The Ann Arbor Co-operative Society

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, August 1992,
August 1992

Author: Grace Shackman

Argiero's restaurant was once one of the Midwest's busiest co-ops

Argiero's, the cozy Italian restaurant on the corner of Detroit and Catherine streets, was from 1936 to 1939 the site of a social experiment: a co-op gas station and grocery store. They were run by the Ann Arbor Co-operative Society, a group that organized during the Depression to seek alternatives to capitalism to distribute the necessities of life.

The co-op was started by a small group meeting in the Hill Street living room of Harold Gray, the millionaire idealist who started the Utopian Saline Valley Farms. Their first project, in 1933, was to purchase coal in bulk, thus eliminating the middleman. At the time, coal was a necessity of life, since it was used to heat most homes. Neil Staebler, who with his father, Edward, ran the Staebler and Son Oil Company, was very sympathetic to their cause. (He later became chair of the Michigan Democratic Party and served a term in Congress.) Staebler helped arrange for the co-op to buy coal by the train carload. One of the founding members, William Kemnitz, an attorney who had lost his job at a Detroit bank during the infamous bank holiday, served as the co-op staff person, calling all the members and taking their coal orders by phone. At about the same time, the group also began buying food in bulk.

In 1936, the co-op expanded into a full-time enterprise. Neil Staebler rented the group his Detroit Street gas station, as well as the brick barn behind it on Fifth Avenue. Bill Kemnitz became general manager, with his office in the gas station. Kemnitz's three sons, Bill Jr., Milt, and Walt, all worked there as gas station attendants at various times. Walt, then in high school, remembers his salary was 29 cents an hour. Milt, now an artist well known for his pictures of local scenes, painted the sign, the first in a long career.

The co-op grocery store was set up next door in the old barn, which dated to 1887. An extensive remodeling included installing indoor plumbing and adding plate glass show windows to the Fifth Avenue side. The goal of the grocery store, according to manager Abe Rosenkrantz, was "honest consumer value." Rosenkrantz, who had worked in retail as manager of an office supply business before coming to EMU as a student, walked a tightrope, trying to offer the best products available, such as oranges without coloring, while keeping prices competitive with the chain stores, which could afford a low profit margin.

Employees outside the Ann Arbor
Co-Operative Society Gas Station

Employees posed proudly outside the Ann Arbor Co-Operative Society's gas station in the late 1930. (I. to r.) Milt Kemnitz, Zilpha Olson, Bill Kemnitz Jr., Bill Kemnitz Sr., and Winifred Proctor.

Charter co-op member Helen McCluskey chaired the board of directors' store committee, leading tasting sessions where prospective store items, such as canned peas, were opened and sampled, with the group voting on which brand they thought best.

Rosenkrantz says that to the casual consumer "the store looked like other supermarkets of the day except for labels they wouldn't recognize." He says in some ways the store was like a Meijer, in that it also offered nonfood products such as aspirin (Consumers Union had recently reported that Bayer was no better than off-brand aspirins) and some appliances. In 1937, the group also started a credit union.

Members felt they had a personal stake in the co-op. Says Bill Kemnitz Jr., "Everyone who bought owned the place. There were not many dissatisfied customers. If there were, we would work it out to everyone's satisfaction." Mary Hathaway, daughter of members A. K. and Angelyn Stevens, remembers, "It was our store. We felt very proprietary. Even as a small child you sense where your parents feel connected."

The Ann Arbor co-op soon became the second largest in the Midwest, with Chicago's the only bigger one. In 1939, pressed by a shortage of parking, needing more room, and wanting its own building, the organization moved to 637 South Main Street. It stayed there until 1955, when a Kroger opened across the street and put the co-op out of business.

The Detroit Street gas station reverted to a for-profit station during World War II. In the late 1940's and 1950's, it and the store buildings housed a used-car dealership. In 1965 Tony Argiero bought both buildings; he rented the gas station to a fish market and the store to an air-conditioning shop. In 1977, Argiero decided to use the buildings himself for an Italian restaurant he would run with his wife, Rosa. Tony had met Rosa in 1960, on a visit to his mother's village, Castelsilano, in the southern Italian province of Calabria. Rosa, obviously an authentic Italian cook, got her professional start cooking at Perry Nursery School.

