The Pardon Block

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, January 1997,
January 1997

Author: Grace Shackman

A family of butchers left a monument on Main Street

The 1882 Firehouse

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, November 1996,
November 1996

Author: Grace Shackman

Ann Arbor's 19th-century showpiece recalls the time when fire was an ever-present peril

When Ann Arbor's 1882 firehouse opened, it was the most elegant and expensive building the city owned. That was fitting, because the greatest danger facing Ann Arbor in the nineteenth century was fire.

As late as the Civil War, Ann Arbor was still built almost entirely of wood--even the storefronts and sidewalks downtown. A spark was never far away because the city was lit by candles and oil lamps and heated by fireplaces and parlor stoves. Homes and businesses went up in flames so often that in 1865, a U-M student matter-of-factly referred to helping volunteers fight "the first fire of the winter."

Fires were also much more devastating then. In the early 1840's alone, fire destroyed Klinelob's distillery, S. Denton's ashery and soap factory, and the Michigan Central Railroad depot. The Michigan Central fire took out three neighboring properties as well, one of them a mill warehouse containing nearly 20,000 barrels of flour. Firemen couldn't even save their own buildings. In 1875, fire completely destroyed the Lower Town engine house, which had been erected just two years previously.

In Ann Arbor's first decade, the village's main fire-fighting strategy was simply to keep the town pump in good repair. That was vital because citizens responding to the call of "Fire!" needed plenty of water for bucket brigades. In 1836, responding to public pressure, the village council appointed fire wardens and other officers in each of the town's two wards, and men in both wards soon organized themselves into volunteer fire-fighting companies. The following year, the village bought its first fire engine, a hand pump on wheels that the firefighters dragged to the scene of a fire and filled by bucket brigades from the Huron River or nearby wells.

After the big fire at the Michigan Central station in 1845, the village bought its first hook and ladder wagon. It also started building cisterns at strategic locations around town to store rainwater for fire-fighters' pumps. In 1849, two new volunteer companies were organized: Eagle Fire Company No. One was a hose company with a hand-operated pump engine; Eagle Fire Company No. Two was composed of hook and ladder men. A year later, Ann Arbor levied a special tax to purchase ladders and new equipment for three more new companies: Deluge, Relief, and Huron.

Another new company was organized and named after their new pump engine, the Mayflower, just in time to fight a disastrous fire at the Clark School on Division Street in 1865. This fire led to a second cistern-building spree (a shortage of water was blamed for the severity of the damage to the school). Eventually there were cisterns at most major intersections, each about ten feet wide and fifteen to eighteen feet deep, protected with a manhole cover.

The volunteer companies were reorganized and renamed over the years, but there were usually four active at any one time, most divided internally into hose crews and hook and ladder teams. The different companies took turns being on call; for a big fire every firefighter in the city would respond.

After 1868 the firefighters were paid $5 a year (a ballot initiative to pay them $10 a year was defeated), but their real pay was the camaraderie they shared. Families felt connected to certain companies, and their sons would join when they came of age. (The tradition of fire-fighting families continues today: the son and grandson of Ben Zahn, fire chief from 1939 to 1955, joined the department, as did the son of Fred Schmid, fire chief from 1974 to 1985.) The companies met regularly for training and practice and to clean and repair their equipment. They sponsored balls and picnics, marched in parades, and toured fire departments in other cities to check out their methods--a practice so widespread that to this day, professionals on junkets are still sometimes referred to as "visiting firemen."

Having the proper fire-fighting equipment was a matter of civic pride. In 1870, when the city acquired a new hose, the whole town assembled to see which company could throw a stream of water the farthest. Using the cistern at the intersection of Main and Washington, the Protection company was able to shoot water 165 feet and 4 inches, beating the Relief company, who managed only 161 feet and 7 inches. In 1883, when the Vigilant hose boys got a new hose cart from Chicago, they showed it off by parading through town accompanied by a brass band.

