The Broadway Bridge Parks

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

Author: Grace Shackman

The area around the Broadway Bridge was once home to factories, junkyards, and hoboes. Its transformation into three riverfront parks is one of the city's longest-running sagas of civic improvement.

The Broadway Bridge, connecting the central part of Ann Arbor with the north, spans the Huron River at a historically busy spot. Potawatomi Indian trails converged to ford the river there. When John Allen and Elisha Rumsey came west from Detroit in 1824, looking for a place to found a town, they, too, crossed the river at this spot. The first bridge was built just four years later. Replaced and widened several times since, it was most recently redone in 2004.

In 1830, Anson Brown, a pioneer who settled in Ann Arbor after working on the Erie Canal, dammed the river upstream from the bridge. Brown, his brother-in-law, Edward Fuller, and Colonel Dwight Kellogg used the flow from the dam to power a flour mill located just west of the bridge. Brown had grandiose ideas about turning the north side into the center of the city, but he died in the cholera epidemic of 1834, before his dreams could be realized. In 1839 William Sinclair purchased the property, repairing the mill and installing new machinery. His new setup worked so well that after the 1841 harvest he shipped to New York, via the Erie Canal, 8,112 barrels of flour--a record for Ann Arbor up to that time.

Sinclair's mill was destroyed by a fire in 1860, but he quickly rebuilt it and was back in business the next season. The next owners were the Swift family, first Franklin, then his son John Marvin. In 1892 the mill became part of a conglomerate. The Ann Arbor Milling Company, later called the Michigan Milling Company, bought it, along with several other mills in the area, and renamed it Argo. In 1903 they improved the mill and built a new dam, but again, fire claimed the mill. They rebuilt the mill, but with the development of cheaper steam power, water mills were increasingly hard put to compete. The dam and mill were sold in 1905 to the Eastern Michigan Edison company (later Detroit Edison), which was buying up all the water power along the river to generate electricity. Edison built a generating station that is still there; though it no longer produces power, it is still used as a transmission substation.

Beginning in 1866, the Sinclair Mill also powered the Agricultural Works, on the east side of the bridge (power was transmitted through a tunnel under the bridge). Founded by Lewis Moore, the Agricultural Works made all kinds of farm implements--plows, seed drills, mowing machines, hay tedders, rakes, straw cutters, corn shelters--and shipped them all over the country.

Finding a ready market in the days when most of the country's population was farmers, the Agricultural Works expanded throughout the century until it covered three acres, with a main building, wood shop, machine shop, painting building, lumberyard, and a foundry near the river. As it grew, it supplemented water power with steam power; by 1896, the promotional Headlight magazine declared it "one of the most important manufacturing enterprises of the city." But national manufacturers gradually took over the agricultural market, and the company closed in 1903. The Ann Arbor Machine Company, which made hay presses, occupied the premises for the next twenty years, using the same buildings. In 1924 Detroit Edison bought the site to build the garage and storage yard that are still there today.

Mills and factories weren't the only industries drawn to "Lower Town," as the area north of the river was known. In the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, six slaughterhouses were built on the floodplain between the river and Canal Street. (Canal, although called a street, was "really an alley," according to Thelma Graves, who grew up nearby on Wall Street; residents of Wall used Canal to reach their back entrances.)

Though the last slaughterhouse closed in 1915, the floodplain remained heavily industrialized. In the 1920's, it was home to a concrete company, David A. Friedman's junkyard, a wire products company, the Leever and Leever lumber company, and Otto Earth's tin and upholstery shops.

Meanwhile, the south bank of the river was dominated by the railroad. The Michigan Central reached Ann Arbor in 1839, and the first train station was built on the west side of the bridge, near the present Amtrak station. In 1886 a new stone station, now the Gandy Dancer, was erected on the east side. But the handsome station had some less-than-attractive neighbors. In 1898, the land between the river and the original railroad station was purchased by the Ann Arbor Gas Company to build a new plant and storage tank. The plant heated coal (or, in later years, oil) in a vacuum to create a flammable gas that was piped into homes for cooking and lighting. The foul-smelling gasworks remained in operation until natural gas pipelines reached Michigan in 1955. Purchased by MichCon in 1938, the gas plant site is now the company's service center for Washtenaw County and parts of Wayne and Oakland counties.