Tony and Rosa enclosed the overhanging drive-in part of the gas station and built an addition on the back. They later put an addition on the west side. In 1985, they sold the restaurant to their four children. Amelia dropped out after two years, but today sons Sam, Carmin, and Michael still run it.

The Ann Arbor Co-operative Society still exists. Though it no longer has a gas station or a grocery store, its credit union is still thriving as part of the Huron River Area Credit Union, located on West Stadium. Member number 2 on the membership list is Helen McCluskey.

109-113 Catherine

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, September 1988,
September 1988

Author: Grace Shackman

From humble garage to elegant office

Ann Arbor’s “Other” Railroad

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

Author: Grace Shackman

Though it was overshadowed locally by the Michigan Central, the little Ann Arbor Railroad once carried the city’s name all across lower Michigan

A century ago, railroads were Ann Arbor’s lifeline. Just about everyone who came to the city, and virtually everything they needed to live here, arrived by train. Though most of those passengers and goods were carried by the Michigan Central Railroad, the route more closely identified with the city elsewhere in the state was its namesake, the little Ann Arbor Railroad.

The Michigan Central ran east-west, linking Ann Arbor to the big-city worlds of New York and Chicago. Known affectionately as “the Annie,” the Ann Arbor Railroad ran south to Toledo and northwest to Frankfort, Michigan, stopping along the way at small towns such as Whitmore Lake and Owosso.

Photograph of Ashley Street Station in
1896

Horse-drawn carriages met trains coming in to the station in this 1896 view. The Old West Side, discernable in the background, was still sparsely settled.

Ann Arbor’s two train stations, built just three years apart, testified to the Annie’s junior status. In 1886, the Michigan Central spent $33,000 to build a grand station on Depot Street. As the Gandy Dancer restaurant, the elaborate stone building remains an Ann Arbor landmark to this day. By comparison, the Ann Arbor Railroad spent only $4,400 to build its new station in 1889. Today, few people even realize that the Doughty-Law Montessori School at 416 South Ashley Street was once one of the gateways to the city.

Though modest, the Ashley Street station possessed a simple elegance. The waiting room had a fireplace, detailed woodwork, and pew-like wooden benches on wrought-iron frames. A telegraph operator and a stationmaster, both wearing green eyeshades, sat in a bay window overlooking the tracks, where they could see trains coming and going. Originally, a baggage shed stood to the south of the station, across an open stretch of platform; the two buildings were connected in the 1920s.

Until the station was built, Ashley Street was known as East Second Street. Even today many people are puzzled that Ann Arbor has Fourth and Fifth streets, on the Old West Side, and Fourth and Fifth avenues, downtown. But the original names were even more bewildering: the avenues were also called streets, and the only way to tell them apart was to specify “east” or “west.” The new name eliminated the confusion with West Second Street, just two blocks away, while simultaneously recognizing the Ann Arbor Railroad’s builder, “Big Jim” Ashley.

Born in 1822, Jim Ashley was a flamboyant character with strong opinions. He was described by Henry Riggs, a chief engineer of the Annie who went on to become dean of the U-M’s Engineering School, as “a very large man, probably six feet tall and very heavy. His abundant white hair was worn long, down nearly to his coat collar in the style affected by Henry Ward Beecher." Like Beecher, Ashley was a passionate abolitionist. He was elected to Congress from his home state of Ohio in 1858 and helped to guide the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, through Congress in 1865.

After serving five terms, Ashley was defeated for reelection because he had supported the attempt to impeach president Andrew Johnson. Fortunately, he had ties to Ulysses Grant, who was elected president the same year. Grant appointed Ashley governor of the Montana Territory. He was known as “Governor Ashley” for the rest of his life, long after he retired from politics and returned to Toledo to invest in the burgeoning railroad industry.