Ann Arbor's volunteer firemen formed an enthusiastic lobbying group, most often convincing city council to make desired expenditures after major fires. The construction of the 1882 firehouse was their greatest success--and, it turned out, their last hurrah.

The new firehouse replaced an old one on the same site, a wooden structure not much bigger than a two-car garage, with a tower behind it to dry hoses. City council asked voters to approve an expenditure of $10,000 to build the new structure. It was an extraordinary amount at the time, and twice what was needed, according to an editorial in the Ann Arbor Courier. Nevertheless, voters approved it on the first ballot attempt. Choosing among four architects' submissions, council accepted a plan by William Scott of Detroit and hired local contractors Tessmer and Ross to build it.

The first floor of the new building was designed to store the hook and ladder and pumper wagons, while the second floor had a sizable hall for meetings and social events. The building was capped off with the bell tower, used to summon the volunteers (the number of rings indicated the ward the fire was in). Outside, a big cistern collected up to 300 barrels of rainwater. Architectural historian Kingsley Marzoff, in a 1970's article, described the building as a "modified Italian villa" and called it "a rare example ... of the nondo-mestic use of this type of design." He also compared the bell tower to those in Siena and Florence.

At the time the firehouse was built, there were 105 volunteer firemen (women wouldn't become firefighters until 1980) in four companies, which the 1881 county history lists as Vigilant, Protection, Defiance, and Huron. Each group had its own room in the firehouse, which it fitted up at its own expense. However, only Protection and Vigilant (which operated the town's only steam-powered pumper) kept their equipment there. Huron, which protected Lower Town (the part of Ann Arbor north of the Huron River), had a small station house north of the railroad tracks just off Broadway. Defiance's station was on East University, where the U-M's East Engineering building stands today.

The main fire hall's big upstairs room often served as a meeting place for other town functions. For instance, the Washtenaw Historical Society held their meetings there, and a very successful set of temperance meetings was held the year it was completed. The firemen celebrated the completion of the new hall with two major dances: a Thanksgiving dance, sponsored by the Vigilant Engine and Hose Company, and another on December 21--billed as "the dance of the season"--with the Chequamagon Orchestra, sponsored by Protection's hose company.

The volunteers didn't enjoy the use of the hall for long, however. The 1880's proved to be a pivotal decade for the city's fire-fighting efforts, and by its end, the citizen volunteers had been replaced by professional firefighters.

In 1885, the city's first piped water system was installed. It included 100 fire hydrants and largely solved the water shortage that had hindered fire-fighting efforts since the city's founding. Just three years later, Ann Arbor hired its first full-time firefighters. Responding to lobbying by volunteer fire chief Albert Sorg, city council hired Chris Matthews to live in the fire-house and William Carroll to be on duty nights. A year later, city council authorized a sixty-day trial period for a completely professional department, and Fred Sipley was hired as the first paid fire chief. The big upstairs room in the firehouse was divided into two dormitories and a recreation area. By 1893 the city had eight full-time firemen and five more on call.

Horses probably moved into the fire-house shortly after the firemen. Originally, the volunteers had pulled the equipment themselves, but as distances grew longer and the equipment heavier, horses became more desirable. They became an absolute necessity after the purchase in 1879 of the steam-powered pumper, which weighed so much it took more than a dozen men to pull it.

At first, horses were furnished by draymen, who would rush over when they heard the fire bell (the first to arrive got the job). For a short time the fire department paid the firehouse janitor, Jake Hauser, a biannual sum of $90 to use his horses whenever there was a fire. But when firemen threatened to quit if they didn't get their own horses, city council relented and purchased two in 1882, the same year work commenced on the new hall.

By 1888 the department owned five horses: three to pull the steam engine and two to pull the hook and ladder wagon. When the fire alarm rang, the horses knew exactly what to do. Released from their stable on the north side of the firehouse, they would stand in front of the wagon they were to pull and wait until their harnesses, which were held up by a system of pulleys and ropes, were lowered. On days when there were no fires, the horses had to be exercised, and there was a special cart for this, which was also used in parades.