By the turn of the century, manufacturing industries were being replaced by power industries, but all four corners around the bridge were still given over to commercial and industrial uses. By then, however, Ann Arborites were beginning to think that parks would be a more enjoyable use of the riverside--and present a better picture to the outside world.

Mayor Royal S. Copeland, in a 1902 address to city council, bemoaned the fact that "to enter Lower Town it is necessary to cross the smoky Detroit Street bridge [today the Broadway Bridge], [and] traverse a long dusty street with the gas tanks on one side and foul smelling dump heaps on the other."

The junk-strewn field east of the bridge was a particular sore point, because it was the first view of Ann Arbor to greet passengers arriving at the train station. Calling it "a blot upon an otherwise fair page," Copeland went on to paint a more attractive alternative: "How different it would be if the ground east of the street were a green sward, garnished with flowers and shrubs! How much more convenient for the Fifth Ward [Lower Town] if they could follow a gravel footpath through that Riverside park, climb a flight of steps to a narrow bridge over the tracks and find themselves at the foot of State Street."

Copeland appointed a committee, including the city attorney, empowered to negotiate with the property's owners. He also announced that an anonymous donor had offered to pay half the costs of condemnation and purchase of the land. The donor, he said, "believes our city is damaged in the eyes of the traveling public by the unsightly and disgraceful outlook from the [train] car windows." Copeland was confident that the $1,000 appropriated in city funds would finish the job and the rest could be used to improve the park.

The committee had meetings, met with property owners, and had the city attorney write letters; but in three years it did not make much progress in obtaining the land, which was owned by eight different people. In October 1905, the committee reported that "some of the persons interested in said lands refused to name any price for the same and others have placed a value upon their lands far in excess of what your committee is willing to recommend the council to accept. Your committee is of the opinion that said lands can only be acquired by condemnation proceedings." With the exception of some land near the station that the Michigan Central Railroad donated, the properties were obtained by condemnation. Pleased with their work, the committee reported that "by removing the unsightly and ill-smelling dump heap of tin cans and dead cats, the traveling public will form a better opinion of our city." On April 30, 1907, the site was formally named "Riverside Park."

Photograph of Riverside Park
looking toward the Huron River

The original Riverside Park all cleaned up.

Although the acquisition of Riverside Park was touted as a major accomplishment, little was done to develop it. Ann Arborites who were around before World War II say that Island Drive Park and West Park were the places to go; they remember using Riverside Park only as a cut-through, especially from Lower Town to campus. Jack Bauer Sr., who grew up in Lower Town, scoffs at the idea that it was ever even a park, saying, "No one ever went there. It was nothing but an opening." Indeed, it was so little used that when the park across the river on the north side was developed, it appropriated the name "Riverside Park," and Mayor Copeland's creation became known as "Hobo Park."

Hobo Park got its name because, as the closest public land to the railroad station, it was a favorite place for hoboes to hang out. Hoboing--riding the rails without benefit of a ticket, looking for work--probably started as early as railroading itself; but it became a real phenomenon in the 1890's and peaked in the Depression. Hoboes separated themselves from tramps by their willingness to work. Ann Arbor was a likely destination because the presence of the university meant work was somewhat easier to find here than in most Michigan cities.

Hoboes arrived by train, mostly in the warmer months, and fanned out all over the city. Older Ann Arborites, wherever they lived, remember hoboes coming to their doors and being given some food, sometimes in exchange for odd jobs, such as shaking out rugs, cleaning out furnace ashes, spading the garden, or mowing the lawn. Although some hoboes were tough characters, many were well mannered and clean. Some reportedly even had college educations. They were rarely invited inside, but ate their food on the back steps or in the backyard.