Ashley’s inspiration to build a railroad north into Michigan came after he discovered that the only way he could visit his sons attending the U-M was to travel via Detroit. Even before the Civil War, some people in Ann Arbor had tried to create a north-south railroad that would compete with the Michigan Central, but the attempt had folded before any track was laid. Ashley bought up the stock in the defunct company, gaining control of the right-of-way it had acquired to the city. Then he turned around and resold stock to Ann Arbor business leaders to raise funds for construction.

The new railroad reached Ann Arbor at noon on May 16, 1878. After the workmen laid the track across South State Street, they were escorted by a band and a procession of citizens to Hill’s Opera House, where the Reform Club served them a temperance supper--Ashley, a deeply religious man, strongly opposed drinking. (During his tenure as president of the railroad, he also insisted that no trains run on Sundays.)

The railroad passed west of downtown along Allen’s Creek. Chosen because it was relatively flat, the route also turned out to be a good source of freight traffic because many factories had located along the creek to take advantage of its water. The tracks crossed the Michigan Central near Main Street, then spanned the Huron River on a wooden bridge (replaced twice since) and continued north toward Whitmore Lake.

Photograph of Ann Arbor Railroad crossing
the Huron River

The Ann Arbor Railroad crosses the Huron River at Argo Dam.

Over the next decade, Ashley gradually kept building northwest, town by town. For all of his show of religious piety, Ashley was no more scrupulous than other capitalists of the freewheeling Gilded Age. He once hijacked a shipment of rails being transported on the Annie for his own use and was briefly jailed before he paid for them. Other lawsuits filed against his business to collect unpaid bills were fought out in the courts clear into the twentieth century. And he sometimes resorted to quasi-legal shenanigans to secure right-of-ways. In one case, when a property owner refused to sell, Ashley sent him a notice to appear in court in another city--then built the tracks while he was out of town.

In a talk given to the Washtenaw Historical Society, Dan McClary, who has done extensive research on the railroad, commented that “except for Ann Arbor, [Ashley] missed every major city in the state. The reason he did was Toledo was a major port. They shipped a lot of commodities down there and he was tapping into Michigan’s products, especially grain, produce, livestock and timber.”

Finally, in 1892, at the age of seventy, Ashley purchased a small local line that connected the Ann Arbor Railroad to Lake Michigan at Frankfort. Such a move wasn’t the dead end it seemed. The resourceful Ashley had picked Frankfort for its excellent harbor, and he had already cut deals with railroads across the lake in Wisconsin and in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He launched the world’s first open-water rail ferry service, hauling loaded freight cars back and forth across the lake. To attract even more traffic to Frankfort, he built a large tourist hotel, the Royal Frontenac, which drew vacationers from as far away as southern Ohio and Chicago.

Closer to home, Ann Arborites often took the Annie to Whitmore Lake to spend the day at the beach, or to attend dances at the town’s two major hotels. Families who owned summer places in the area could get off at Whitmore Lake or Lakeland (near Zukey Lake, which connects to the Huron River chain of lakes) and transfer to a commercial launch that would take them right to their cottages. Vacation traffic was so heavy that in the summer, the railroad scheduled eight trains a day between Ann Arbor and Whitmore Lake, dubbing the run the “Ping-Pong Special.”

Passengers also rode the train south to Ohio. George Koch remembers as a boy taking the train to Toledo, back when “you really were traveling when you’d go fifty or sixty miles from home.” People often came by train when they were referred to University Hospital for complex medical problems--it was fairly common to see patients taken off the train on a stretcher. And as Ashley had hoped, U-M students from Ohio used the Annie to get to school. Football Saturdays were an especially busy time for the railroad; when Michigan played Ohio State, the line carried fans from all over the Midwest.

Football fans--and everybody else--began to drive their own cars in the 1910s and 1920s. But while passenger traffic on the railroad gradually declined, freight service took up the slack. In Ann Arbor, the track was lined with businesses that relied on it for deliveries of coal (from West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee), lumber (from up north), or block ice (from the same lakes where people vacationed). Other firms used the railroad to ship their finished products, including organs, furniture, and flour.

The busiest shippers had their own rail sidings, where freight cars could be parked off the main track for loading and unloading. Cars bound for these sidings would be delivered to the railroad’s roundhouse behind Ferry Field, then delivered by a small switch engine the next day. All other cars were dropped at the freight house at William and First streets (now a parking lot) to be unloaded.