The need to motorize the department was discussed in the early years of the twentieth century, especially after the devastating fires at the Argo Mill in 1903 and the high school in 1904. But the citizens were fond of the horses and resisted: as late as 1914, they voted against ballot issues to buy self-propelled fire engines. The voters finally relented in 1915, after a big fire at the Koch and Henne furniture store, but even then, the horses weren't replaced immediately. For a while the department used a combination of motorized and horse-drawn engines.

Barney, Duke, and Jim were the last three fire horses. Luckily for them, the chief at the time, Charlie Andrews, was an animal lover. According to his grandson, Bill Mundus, when the horses were no longer needed, Andrews sent them to the Heinzman farm west of town where they could enjoy their retirement years.

The stable behind the firehouse was converted to a workshop where firemen painted signs for the city between fires. Later it was converted to a garage, first used by the public works department to store their grader and dump truck and later by the fire department for the chief's car. Fred Schmid remembers moving the chief's car out onto the street so the firemen could play badminton there. The space is now part of the present fire station.

The fire department stayed in the 1882 building for ninety-six years. In 1978 they moved into the present main fire station, which had been built just north of the old building on Fifth Avenue.

"I didn't like the [old] building until I left," admits Schmid, the fire chief at the time of the move. "It was not easy to keep clean; there was a stoker boiler in the basement, high ceilings, the windows were rattlely, and the stairs were worn down." The old firehouse was also too small for modern equipment--one of the department's trucks didn't even fit and had to be housed at the substation at Stadium and Packard.

"Today, serious fires are few and far between," says fire battalion chief John Schnur. "We usually get them when they're small." In the past thirty years only a few fires have totally destroyed a building--Gallup Silkworth (a heating oil company) and the Old German restaurant in the 1970's, and the U-M economics building and the Whiffletree restaurant in the 1980's. So far in the 1990's, the most serious fires have been two abandoned fraternity houses.

"Houses just don't burn down anymore," says Schmid. He and Schnur list a number of reasons: earlier detection by smoke detectors and automatic alarms, faster response due to telephones and motorized vehicles (the average response time is now four minutes--less time than it previously took volunteers to reach the firehouse itself), sprinkler systems and unlimited water supply, and more fire-retardant building materials and techniques.

But with all these improvements, there are trade-offs. For instance, firefighters now wear more fireproof uniforms and use air tanks, but this means they can go deeper into a burning building and are closer to possible explosions. Also, according to Schnur, "Fires are smaller but more deadly." While in the nineteenth century most home furnishings were made of natural materials like wood or cotton, today there is a preponderance of synthetic materials, such as polyester and polyurethane, which give off gases when they melt. While the natural materials filled the firefighters' lungs with smoke, Schnur is worried that the chemicals they now breathe may be even more harmful to their future health.

With fires no longer the daily worry they were in the nineteenth century, fire marshall Scott Rayburn is concerned that the public has become too complacent. "It's a full-time job to keep the message out," he says. Today, with fewer fires to rush to, the 121-member fire department keeps busy being proactive: educating the public, performing fire inspections, and engaging in a constant schedule of training.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Nineteenth century fires were frequent and devastating. This 1899 blaze on Main St. destroyed a branch of the Mack & Co. department store.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: A horse-drawn hook and ladder rig. The city bought its first horses around the time the 1882 firehouse was built.

Vivienne Farm

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, October 1995,
October 1995

Author: Grace Shackman

Once a beloved summer camp for Detroit Edison women, it's about to be replaced by a nursing home

The Historic Bell Road Bridge

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, September 1995,
September 1995

Author: Grace Shackman

What do you do with a 104-foot antique?