Jack Bauer recalls that when he visited his aunt on Swift Street in the 1930s, he saw the police come to break up fights among the hoboes camped along the overgrown millrace between the Argo dam and powerhouse. Hoboes also slept farther east at Dow Field--the bottom of what is today the Arboretum but was then a university dump--and, of course, at Hobo Park. Bauer cut across the "park" in the 1930s to get to St. Thomas School, and he was often chased. He was young and strong and could run fast, but if he was worried, he would go into the railroad station and ask Mr. Mynning, a friend of the family who worked in the mail office there, to escort him to the bridge.

World War II put a stop to most hoboing, since able-bodied men who weren't drafted could enlist or find a factory job. When Betty Gillan Seward began working at the train station in 1941, there were only a few hoboes left, she recalls, and "they slept, whenever they could, in boxcars, but never in the station. Usually they slept on the banks of the river behind the station."

The hoboes never left altogether. In 1976, when photographer Fred Crudder took his now wife, Sally, on their first date, he suggested going to Hobo Park, by then officially called "Broadway Park." She thought he was kidding, but when they arrived, sure enough, there were some people sleeping under newspapers there. For years after that, early morning walkers sometimes found homeless people camped in Broadway Park, and one latter-day hobo maintained a wood-and-canvas shack in the woods above the Argo millrace in the 1990s.

The new Riverside Park north of the river was started for the same reasons as the original one: to clean up a blighted area that by then was being used as an unofficial dump. The new park, too, was pieced together parcel by parcel, although in this case city officials were more successful in persuading people to sell or donate their property. In a nine-year period from 1925 to 1934, the parks commission, under the leadership of Eli Gallup, acquired sixteen parcels of land totaling eight acres located between the river and Canal Street.

During the Depression, Gallup enlisted workers from the federal WPA jobs program to clean the site, remove piles of rubbish, and tear down old buildings. To fill in the low, marshy floodplain, Gallup used waste material from construction projects, like ashes and rubbish. He had the WPA workers remove the topsoil--which was of good quality though quite stony in places--throw it into ridges, and fill in the resulting trenches with any available material. After the land was raised, the topsoil was replaced and the park developed. Gallup put in a regular supervised playground--much appreciated by residents on the north side of the river--two tennis courts, and a baseball field. For drinking water, he ran a pipe out from the Donovan School.

The third park abutting the Broadway Bridge, Argo Park, was the last to be completed. In 1907 the city bought the land just north of the present Argo Pond canoe livery for a municipal beach. The rest of the tract, including the dam and the millrace, was not acquired until 1963. Detroit Edison first invited the city to buy its holdings along the Huron River, including the Argo, Barton, and Geddes dams, in 1959, but the purchase had to wait until 1962, when voters approved a bond issue to finance it.

Today DTE (Mich Con and Detroit Edison) is the last industrial user remaining near the Broadway Bridge, although they no longer produce power there. What will replace their building when, or if, they choose to sell is a topic of lively speculation. Housing is one perennial favorite suggestion. Though the idea would have seemed ridiculous a century ago, the gradual transformation of the surrounding area into attractive parks makes housing a very real possibility.

Riverside Park, once slaughterhouses and factories, is now the "green sward" that Copeland envisioned. During the school year, St. Thomas and Gabriel Richard schools use the park as a practice field, while in the summer numerous teams enjoy the baseball diamond. Argo Park, linked with Riverside by a pedestrian bridge, provides an attractive hiking area right in the city with the river on one side and the millrace on the other.

As part of the recent Broadway Bridge project, the city cleaned up the original Riverside Park on the south side of the river and put in benches, plantings, walks and lights. Finally, a hundred years later, Mayor Copeland’s vision is coming true.