To get the best price on shipping, George Koch remembers that several construction companies would order building supplies together. Paul Lohr recalls that farm implement companies would send a single shipment destined for retail outlets in several towns; the owners would all go down together and help one another load their trucks. The late Frank Braatz recalled that he once ordered a Sears kit house that was delivered to the freight house on several cars; he went down with a horse-drawn wagon to pick it up.

One of Ashley’s original goals had been to make Toledo more of a rival to Detroit, and to some extent, he succeeded. Enough Ann Arborites were interested in what was happening in Toledo to provide a customer base for the Toledo Blade. In the late 1920s, Sam Schlecht used to meet the train from Toledo to pick up bundles of the paper, which he then delivered to the Ann Arbor drugstores and cigar stores that sold them. Before Prohibition, the Annie also delivered two Toledo-brewed beers, Buckeye and Green Seal. Distributor Fred Dupper would go down to the freight house with his horse and wagon to pick up the beer, along with the ice to keep it cold.
In the 1940s, the Annie carried oranges from Florida. A group of local investors owned an orange grove there and would sell their crop from a boxcar parked near the Ann Arbor Implement Company on First Street. They built a little orange-painted shed near the tracks to store leftover fruit for later sale.

The railroad also had spin-off effects on the local economy. For instance, train engineers provided jeweler John Eibler with extra business by coming in at regular intervals to have their watches cleaned and calibrated. Eibler’s grandson, also John Eibler, worked at the store and remembers the watches as “big, heavy things.” He explains, “By law they had to be cleaned regularly, whether they needed it or not, like airplanes today.”

Photograph of Ashley Street Station in 1997
as the Doughty-Law Montessori School

The station in 1997 as the Doughty-Law Montessori School.

Passenger service enjoyed a reprieve during World War II, when railroads were used extensively to transport troops. The Annie’s last passenger train ran in 1950. Freight traffic also declined after the war, as more and more shippers switched to trucks.

America’s railroads went through a wave of bankruptcies and reorganizations in the 1960s and 1970s. The former Michigan Central eventually emerged as part of Conrail, the government-backed freight line; Amtrak also uses the east-west track to carry six daily passenger trains between Detroit and Chicago.

The Ann Arbor Railroad ended up in the hands of the state government. The state still owns the northern section, which now runs only as far as Yuma, near Cadillac. In the 1980s, however, a private company bought the track from Ann Arbor to Toledo. The reconstituted Ann Arbor Railroad currently runs two daily freight trains carrying auto parts, finished autos, sand, cement, grain, lumber, produce, and agricultural products. By 1997, the only Ann Arbor stops were at Fingerle Lumber and Burt Forest Products, on Felch Street.

When passenger service ended, the Ashley Street station stood empty for a few years, then was used for short periods by various businesses: a beer distributor, a teenage nightclub, a counter shop. None lasted very long. In 1984, teacher Lyn Law bought the building for her Montessori school. Law did a sensitive remodeling, keeping the best parts of the waiting room and also restoring the original bay window. The school is now owned by Sherry Doughty, who operates under the name Doughty-Law. Doughty has done more work on the building, carefully preserving the original look.

Not all of the Annie stations fared as well. Don Wilson, of the Ann Arbor Technical and Historical Association, says at one time every town along the route had a station, but that today there are only a handful left. A few others also have found new uses: the one at Shepherd is now a museum, while Mount Pleasant’s is a microbrewery and restaurant. The advantages of saving an old building are apparent at the Doughty-Law Montessori School, where the children enjoy the railroad motif inside, while outside they climb on a slide made from an old caboose.

Orange Risdon's 1825 Map

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

Author: Grace Shackman

Michigan captured in its infancy

The U-M’s Clements Library recently received a very rare 1825 map: one of the few remaining copies of Orange Risdon’s map of southeast Michigan. “It is the first map of Michigan that shows serious surveying and settlement,” explains Brian Leigh Dunnigan, the library’s curator of maps. Risdon, best known in this area as the founder of Saline, is also famous in Michigan history as the chief surveyor of the Detroit-Chicago Road, now US-12.

