Brewed on Fourth Street

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, December 2007,
December 2007

Author: Grace Shackman

At the Michigan Union Brewing Company and the Ann Arbor Brewing Company, Ann Arborites could pick up beer by the pail.

The Ann Arbor Brewing Company at 416 Fourth Street was the only brewery in the city to survive Prohibition. Yet its product was not greatly valued in its hometown. "It was considered good only for putting out fires," claimed the late Carl Horning in a 1995 interview.

415 West Washington

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, February 2007,
February 2007

Author: Grace Shackman

The garage at the center of the greenway debate

When the Washtenaw County Road Commission built a garage at 415 West Washington in 1925, no one dreamed that its future would ever be so hotly contested. But today, the Arts Al­liance of the Ann Arbor Area, Downtown Kiwanis, and the Allen Creek Task Force have all taken an interest in the crumbling masonry structure.

Osias Zwerdling's Art Deco Sign

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

Author: Grace Shackman

From 1915 to 1943, Osias Zwerdling ran a fur store at 215-211 East Liberty. Sometime in the 1920s, he had an Art Deco sign—a twi­light scene of a wolf baying at the moon—painted on an ex­terior wall. Zwerdling always took pride in the fact that the sign was painted by a profes­sional artist, and its "painterly quality," says architectural conservator Ron Koenig, is probably the reason no one ever painted over it. But the main reason a group of peo­ple recently raised $12,000 to restore it is Zwerdling's role as patriarch of Ann Arbor's Jewish community.

Economy Baler

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

Author: Grace Shackman

A fortune built on waste paper

In 1911, George Langford took out a second mortgage on his house in order to start Economy Baler. The company, headquartered on North Main Street, grew to be the largest business of its kind in the world. In a 1943 Ann Arbor News article, Langford claimed that its success was "a direct result of the old system of free enterprise which not only permitted but encouraged the plowing of profits back into the business."

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.

Yanitsky's

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

Author: Grace Shackman

A Real Family Restaurant

Just before World War II, Antoniette Yanitsky and her eight children ran a small restaurant at 515 East William. With the whole family plus in-laws and friends pitching in, they kept Yanitsky's open from seven in the morning until eleven at night, seven days a week.

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.]

When Coal Was King

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

Author: Grace Shackman

The heavy snow that ushered in 1999 brought traffic almost to a standstill. For a few days, Ann Arbor’s older neighborhoods, blanketed in white, looked not much different from the way they would have appeared after a winter storm at the close of the nineteenth century.

Compare that pristine scene with old photos of Ann Arbor in the winter, though, and you’ll notice something missing from today’s picture: black smoke. Today, most home chimneys give off the almost invisible by-products of natural gas furnaces. A century ago, they belched columns of sooty coal smoke. Coal-fired boilers in offices and stores, factories and laundries, added to the pall that hung over the city.

From the late-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth, coal was Ann Arbor’s chief source of energy. Coal heat helped make winter tolerable (Ralph Waldo Emerson praised its capacity “to make Canada as warm as Calcutta”), and coal-fueled steam engines powered almost every local mill and factory--as well as the locomotives that brought virtually all people and goods to the town.

Gasoline Alley

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, October 2000,
October 2000

Author: Grace Shackman

Before Ann Arbor was a city of restaurants, it was a city of gas stations. “If there was a corner, you had to have a gas station on it,” recalls Jake Kooperman, who with his brother Joe ran several local stations from the 1940s to the 1960s. The first gas station appeared in Ann Arbor in 1918. By 1938 the town supported sixty-six of them.

Most stations were owned by big gas companies, which rented the buildings and equipment to local operators. Rent was either a flat rate or a few cents per gallon sold. “It was an inexpensive way to go into business and make a few bucks,” explains Kooperman. With “a couple hundred in your pocket [and] a little mechanical ability, you could succeed.” That was an attractive proposition during the Depression, when business opportunities were scarce.

“Most neighborhoods had a gas station with their own clientele,” recalls Ted Palmer, who grew up in Ann Arbor. “I knew just about everyone [who came in],” says Warren Staebler, who for many years ran a station at Packard and Arch and also worked at several others.

Though cars eventually transformed Ann Arbor, they were slow to catch on at first. “This is a peculiar town,” complained the city’s first car dealer, Edward Staebler, in 1906. “Our population is 18,000 and we have not over a dozen machines here. Half of those are used but very little.”

The first local drivers bought their gas in small quantities from local grocers--either from Staebler’s brother, Fred, at 120 West Washington, or from Dean and Company at 214 South Main. In 1904 both Staebler and Dean installed curbside pumps, but rising demand soon overwhelmed their capacity. On weekends, when drivers tended to go on excursions, the line of motorists waiting to get gas would often stretch several blocks, and a policeman was needed to keep order.

