosteva, the university's director of community relations, lobbied hard but failed to stop the commissioners from including the property's seventy acres in the protected district. The historic designation prevents any development of the surrounding property without permission of the Washtenaw County Historic District Commission.

Kosteva's announcement of the asking price shocked many people at a recent meeting organized by Alice Ralph, a local architect and member of the county historic district commission. Attending were many interested citizens plus representatives from Dexter Village, Scio and Webster townships (the property straddles the boundary between them), the county parks commission, and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, plus two county commissioners. Kosteva said the university would accept bids from September 1 through November 15. but only cash offers. He held out some slight hope for compromise only by saying the university was not obligated to accept the highest offer.

Ralph is trying to figure a way for the county to acquire Gordon Hall. Paul Cousins, a member of the village council, is hoping that the Dexter Area Historical Society could end up owning it. Both are finding plenty of people who agree with the idea of community ownership, but coming up with the money is a daunting task. The U-M's time frame leaves room for a possible millage vote, but while Cousins says something like 0.1 mills for restoring and maintaining Gordon Hall might pass, he doesn't think it's likely voters would approve a tax measure large enough to buy the building.

What if no one buys the property? Says Cousins, "If the university changes their mind and has a soft spot in their heart and wants to give us Gordon Hall, we'll take it." So far, though, the university has ignored such appeals—despite the widespread interest in saving Gordon Hall and the building's landmark status for Dexter villagers. Joining other community leaders and official bodies in a preservation effort doesn't seem to be on the U-M's agenda.

—Grace Shackman

Photo Caption: Alice Ralph and Paul Cousins are finding support for community ownership of Gordon Hall.

Rights Held By: 
Grace Shackman
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