[Photo caption from book]: A hobo cooks dinner near the Broadway Bridge during the Depression. For years, the city park behind the rail¬road station was known as "Hobo Park." “Courtesy Bentley Historical Library”

[Photo caption from book]: Before Eli Gallup created Riverside Park in the 193O's, the river’s north bank was a maze of small work shops and impromptu dumps. “Courtesy Al Gallup”

The Rise and Fall of Allen’s Creek

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, June 1993,
June 1993

Author: Grace Shackman

The stream that flows through Ann Arbor’s Old West Side hasn’t been seen above ground since 1926, but you can still see its influence everywhere.

Allen’s Creek, the site of the city’s first settlement, still runs through Ann Arbor’s west side. Named for Ann Arbor’s co-founder John Allen, it has a romantic sound to it, bringing to mind pictures of Potawatomi Indans following its course, settlers camping and picnicking on the banks, livestock drinking from it, and children playing in it. That idyllic picture has some truth in it, but Sam Schlecht, who knew it well in the years before it was put in a pipe below ground in 1926, says the creek was by then more like a “ditch in the road.” Historically, its value to Ann Arbor had more to do with urban development than natural beauty.

The main branch of Allen’s Creek runs northward roughly parallel to the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks, starting at Pioneer High and spilling into the Huron River just below Argo Dam. Three tributaries flow east into it from the Old West Side. Eber White starts on Lutz, crosses Seventh Street, and flows into the main stream at William; Murray-Washington rises at Virginia Park, crosses Slauson Middle School playground, and joins the creek near West Park; and West Park-Miller drains the ravine between MilIer and Huron.

Ann Arborites who were born after 1926 or who came to town after the creek was interred would probably not even know it exists except that it surfaces periodically as a political issue. In 1983, the voters approved a bond issue to repair it. And in recent years it has been part of an ongoing discussion about a possible Greenway that may include opening it up again.

Allen's Creek must have been named immediately after John Allen and Elisha Rumsey founded Ann Arbor in 1824. It is referred to by that name in all the early accounts and shows up on the map of "Ann-Arbour" that they registered in Detroit in May 1824.

Allen and Rumsey arrived here in February, looking for government land to buy as a town site. After returning to Detroit to pay for one square mile of property, they came back and set up camp on what is today the corner of First and Huron, with the creek right behind them as a water source. Rumsey and his wife, Mary Ann, later built a house on the site.

Photograph of Allen's Creek passing Dean
and Company warehouse

Allen’s Creek going by the Dean and Company warehouse near the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks between Liberty and Washington.

As Ann Arbor developed in the 1850s and 1860s, many businesses located along the creek. The creek apparently did not have a current strong enough to furnish real water power—the only industry that used it in that way was the Ward Flour Mill, at the mouth where the creek joined the Huron—but many businesses used its water for processing. Four tanneries on or near the creek used its water to soak cowhides and pelts of wild animals trapped in the surrounding forests. A foundry, Tripp, Ailes, and Price, on Huron Street where the Y is today, used the creek's water for its sand casting. And two breweries, the Western, later called the Michigan Union, on Fourth Street (today Math Reviews) and the City Brewery on First Street (today the Cavern Club), used the creek water to cool their beer.

In 1878, when the Ann Arbor Railroad reached town on its way between Toledo, Ohio, and Michigan's north, its developers chose the land beside Allen Creek to lay their track. Not only was it flat, but it was already the location of many of the industries they wanted to serve. Putting the tracks there guaranteed that the area would remain industrial even after water supply was no longer crucial.

As industry grew, so did the population. In 1846 William Maynard laid out the first section of the Old West Side, from First to Fourth streets. He added more streets in 1858 and 1861. But unlike today's subdivisions, with houses built one after another down each street, the area took shape slowly, with the higher land being built on first. The most desirable streets were Liberty, Huron, and Miller because they were high and dry. The three streets were laid out in a fan shape, rather than parallel, to avoid crossing the creek tributaries that ran between them.

Cross streets going down into the valleys between those main arteries weren't developed until years later. Murray and Mulholland streets, which cross the creek, were not laid out until 1911 and 1916. And some of the lowest parts of the creek bed were never built on at all--today they are West Park, Slauson playground, and the second Bach School playground.