The Bell Road bridge, which spans the Huron River a mile north of Hudson Mills Metropark, still has its original sign, "Wrought Iron Bridge Company, Canton, Ohio, 1891," clearly legible on the top bar of its Erector Set-like frame. One lane wide and 104 feet long, resting on a fieldstone foundation on an unpaved road, the bridge looks much as it did 100 years ago, when it carried loaded hay wagons from the nearby Bell family farm.

Dry Goods at Main and Washington

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, June 1995,
June 1995

Author: Grace Shackman

Between them, Philip Bach and Bertha Muehlig furnished the community with dry goods and notions for 115 years

The Passing of the Old German

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, March 1995,
March 1995

Author: Grace Shackman

It was a favorite of townsfolk for 67 years

"I feel real bad that I've celebrated my last birthday there," says Gottlob Schumacher, a former owner of the Old German, who turned ninety-one on January 29. After almost fifty years of working seven-day weeks, the restaurant's current owner, Bud (Robert) Metzger, is closing the business and retiring.

The Whitney Theater

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, August 1994,
August 1994

Author: Grace Shackman

"An unbelievable gem"

Ted Heusel, radio personality and actor, calls the Whitney Theater "an unbelievable gem." He says the Whitney, located on the corner of Main and Ann from 1908 to 1955, was "the theater of southeast Michigan. It had the most perfect acoustics. You could whisper on the stage and they could hear you." In its day, that stage hosted such greats as Sarah Bernhardt, Nijinsky, and the Barrymores. Today its site is a parking lot.

When Downtown Was Hardware Heaven

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, May 1994,
May 1994

Author: Grace Shackman

For over a century, a bevy of stores served the farmer and the fixer-upper

Downtown Ann Arbor was once a mecca for hardware shoppers. From the town's early days, there were always at least four hardware stores, which drew customers from the entire city and from all the small towns and farms in the area. During the week, the stores served the area's tradespeople--plumbers, painters, carpenters, plasterers, contractors, and builders. On weekends, farmers came into town to buy supplies--pitch-forks or baling twine for the harvest, axes or mauls for chopping wood, and all the myriad bits of hardware they needed to repair their farm machinery and to fix their barns and fences.

As the farmers' ranks dwindled in this century, they were replaced by growing numbers of home owners and do-it-yourselfers. If the part needed wasn't made, the hardware store could make one. And if it needed installation, they had work crews they would send out.

By 1835, just eleven years after promoters John Allen and Elisha Rumsey began selling lots in the village of "Annarbour," William Dennis and Hierome Goodspeed were advertising a hardware store on the corner of Main and Huron. Along with farm supplies like cowbells and horseshoes, their inventory included knives, scissors, coffee mills, waffle irons, razors, and latches. By the 1870's and 1880's, the early competitors had sorted themselves out into four major stores, all of which survived well into this century: Schumacher's, 1870-1940; Schuh's (later Schuh and Muehlig, Muehlig and Schmid, Muehlig and Lanphear), 1872-1962; Eberbach's (later Fischer's) 1880-1981; and downtown's sole surviving hardware store, Schlenker's, founded in 1886.

Hardware was big business back then. Schumacher's, located where Kline's is now, grew to fill three storefronts. Schuh's occupied all three floors of a building on the southeast corner of Main and Washington. Hardware stores were valuable assets that were passed on from generation to generation: after founder John Schumacher's death, his business was taken over by his sons, Bert, Philip, and Robert. Jacob Schuh took a younger clerk, Andrew Muehlig, as a partner and eventual successor. When Schuh's original store was torn down to make room for the First National Building in 1929, Muehlig's nephew, Edward Muehlig, and partner Don Lanphear moved to a new building at 311 South Main (now the Full Moon).

Eberbach's, on the northeast corner of Main and Washington, was started by Christian Eberbach as a business for his two younger sons, Ernest and Edward, since his oldest son, Ottmar, was getting the pharmacy. Later, the State Savings Bank, which had an interest in the store, moved into the very corner, nestled in much like the Del Rio fits into the corner of the Old German. Bob Eberbach remembers that as a boy he could enter his great uncles' store from either Washington or Main. By 1892 the store was taken over by John Fischer, who had been a clerk there, although the Eberbachs continued to work there and kept an interest in it. In 1937 the store moved two blocks east, to 219-223 East Washington.