Though Risdon’s surveys were done under government contract, the map was a private venture. Risdon drew it himself and paid to have it published, planning to sell copies to pioneers trying to pick out places to settle. Unfortunately for him, a former employee came out with a competing map and grabbed most of the market. But though it failed to make its creator rich, Risdon’s map today gives us a wealth of information about what our area looked like just one year after Ann Arbor was founded.

Map of the Surveyed Part of the Territory
of Michigan, 1825

Map of the Surveyed Part of the Territory of Michigan, 1825.

Officially called “Map of the Surveyed Part of the Territory of Michigan,” it measures forty-three by twenty-nine inches. It shows the area from Toledo north to Saginaw Bay and includes Washtenaw County and a corner of Jackson County.

Surveyors hired by the federal government started working in southeast Michigan when it was still a territory in 1818, since precise demarcation was a necessary prelude to selling the land. They divided the state into counties, the counties into six-mile-square townships, and the townships into square-mile (640-acre) sections. The grid allowed buyers, when they went to the land office to buy land, to clearly identify their purchase.

Although a few intrepid settlers came earlier, serious settlement in Washtenaw County did not begin until the 1820s. Ypsilanti was founded in 1823 or 1825, depending on how the city is defined. Ann Arbor, Dexter, and Dixboro were all founded in 1824.

The Risdon map, although strictly a factual document, reveals two historic transitions, one long past at the time it was published, the other still to come. The long, narrow lots Risdon mapped along the rivers in Detroit and Monroe were legacies of the French who were the state’s first white inhabitants. “They all had access to the water,” explains Dunnigan.

Risdon’s map also shows Toledo, then called Port Lawrence, as part of Michigan. Though it was indeed within Michigan Territory as defined by Congress, Ohio made a strong claim, and the issue was further muddied by years of contested surveys. The conflict briefly turned violent in the “Toledo War” of 1835 and would not finally be settled until 1836, when Michigan accepted a federal ultimatum to cede the city to Ohio in exchange for the Upper Peninsula.

The handful of roads shown all lead from Detroit to surrounding towns: one to Saginaw (now Woodward Avenue) and one to Port Huron (now Gratiot Avenue), as well as the road to present-day Chicago. Tepees mark the location of Indian settlements, but there are none in Washtenaw County (the closest ones are in Macon and Wyandotte). Near Detroit, Hamtramck has already been established; Dearborn also is there, but not under that name—Risdon calls it “Bucklin.”

The Washtenaw County shown on the map is larger than it is today, because it includes two townships that are now part of Jackson County. Ann Arbor is spelled “Ann Arbour,” which is how founders John Allen and Elisha Rumsey spelled it when they platted their 640-acre parcel the year before. Dixboro is also spelled the old-fashioned way, “Dixborough.” All of the county’s townships, with the exception of present-day Lyndon Township, are sectioned off, but none is yet named.

The map contains practical information for would-be settlers, such as the location of inns and where to register land purchases. In Washtenaw County, the only inn outside of the towns was labeled Sutton, in today’s Northfield Township. Settlers had to go to Detroit to buy property in Washtenaw County, except for those acquiring land in the southern tier of townships—today’s Manchester, Bridgewater, Saline, York, and Augusta—who were directed to Monroe.

Only five settlements are shown in Washtenaw County: besides Ann Arbour, Dixborough, and Dexter there are Ypsilanti and Woodruff’s Grove. Showing the last two as separate places adds fuel to a continuing debate between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti over which was settled first. It is clear that Ann Arbor was founded in 1824 and Ypsilanti in 1825—but Woodruff’s Grove was founded in 1823, and it was later absorbed by Ypsilanti. Saline is not shown on the map; by the time Risdon drew it he had bought the land for his own settlement, but he would not get around to laying out the town until 1832. The only marking is a salt spring nearby.

Orange Risdon was particularly well qualified to make this map, being both a trained surveyor and an early Michigan settler. Risdon was born in 1786 in Vermont and moved with his family to Saratoga County, in eastern New York, when he was three. He attended local schools until age thirteen. Afterward, according to the 1881 Chapman History of Washtenaw County, Michigan, “he was dependent on his own efforts.”