A few west side homeowners took advantage of having the water nearby. David Allmendinger, owner of the downtown organ factory, built a house in 1890 at 719 West Washington, just in front of the creek. He dammed the creek to create a series of ponds, incorporating natural springs that were found on the property. He brought in soil to plant a rose garden and added a rustic bridge across the pond and a gazebo for family gatherings (he had thirteen children).

Allmendinger planted water lilies and stocked the pond with carp, one of which, according to family legend, answered to the name of Billy. But the carp were endangered when the city water pump station next door began drawing more water from the springs: the pond level fell so low that the family cat could catch fish by just reaching in.

Some westsiders used the creek more practically--to water their livestock. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the line between city and country wasn't as sharply drawn as it is now. Many people kept chickens, or even a horse or a cow, on their city lots. (There are still a number of barns around the Old West Side, used today as garages.) Sam Schlecht remembered his grandparents telling him of cows drinking from the creek near their Seventh Street house. Marty Schlenker's family told him that their livestock used to drink from the creek at First Street behind their Liberty Street hardware store.

Although the creek influenced the location of industry, houses, and the railroad, its importance had shrunk to almost nil by the early 1900s. Water was piped indoors after 1885, when the Ann Arbor Water Works Company was set up, so the creek was not necessary for industry, and homes and the railroad tracks had already been established. The only use for the creek was for recreation.

A stream running through a residential neighborhood can be a beauty spot and a play area, as the Allmendingers proved. But people around today who were children before the creek disappeared say that was the exception. Many interviewed said they didn't remember playing in the creek at all, while others remembered it as simply not important.

On hot days, Geraldine Seeback and her sister used to wade in the branch of the creek that ran by the east side of their parents' fluff rug factory on Huron, which replaced the foundry where the Y is today. Asked if her parents worried about her safety, Seeback laughs and says, "It wasn't dangerous." She remembers the water as about four feet wide but only ankle-deep.

Photograph of 1902 Allen's Creek Flood

Allen’s Creek flood in 1902 as it crosses Washington Street.

Karl Horning, who grew up on Third Street around the same time, has similar memories of the creek. He says, "It was nothing of significance; it didn't add anything to the city." He remembers that he and his friends could see the creek running under the Ann Arbor Railroad freight house on William and Ashley. The freight house was built right over the creek: evidently the creek was so small that builders just ignored it. Marty Schlenker remembered that the Feiner glass warehouse across the street from the freight house was also built over the creek.

Perhaps the person still around who is most familiar with the creek back then is Sam Schlecht, an inveterate explorer who lived in several different Old West Side houses as a boy and saw the creek from different vantage points. Between Seventh and Eighth streets, near Slauson Middle School (now Waterworks Park), the creek widened into a little pond. Schlecht and his friends made a burlap swing and attached it to a tree so they could swing out over the pond. If they fell in, they were in no danger of drowning--only of getting very dirty. Schlecht describes the pond as "slop water covered with algae," not deep enough for swimming.

Although the creek was low most of the time, it could overflow in the spring when the snow melted. Horning remembers that it would back up into gardens on First Street. That was a problem, since the water was polluted from outhouses and years of industrial use. In 1921, the city pumping station on Washington Street, which drew water from the springs that fed the Murray-Washington branch of Allen's Creek, was closed because of contamination from surface water.

In 1923, eighty-seven of the 100 property owners along the main branch of the creek petitioned city council to make it into a storm sewer. At a joint meeting that July, the city council and the Ann Arbor Township board agreed to the request. Alderman Herbert Slauson (for whom the school is named) said, "We do hereby determine that said proposed drain is necessary and conductive to the public health, convenience, and welfare."

It took three years to do the engineering and to enclose the main creek in underground cement pipes. The pipes taper from eleven feet in diameter at the mouth to four feet at the head waters near Pioneer High. In 1925, property owners along the West Park-Miller branch petitioned to have it put into a storm drain, and in 1927, residents along the Murray-Washington and Eber White branches followed. The tributary pipes range from four feet to about eighteen inches in diameter. In 1969 the creek and its tributaries were consolidated into the same drain district.