In 1918 Standard Oil opened the first drive-in station in town, on the northeast corner of Huron and Fifth Avenue (now part of the City Hall parking lot). The same year, the Staebler brothers organized the county’s first wholesale gas and oil company after a supplier threatened to cut them off. At first they operated out of Edward’s store, but in 1921 they moved into more spacious quarters in the old Philip Bach mansion at 424 South Main. The following year, the Staeblers turned their wholesale office into a retail operation by installing gas pumps on the mansion’s former front lawn.

The next year, 1923, Hortaio Abbott, a local real estate agent and postmaster (also, coincidentally, a Democratic activist, as was Edward Staebler), opened a rival gasoline wholesale company; Abbott would eventually supply ten Ann Arbor gas stations as well as others in the county. A third early local chain was the Michigamme Oil Company, with headquarters in its station on the corner of Huron and Division. Staebler grew the fastest, eventually owning eighty-three stations in southeast Michigan.

By 1928 Ann Arbor had thirty-five gas stations, most of them in or near downtown. (The exceptions were three stations north of the Huron in Lower Town, two west of town on Jackson Road, and Titus Schneider’s station on South Main, across from what is now Pioneer High.) It was not unusual for a busy intersection, such as Division and Huron or Packard and Hill, to have three competing stations.

Then as now, gas stations and car dealerships clustered near highways. But at that time, the highways passed right through the heart of town. East-west traffic entered Ann Arbor on Washtenaw and exited on Huron (the route still followed by today’s Business I-94). East-west traffic was not terribly heavy, however, because Michigan Avenue, the main road between Detroit and Chicago at the time, took a more southerly route through Ypsilanti and Saline. East-west traffic was further eased after Stadium, then called the “bypass” or the “cutoff,” was built in the mid-1920s, allowing drivers to pass south of downtown and connect with Jackson Road at Maple.

North-south traffic was a bigger problem, because anyone heading north to Flint or south to Toledo had to pass through downtown Ann Arbor. Traffic followed the route that is today Business US-23: cars coming from the south on what is now Carpenter Road would turn west onto Washtenaw, follow Washtenaw and Huron downtown to the county courthouse, and turn north again on Main Street.

Cars were often held up at the north end of town, where the narrow Whitmore Lake Road bridge crossed the Huron River. “If a truck and car were crossing at the same time, somebody had to put their wheels on the sidewalk,” recalls Maynard Newton. And even after they crossed the river, travelers were still not in the clear. “It was gravel up to Brighton and not in a straight line like [modern] US-23,” says Bill Lewis.

Washtenaw County’s first pavement was laid in 1918 on Jackson Road west of Ann Arbor and on Michigan Avenue east of Ypsilanti. In the 1920s, flush with cash from the booming auto industry, the state launched a huge road-building effort. Using convict labor, the highway department paved most of the principal roads leading out of town, including Whitmore Lake Road, Plymouth, and Washtenaw. Á

The changes required to accommodate the automobile ripped huge holes in Ann Arbor’s nineteenth-century streetscapes. Along main traffic routes, homes and business blocks alike were demolished and replaced by gas stations, car dealerships, and parking lots.

Cheap and easy to put up, gas stations became the signature buildings of the automotive age. The first ones were often primitive. Hoists weren’t invented until 1925, and not all stations could immediately afford them. Instead, mechanics climbed into pits in the floor to work under cars. Illi’s Auto Service, at 401 West Huron, still has three of the five pits used when the building was the Atwell and Son gas station in the 1930s. The pits are now covered with boards. “We had a robbery here once, and they pried the boards off. They must have thought we hid the safe under there. They must have been surprised when all they saw was the basement,” laughs owner Ray Roberts.

Some followed Staebler’s example of locating in old houses. Michigamme Oil Company had its main gas station in front of an old house at Huron and Division; Mallek and Hoppe’s first station was a little house where Jackson and Dexter merge with Huron. Others built small wooden or metal buildings alongside the pumps.

Concerned citizens, not just in Ann Arbor but around the country, began complaining that these hastily constructed buildings were a blight on the landscape. Gas companies reacted by commissioning more elegant designs. In 1925 Waldo Abbott built a gas station at William and Maynard designed to look like a Greek temple. A few years later, the Atwell station (now Illi’s) was designed to resemble a castle, complete with parapets and turrets.

Houselike stations were especially popular, on the theory that they could blend with residential neighborhoods. Paul’s Service Station, built in 1930 at the northwest corner of Ann and Fourth, was done in Tudor style, complete with a brick facade and slate roof (partially obscured by a later cinder-block addition, the building is now Adam’s Garden of Eden). The prettiest local example has to be the 1927 Tuomy Hills station at Washtenaw and Stadium, which local architects Lynn Fry and Paul Kasurin designed for Bill and Kathryn Tuomy. Built of stone in a style reminiscent of an Irish gatehouse, it was so distinctive that a copy of it was displayed at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Today, owned by University Bank, it’s the city’s most elegant ATM.