Schlenker's was first located on West Liberty in the building that is now Rider's Hobby Shop, then across the street in the store now owned by Ehnis & Son. In 1906 they built the present store a block west with room upstairs for the family to live.

The hardware stores sold all the small, practical items that other stores didn't want to bother with--tools, nails, fittings, and utensils. The owners were all tinsmiths, and before the days of mass production and easy transportation, they made much of what they stocked--gutters, furnace parts, funnels, coffeepots, pitchers, and pans. The tinning complemented the other stock in the store, and it also helped keep the employees busy during the slower winter months.

Each store also developed its own specialty. Schuh and Muehlig's was sewing machines: they sold and repaired all the major brands. They also sold such house finishing items as tiles, grates, mantels, and pressed tin ceilings. (Edward Muehlig put a tin ceiling in the house he built in 1909 at 801 West Liberty.) Later, Muehlig and Lanphear put in furnaces and made a specialty of installing locks. Schumacher had plumbing crews and later spun off Schumacher and Backus Plumbing and Heating. Fischer's and Schlenker's both had roofing crews. (Schlenker's put the slate roofs on the First Methodist Church and on many U-M sorority and fraternity houses.)

Until central heating became widespread in the 1920's, wood and coal stoves were a big part of the hardware business--Risdon's, one of the pre-Civil War stores, put stoves above hardware on their sign. Eberbach's sold Round Oak heating stoves and Adams and Westlank Monarch cooking stoves. Marty Schlenker remembers that in the 1920's his father's store had a row of stoves all along one wall from front to back.

Often newly developed products were first sold in hardware stores before being spun off to a store dedicated to them. Schumacher's sold washing machines as early as 1916 ("My neighbors can't understand how my washing can be on the line by 8 o'clock," said one ad). They also had a niche in sports equipment. Doris Schumacher Dixon, daughter of Robert Schumacher, remembers that as a girl she always had the newest in sports equipment from her family's inventory--bicycles, footballs, baseballs, tennis rackets, ice skates, roller skates, hockey equipment, and golf clubs.

Fischer's was the first area hardware store to specialize in housewares. It also was known as the store with the most university trade, maybe because it was closest to campus. Schlenker's sold the first refrigerators in town and was also a pioneer radio dealer, selling Atwater Kents. When Marty Schlenker's uncle Paul was involved in the store, he sold all kinds of fishing equipment--outboard motors, tackles, rods. And, as today, Schlenker's was known as the store where you could get anything: if you couldn't find what you were looking for anywhere else, you would go to Schlenker's.

A store's proprietors set the tone of their store, not only with what they sold, but with their personalities. John Schumacher was a leader of the temperance movement, and during his lifetime his store was known as a center for like-minded idealists, just as Eberbach's pharmacy had been a center for early Republicans. Muehlig and Lanphear contributed to the community by furnishing supplies for Albert Warhnoff, Ann Arbor's Santa Claus, who made toys for needy and sick children in the 1930's and 1940's.

When there were numerous hardware stores within a few blocks, the owners cooperated as much as possible, honoring their specialties and sending customers to each other. Mary Cruse, a stockholder of Fischer's and co-owner of East Ann Arbor Hardware, says they even traded inventory when something moved in one store and not another. Marty Schlenker remembers running joint ads with Fischer's, Ann Arbor Implement, and Herder's, figuring they were appealing to a similar crowd while offering different merchandise. They also sometimes ordered together, going in on train lots to reduce costs.

After World War II, a new generation of hardware stores opened on the commercial strips on Washtenaw, Stadium, and Packard. With easy access and ample parking, they gradually took over most of the business that had previously come downtown. Schlenker's singular survival was thanks in part to a 1950's decision to tear down the old tin and roofing shops to build its own parking lot.