Sam Schlecht remembers when the creek was being put underground. The section near Keppler Court was on the path he followed to walk downtown, and he often stopped to watch the workmen. He remembers that although they had a primitive backhoe, a lot of their work was done by hand. When he got too close, the workmen would shoo him away. At the time, he remembers, Mulholland Street ended at the creek, with a cement wall to stop cars from going farther. After the creek was put into the pipe, Mulholland was extended across and turned north to end at Seventh Street. Later it was moved east to end at Washington.

The main section of the drain was finished in 1926, just after the city celebrated its hundredth anniversary. The Ann Arbor News wrote: "Planned as a part of the city's permanent sewerage to take care of the drainage from the creek's watershed for all time to come, it is probable that the concrete house for John Allen's creek once it is completed, will remain intact on the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of Ann Arbor."

Photograph of junction of Allen's Creek
& Huron River

Invisible for most of its course, Allen's Creek emerges to join the Huron below Argo Dam.

That was optimistic-—it was more like fifty years later that Allen's Creek again needed attention. The Allen Creek drain, as it is now known, flooded in 1947 and 1968. Putting a creek in a drain was no guarantee it would stay there-—the pipes, of course, hold a finite amount of water--and as Ann Arbor continued developing to the west, filling in more land with buildings, houses, and parking lots, the amount of runoff channeled into the drain kept increasing. By the mid-1970's, it became obvious that the Allen’s Creek drain needed a fresh appraisal.

A study commissioned by the city in the early 1980s offered a choice of several solutions. The most effective options--replacing the pipes with larger ones or building a second drain parallel to the first--were rejected as too expensive. Instead it was decided to repair the present system to make it as efficient as possible. Ann Arbor voters approved a $1.1 million bond issue, and in 1983 the city set to work repairing deteriorated culverts, relocating other utilities' pipes that crossed the drain, and resurfacing bottom areas that had eroded.

The bond money covered the most critical work. Since then, the Washtenaw County drain office and the city's engineering department have continued to work together on drain maintenance. The county is responsible for routine upkeep of the main line of the drain, while the city takes care of the tributaries going into neighborhoods. Major projects are financed using the county's full faith and credit and with the city’s storm water utility fees.

In 1993 the last two sections identified as needing work--an area near the Salvation Army headquarters on Arbana and another on Seventh Street near West Park--were completed. Both the city and county agree that Allen Creek drain is, at least for now, in good shape, even if undersized to serve its drainage area. Drain commissioner Janis Bobrin says there are "no visible areas of concern," but that the county "will continue to evaluate and maintain the drain."

Periodically people talk about opening up portions of the drain and returning it to a natural creek. Current discussion is focusing on the potential of creating a Greenway along the creek corridor. Whether Allen's Creek stays underground or not, its importance to the city has, if anything, continued to grow over the years. For instance, when Michigan Stadium was returned to natural turf in 1991, a tributary of the drain that ran right under the fifty-yard line was directed around the field and large pumps were installed to permanently lower the water table. The pumps allowed the U-M to lower the playing field itself by more than three feet--below the level at which it otherwise would have been covered with water. Without Allen’s Creek, Michigan Stadium would be a lake.


[Photo caption from book]: Map of Allen’s Creek. “Courtesy Washtenaw County Drain Commissioner”

Ann Arbor's Carnegie Library

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, February 1991,
February 1991

Author: Grace Shackman

The steel magnate's gift was grafted onto the public high school

Look closely at the north side of the U-M's Frieze Building on Huron opposite North Thayer, and you'll see that part of it is actually a distinct structure, set closer to Huron Street and built of stone blocks rather than brick. The main brick building was built in 1907 as Ann Arbor High School. The smaller stone one was built the same year, as one of America's 1,679 Carnegie libraries.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune in steel (he replaced many wooden bridges with steel ones) and railroads (he introduced the first sleeping cars). After he sold Carnegie Steel to financier J. P. Morgan in 1901, he devoted his energies to giving away his vast fortune for social and educational advancement.