Early Staebler gas stations were built in a Spanish style, complete with red tile roofs. Although obscured by later additions, the stations at the corner of Liberty and Ashley (now Dream On Futons) and Fourth and Detroit (now Argiero’s) still reveal traces of their original style. Other Mediterranean-style buildings included Erle Koons’s station on the southeast corner of Liberty and First (now Painters Supply & Equipment) and the stucco-and-tile Hunter station at Huron and First (now Fine Flowers).

Eventually, such elaborate attempts at disguise became a public joke. In the 1937 movie A Damsel in Distress, Gracie Allen visits an English estate and remarks, “It’s pretty enough to be a gas station.”

Changing fashions combined with economic pressures to radically alter gas station architecture during the Depression. With a growing number of stations forced to share a shrinking market, stations put more emphasis on repair services. Typically a station added a pair of service bays, one with a hoist and another for tire repairs and other light mechanical work. Space was also needed to sell auxiliary products, called by the trade “TBA” (for “tires, batteries, and accessories”).

Some stations added service bays to existing houselike buildings, while others tried to apply homely details to the new, boxier structures. The Sinclair station at State and Packard (now Bell’s Pizza) is a rectangular box decorated with turrets and a tile roof. But most companies opted for buildings that were easily identified as gas stations, completely reversing their initial goal of blending into the neighborhood.

In the 1930s and early 1940s enameled-steel facades became popular. Locally the Staeblers led the way in 1933, tearing down the Bach mansion and replacing it with an ultramodern enameled station designed by local architect Douglas “Pete” Loree, who also helped design the bus depot. The same year the Staeblers put up a duplicate at the corner of State Street and Jefferson (before the construction of the U-M’s LS&A Building, Jefferson went through to State).

Casey’s gas station on the corner of Huron and Fourth (now Vault of Midnight Comix and Rosey’s barbershop) was built in 1937 with glazed tile and appears to be another creation of Loree’s. Former owner Clan Crawford says that the late architect Dick Robinson told him that he designed it when he was just out of school and working for Loree. Unlike most other gas stations, it was designed to hold other businesses as well--an appliance store and a watch repair shop. “It was built to get rent until they could tear it down and get something decent there,” Crawford says, “but no one has.”

The major oil companies hired architects to design stations that could be replicated all over the country. In 1937 Walter Dorwin Teague created a rectangular green-and-white Texaco station with large glass windows that was heavily influenced by the International style. Texaco stations with Teague’s design soon became ubiquitous, and other companies followed suit with similar buildings, all with an art deco or streamline-moderne flavor.

Most of Ann Arbor’s remaining enameled stations have been covered up, but at the former Schneider’s Amoco (now Rainbow Creations) across from Michigan Stadium, the panels can still be seen beneath a coat of yellow paint. The distinctive square towers that once marked Pure Oil stations are easy to spot on Japanese Auto Professional Service at Main and Madison and Victory Lane Quick Oil Change at Packard and South Boulevard.

Station operators kept busy in their newly enlarged stations, because cars needed much more service than they do today. Not only did they break down more often, but also routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tune-ups, had to be done more frequently. Staebler’s station at Main and Packard lured customers by offering pickup service. An employee on a three-wheeled motorcycle would pick the car up at the customer’s home or business and drive it to the station, towing the motorcycle behind him. After the repairs were done, he would return the car the same way.

Stations also cultivated customer loyalty by offering premiums such as carnival dishes, glass tumblers, Pepsi, and trading stamps. Attorney John Hathaway worked at Warren Staebler’s station as a young man, and he and his wife, Mary, still have a set of Czechoslovakian Christmas ornaments from the station.

People who were around before World War II don’t remember downtown traffic then as any big problem. Ted Palmer recalls that it was even easy to find a parking place at the county courthouse at Main and Huron. “You didn’t have to drive around the block like you do today,” he recalls. “I used to drive an old Model T that I got for fifteen dollars to high school.” Although he often arrived at Ann Arbor High, then at the corner of State and Huron, at the last minute, “I could always park opposite the door.”

One big reason for the light car traffic was that trains were the preferred way of getting to other towns, even for people with cars. Freight also was usually sent on trains, not trucks. Many people in town still walked to stores and workplaces. And except among the very rich, multicar families were still in the future.
Gas stations held their own during the Depression, when, if operators didn’t get rich, they could at least eke out a living. Other car-related industries did not fare as well. Road paving stopped except for a little work done by Works Progress Administration crews, and car sales dipped very low.