With appliances and other mechanical products getting cheaper, fewer people repair broken appliances and the like, so there is less demand for traditional hardware services. Many stores now sell other merchandise, such as Christmas decorations, office supplies, table linens, and toys, to fill the gap.

Some of today's nonfixers give their broken or worn-out appliances to the Kiwanis sale instead of the landfill. On Kiwanis sale days, Marty Schlenker is reminded of the old days, when people flocked in to buy small parts to make their bargains work again.

[Photo caption from original print edition: Employees watch a parade on Main Street from Schumacher's upstairs windows. In its heyday, the store filled three storefronts in the spot where Kline's is today.]

The Country Estate of Christian Eberbach

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, January 1994,
January 1994

Author: Grace Shackman

Woodlawn Avenue was once his driveway

The majestic towered mansion on Woodlawn just north of Packard has piqued the curiosity of passersby for decades. What is it doing in this modest residential neighborhood?

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, July 1999,
July 1999

Author: Grace Shackman

A venerable building, an activist congregation

With its steep slate roof, stone walls, and pointed stained-glass windows, St. Andrew’s Episcopal was designed to look like a church out of the Middle Ages--you could almost picture Martin Luther nailing his theses to its heavy wooden doors. Standing at the northeast corner of Division and Catherine, it’s the city’s oldest operating church and its finest jewel of Gothic Revival architecture.

St. Andrew’s Parish was organized in 1827, just three years after Ann Arbor was founded. Its first meeting place was the home of Hannah Gibbs Clark, a widow who lived on the northwest corner of Ashley and Liberty. In 1839 the congregation dedicated its first building, at Division and Lawrence (then called “Bowery”). Nestled among original burr oak trees, it was a simple wooden church, painted white.

That building survived two near catastrophes in its first year--confiscation by the sheriff for nonpayment of bills (two members quickly made up the arrears) and a fire--and St. Andrew’s continued to grow. After the Civil War, members decided to build a larger church on land they owned to the south, the present location.

To design it they hired Gordon Lloyd, Michigan’s premier Gothic Revival architect. Lloyd was born in England in 1832, moved with his family to Quebec, and returned home at age sixteen to apprentice under his uncle, Ewan Christian (1814–
1895), an eminent English architect who specialized in designing and restoring churches. Gothic Revival, sometimes called Neo-Gothic, was at its peak in England at that time, and Lloyd was steeped in it during his ten years there.

Photograph St. Andrew's Episcopal Church at
306 N Division St

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, begun in 1868, is Ann Arbor's oldest church.

Setting up his own architectural practice in Detroit, Lloyd designed churches and other buildings all over the Midwest, primarily in the Gothic Revival style. “I don’t know through whose influence the vestry of that day was led to employ Mr. Lloyd; but to that person, whoever he or she may have been, St. Andrew’s Parish and the city of Ann Arbor owe an everlasting debt of gratitude,” wrote Henry Tatlock, the church’s rector from 1889 to 1922.

Despite the eminence of the architect, however, the congregation’s fund-raising campaign came up short. Deciding to start with just the nave, the main section of the church that contained the pews and altar, they laid the cornerstone in 1868. Silas Douglass, a professor in the U-M medical school who had overseen construction of several university buildings, did the same job for the church. The contractor was church member James Morwick, who also built the Lloyd-designed entrance to Forest Hill Cemetery.

The walls were made of local stone, mainly granite, with stained-glass windows in geometric designs made by Friedrick of Brooklyn, New York. Inside, the pews were made of butternut and walnut. Those original pews are still in use, complete with the dividers that once separated one family’s rented section from another’s.