Carnegie believed that great wealth was a public trust that should be shared. But he did not believe in straight alms-giving. (This was, after all, the Carnegie who broke the 1886 strike at his steel plant in Homestead, Pennsylvania, with 200 Pinkerton detectives. It took the state militia to put down the riots that resulted.) Building libraries to encourage self-improvement was consistent with Carnegie's philosophy of helping people help themselves. He paid for the buildings but required the community to provide the site and to pay for books and maintenance in perpetuity.

At the time it was built, Ann Arbor's Carnegie Library was believed to be the only one in the country attached to another building. But it was a natural pairing in a town where the library and the high school had already been associated for nearly fifty years. The contents of the high school's library, which started operating in 1858, were the city's first publicly owned books. In 1883, the collection was given its own quarters on the second floor of the school, and Nellie Loving was hired to be the first librarian. At this time, or soon after, the general public also was allowed to use the library, thus setting the precedent, continued to this day, of the school board taking responsibility for the public library.

Photograph of Carnegie Library

Post card view of Ann Arbor's Carnegie Library. It was said to be the only one in the country attached to another building.

Another source of books for nineteenth-century readers was the Ladies Library Association. It was organized in 1866 by thirty-five women as a subscription library, based on a model started by Benjamin Franklin. By 1885, members had raised enough money — through Easter and Christmas fairs, lectures, cantatas, and strawberry festivals — to build their own library on Huron Street between Division and Fifth, in a building since torn down to make room for Michigan Bell.

In 1902, Anna Botsford Bach, then president of the Ladies Library Association, suggested applying for a Carnegie grant to build a city library. The city's application was supported by the school board, the city council, and the Ladies Library Association. But after Carnegie granted $20,000 for the project in 1903, the applicants could not agree among themselves on a site. (The school board wanted the new library to be near the high school so the students could continue using it. The Ladies Library Association thought an entirely separate location would better serve the general public.) The deadlock was resolved only after the application was resubmitted in 1904 without the participation of the Ladies Library Association. This time, the city and school board were awarded $30,000.

The Carnegie grant came just in time: on the night of December 31, 1904, the high school burned down. Luckily, school officials and students who rushed to the scene were able to save most of the library's 8,000 books before the building was destroyed.

A few months later, voters approved a bond issue to build a new school. The school and the library went up simultaneously; both were designed by architects Malcomson and Higginbottom of Detroit, and built by M. Campbell of Findlay, Ohio. (The interior finishing work was done by the Lewis Company of Bay City, which later began building kit homes.) Despite its unusual connection to the high school, the library looked much like other Carnegie libraries: large pillars on the front, big windows, high ceilings, and a massive center staircase. The board of education, pleased with the result, called the new building "beautiful and commodious."

In 1932, the high school library moved into separate quarters on the library's third floor, but students continued to use the lower floors after school. Gene Wilson, retired director of the public library, remembers that when he began working there in 1951, the busiest time of day was right after school, when the students would flock over to do their homework. By the time Wilson came to the library, the once spacious building was, in his words, "obscured by shelving on top of shelving. It was a rabbit warren of a building, typical of libraries at the end of their life, with six times as many books as planned for with stacks all over."

Since the late 1940's, citizens' groups had been talking about the need for a new library. The school board took action in 1953, selling the high school and library building to the U-M for $1.4 million. (By then the new Ann Arbor High — now Pioneer — was under construction at the corner of West Stadium and South Main.) The board used the proceeds of the sale to buy the Beal property at the corner of Fifth and William as the site for a new library, ending nearly a century of close association between the high school and the public library.

The library remained in the old Carnegie building for a few years after the high school moved out. It left in 1957, when the new public library on Fifth Avenue was ready for occupancy.

The university remodeled and enlarged the old library and high school building and renamed it the Henry S. Frieze Building, after a professor of classics who also had served as acting president. In 2004 the university announced plans to build a dormitory on the site.


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