During World War II all available materials and labor went into building war-
related products such as tanks and airplanes. Gas was strictly rationed, as were tires. Some stations kept alive by retreading tires. After the war, though, people made up for the years of abstinence, buying new cars as fast as they could be made. The surge in vehicle traffic hit Ann Arbor particularly hard, as thousands of veterans took advantage of the GI Bill to enroll at the U-M.

The resulting parking problem was temporarily solved by mayor Bill Brown, who in 1945 instituted meters on the streets to raise money for building parking lots and structures. But the problem of the increased traffic pouring through town as the economy picked up was not so easily solved. Bob Kuhn, who lived on Ann Street near the courthouse, recalls that big trucks hauling cars from Flint to Milan would “try to turn at Main and Huron and make a big clang and bang.” A woman who moved to a new house near Pauline and Stadium in 1955 recalls that she had trouble sleeping because the car haulers were so noisy. “They’d backfire as they went down the hill, day and night.”

“In the fifties the downtown was jammed. They were going through because there was no other way to go,” recalls Jack Dobson, who was a member of city council at the time. He and his colleagues were planning to solve the problem by routing traffic on a loop west of downtown, going on Beakes and Ashley to Packard. On the state level, legislators were discussing building a turnpike similar to ones being built in Pennsylvania and New York. All the discussion became moot in 1956 when Congress passed President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway Act.

The act created an entirely new network of limited-access highways, with the federal government covering 90 percent of the cost and the state the remaining 10 percent. According to Michigan Department of Transportation records, Washtenaw County’s portion of I-94 was built in stages from 1956 to 1960, while US-23 north of Ann Arbor was built in 1957, with the southern part finished in 1962. “With so much work in a seven- or eight-year period, it’s all due at the same time for repairs,” remarks Bob Tetens, director of the Urban Transportation Study Policy Committee.

The expressways marked the end of the golden age of downtown gas stations. “One by one, they were sold,” recalls Kooperman. Small stations were the first to go. “The bigger ones could undersell little ones. They could get gas cheaper,” recalls Warren Staebler.

Even before the expressways, gas stations and car dealers had begun moving farther out of town, especially along Stadium and Washtenaw. As styles changed again, the surviving downtown stations made another attempt to blend with neighborhoods, using residential details like the mansard roof on J.B.’s Auto Service at Liberty and Second, or the Colonial cupola on Mallek’s at the Jackson-Dexter fork.

The other big design change in recent years is the return of canopies. Early gas stations usually had canopies as an integral part of the building, but in the 1930s architects began leaving them off, disliking the way canopies interfered with the clean lines of their enameled boxes. Canopies returned to Ann Arbor when Alden Dow designed the Leonard station (now Total) on the corner of Arbordale and Stadium. “Leonard was new in town. It was a brand no one knew. They had to sell the name, so they had canopies and cheaper prices,” recalls Harlan Otto, who ran the Amoco station in Ypsilanti for forty years. Canopies became nearly universal after the switch to self-service in the 1970s.

Total is now planning to demolish Dow’s station. Plans filed with the city call for replacing it with a new building with more sales space. Coming full circle from the days of Fred Staebler and Sedgwick Dean, most stations now make more money selling groceries and snacks than they do from gasoline.

Last January an Observer survey found that the number of gas stations in Ann Arbor had fallen from eighty-seven in 1950 to fifty in 1980 and just thirty today. As stations have closed, their buildings have been either torn down or converted to other uses. Former gas station buildings still standing, in addition to those already mentioned, include Copy Quick on Packard, Old Brick Quality Refinishing on Detroit, the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau on Huron, and Econo-Car on Division. Many others have found new life as food-related businesses, including DeLong’s Pit Bar-B-Q on North Fifth Avenue, the Main Party Store, the Big Market on Huron, and Ali Baba’s, Jimmy John’s, and the Cottage Inn, all on Packard near State.

With a new awareness that pollution left by leaking underground tanks requires massive cleanup, building new structures on gas station sites has become more problematic. In 1990 the Washtenaw County Historical Society had to do a major cleanup on the former station site at 303 North Main before moving an old house from Lower Town to become its museum.

Several sites have been converted to parks. Warren Staebler’s old gas station on Packard is now Franklin C. Forsythe Park, named after the first president of the Jaycees. Liberty Plaza is a gas station site. Two other stations, the old Clark station at Division and Detroit and Ben Wilkes’s station at Summit and Main, are being considered for the same use.


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Foster's Art House

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

Author: Grace Shackman and Susan Wineberg

State Street’s hidden “Venetian palace”

"The prettiest building in town” is the way Elizabeth Dusseau remembers Foster’s Art House at 213 and 215 South State. Today the two original buildings are thoroughly obscured by later additions, and few passersby ever notice that lurking behind the slate-roofed first floor are a Prairie-style storefront on the north and an Italianate house on the south.

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