Risdon studied surveying under a Mr. Rice of Ballston Spa, New York. In 1807, when he was twenty-one, Risdon got a job assisting the noted surveyor Elisha Johnson, who had a contract to survey 100,000 acres in the new counties of Allegany and Genesee. “His duty was to carry the chain, for which he was to receive $16 per month, but scarcely a week had passed when his skill in surveying was discovered, and with the consent of the land agent, the work was divided, and his wages increased to about five times the amount of the first stipulation,” says the county history. Two years later Risdon was hired to assist in laying out the infant cities of Lockport, Brockport, and Buffalo.

During the War of 1812 he worked for the federal government as an assistant surveyor. After the war he met Sally Newland, and the couple married in 1816. Risdon bought land with his earnings, eventually owning 1,000 acres on New York’s Genesee River. Risdon resolved to move to Michigan Territory after suffering losses in the 1817 commercial crisis, but he did not arrive in Michigan until 1823, when he spent a month traveling on foot through Washtenaw and other nearby counties. He returned the next year, this time spending four months on a 2,000-mile exploring trip on horseback with Samuel Dexter. After their trip Dexter bought land on Mill Creek, just off the Huron River, and began the work of establishing the village that bears his name. Risdon bought 160 acres on the Saline River and the Indian trail that would soon become the Detroit-Chicago Road, land that would later be the nucleus of the city of Saline.

How Risdon and Dexter met is lost to history. They could have known each other from New York, since Risdon’s parents still lived in Sarasota County and Dexter resided in Athens, two counties south, or they may have met while traveling.

Their backgrounds were very different: Risdon was six years older and had been supporting himself since he was thirteen, while Dexter had both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Harvard. (Dexter’s father had served in the cabinets of both Adams and Jefferson.) But both have gone down in history as town founders who went well beyond land speculation and worked to improve their towns. They both offered free land to any church wishing to get established, and they were both abolitionists who were rumored to be part of the Underground Railroad. It is easy to imagine that they discussed these issues during their long hours of travel together.

Risdon’s reputation as a surveyor followed him to Michigan, and in the same year he bought his land he was hired to direct a survey for a road connecting Detroit and Pontiac. In fall 1824, when he must have been almost done surveying for the season, he began work on his map. From his two exploring trips, plus his surveying work, Risdon would have known much of the area firsthand, and for the rest he could rely on work done on earlier surveys.

Risdon advertised in the Detroit Gazette on October 1, 1824, seeking advance subscriptions to pay for the cost of producing the map. He promised that “the work will be put into the hands of the engraver as soon as a sufficient number of subscribers is obtained to warrant the expense of publication.”

The ad pitched the map as useful to emigrants and explorers: “The first thing necessary to an immigrant is a general knowledge of the surveyed portion of the territory, of the course of its streams and the relative situation of its different parts. The publisher, having spent some time in exploring that junction of the territory embraced in his map, will be enabled to locate the most important Indian paths, which as they were made by those who were acquainted with every part of the country will be an important guide in the future location of our roads.” Risdon promised that the map also would include Indian reservations and villages and would “embrace the lines of counties, townships, and sections, regularly numbered according to the surveys.”

Although the mapping of Michigan had been going on for six years, settlement had been slow, both because Michigan was off the beaten path (easterners going west overland were more likely to pass through Ohio and Indiana) and because the territory was rumored to be all swamp. The first problem would be solved a year later when the Erie Canal opened, making it easy for easterners to reach Buffalo, where they could board a Lake Erie steamboat for Detroit. Risdon addressed the swamp story head-on in his ad: “The country which was formerly believed to be uninhabitable excepting on the river and lake shores, abounds in lands of the most fertile and healthy description.” Even the climate, he claimed, “is particularly adapted to our eastern constitution.”