The nave was finished in 1869; the rest of the present church complex was built as money allowed over the next eighty years. The old wooden church was used for a chapel and Sunday school until 1880, when the congregation built a new chapel east of the nave and a new rectory on the site of the old church. The bell tower rose in 1903, paid for by a bequest from member Love Root Palmer. “Mrs. Palmer told me that she intended to bequeath to the parish a sufficient sum of money to build the tower after [her] death,” Tatlock wrote, “regretting that she was not able to do without the income of the amount involved, so as to have the tower built while she was still alive. It was suggested to her that it was highly desirable that the tower should be designed by Mr. Lloyd, who at that time was still active in his profession.” Palmer commissioned Lloyd to design the tower while she was still living--a fortunate decision, since the architect died only a year after she did.

The last major change came in 1950, when the rectory was torn down to make room for a parish hall. Finances precluded building in the same style as the church, so the congregation decided on a more modern building. U-M architecture professors Ralph Hammett and Frederick O’Dell, using stones from the rectory, designed a building that blends well with the church. They also designed very modern-looking stained glass for the parish hall chapel.

Over the years, much of the original geometric stained glass in the nave has been replaced by representational memorial windows. Eleven of these are the work of Willett Stained Glass Studio of Philadelphia, a company founded in 1898 and still in business. “Willett’s does an excellent job of personalizing stained glass,” says Barbara Krueger, an expert on Michigan stained glass. Most of the new windows portray religious figures; four windows depict composers, honoring a choirmaster and other parishioners who had special connections to music. The bottom sections are filled with personal images: a schoolteacher is shown reading to children, and an athlete’s memorial features a baseball mitt and golf clubs. Carolers sing out on one window in remembrance of the organizer of the church’s Christmas sing, and no fewer than five dogs help memorialize their masters.

The most intriguing window in the collection is a lovely angel that may be a genuine Tiffany. Although it is not found in Tiffany records, Mark Hildebrandt, author of The Windows of St. Andrew’s, which is being published in celebration of the congregation’s 175th anniversary, says it may have been transferred from another site. But Krueger cautions, “There were more than a dozen East Coast studios doing that kind of work.”

Besides gracing Ann Arbor with a beautiful building, St. Andrew’s has fed the aesthetic appetites of the community with music and plays. Reuben Kempf, of Kempf House fame, was organist and choir director from 1895 to 1928. He organized a famous boys’ choir, recruiting talent citywide. Veteran local radio host Ted Heusel, a church member who recognizes a good theater space when he sees one, has produced A Man for All Seasons and Murder in the Cathedral in the nave, as well as a rendering of the stations of the cross in which readings were interspersed with dance. One of the dancers in the late 1970s was U-M student Madonna Ciccone.

St. Andrew’s has also developed a reputation for community activism. Many of Ann Arbor’s mayors have been St. Andrew’s members, including Silas Douglass and Ebenezer Wells in the nineteenth century and Cecil Creal and Sam Eldersveld in the twentieth. Henry Lewis, minister from 1922 to 1961, was leading picketers around City Hall to urge city council to enact a fair housing ordinance at the same time that Mayor Creal was senior churchwarden. “They’d have pitched battles during the week but come together on Sunday,” recalls longtime member Barbara Becker.

St. Andrew’s was the first local church to react to the growing problem of homelessness caused by releasing people from mental hospitals. In 1982 the congregation began a breakfast program that is still in operation. “It started as a Monday-through-Friday program until we realized most people eat breakfast seven days a week,” recalls church member Pat Lang. The church’s efforts to also provide homeless people with a place to sleep helped lead to the organization of Ann Arbor’s Shelter Association.

In 2000 St. Andrew’s became the first church in the area to have a staff person dedicated to welcoming and affirming the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities. The Oasis Ministry, as it is called, originated in New Jersey, where rector John Nieman served before coming to Ann Arbor in 1997. “We all are created in the image of God,” says Oasis coordinator Kate Runyon. “We all have gifts to share with one another.”

As part of the congregation’s 175th anniversary celebration, St. Andrew’s and the Washtenaw County Historical Society will jointly sponsor tours of the church and surrounding historic neighborhood from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 27. See Events for details.

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