The maps were to be “engraved in an elegant style and published on Super Royal paper.” Risdon offered his map in three formats: in two sheets that could be stored flat in a drawer, for $2.50; cut into twenty-four sections and pasted on linen--so that the map could be folded without losing detail--and supplied with a leather carrying case, for $3; or varnished on rollers, perfect for land agents and lawyers who would be consulting it in their offices, also for $3. The Clements Library’s copy is of the last type.

The next year, 1825, Risdon started the job for which he is most famous: chief surveyor for the great military road from Detroit to Chicago, today known as Michigan Avenue or US-12. Work on the survey no doubt showed him features to include on the map but left him little time to work on it. He hired a helper named John Farmer, finished the map, and sent it to Rawdon, Clark, and Company in Albany, New York. On November 13 he paid them $400 for engraving the two copper plates. Five weeks later he paid to have 472 copies printed. After printing, each copy was hand painted. By the time they were ready to deliver, however, winter had shut down shipping on Lake Erie. Risdon’s subscribers had to wait until May 1826 for an announcement in the Detroit Gazette that their copies were ready.

That delay proved fatal to the map’s commercial prospects. Later in the summer of 1826, Farmer published his own rival map. It was basically the same as Risdon’s but with added details that had been learned in the interim. Farmer’s map, being more up to date, overshadowed his employer’s. “It was bad luck that Orange didn’t get the map in time to get it promptly to the subscribers,” says Brian Dunnigan. By examining both maps, Dunnigan can tell that Farmer had probably done most of the hand coloring on Risdon’s map. “John Farmer dominates after this--he becomes ‘the’ Michigan map-maker,” says Dunnigan. “He is probably the best-known Michigan mapmaker of the nineteenth century.”

Risdon moved on from the failure of his map, earning a good living as a surveyor. He surveyed at least seventy-five townships and the city of Saginaw, and he reexamined or resurveyed forty-five more townships. He continued working for the government until 1856, when he was seventy.

By then his own village was well established. In 1829 Risdon had returned to his property south of Ann Arbor and built a twelve-room house on a hill overlooking his Detroit-Chicago Road. He brought his family out from New York and began building up his new town. His house was used as Saline’s first inn, post office, general store, and polling place. Risdon himself served as postmaster and magistrate, officiating at the first marriage in the township. After Michigan became a state in 1837, he was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.

Risdon’s “advice was often sought in the selection of lands,” the county history records. “Very many miles were traveled by him to point out desirable locations, yet [he was] ever unwilling to receive a reward.” Although there is no evidence that he made any other maps, his contemporaries knew of his pioneering effort. L. D. Norris, in an address to the Washtenaw County Historical Society in 1874, said, “The first general map of the surveyed part of this territory of which I have any knowledge was published in 1825 by Orange Risdon, then and now a pioneer of Washtenaw.”

Risdon died in 1876 at age ninety, a well-regarded member of the community. “He was genial in his disposition, unselfish, benevolent, and liberal almost to a fault,” said the county history. At his funeral, “great numbers of people from neighboring towns and cities were in attendance.” His home passed to his daughter after his death. In 1948 the house was moved to Henry Street to make room for expansion of Oakwood Cemetery. Still standing, it has been divided into apartments.

The Clements copy of Risdon’s map was a gift from the Michigan Map Society, purchased to honor Frank Kerwin, a founding member of the society who recently died. The Michigan Map Society meets at the Clements and works closely with the library, so members knew that although the Clements had a large collection of Great Lakes maps, it was missing this very important one. Since Kerwin, a Grosse Pointe resident and sailor, was himself a collector of Great Lakes maps, the Risdon map, a copy of which had gone on the market, seemed a logical choice. Of the 472 copies originally printed, only thirteen are known to have survived. Kerwin lived long enough to learn of the purchase but died before the formal presentation last May.

The map society has about seventy members; most are from the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas, but some come from more distant places, such as Lansing and Grand Rapids. Although mostly amateurs, they are a very knowledgeable group; many are serious map collectors. Several of them volunteer their expertise to help the Clements staff. They meet four times a year to hear map-related lectures; including a talk by Dunnigan on his book, Frontier Metropolis: Picturing Early Detroit, 1701–1838, before it was published.

Since the Clements is a research library, people cannot just come in and casually look at Risdon’s map. “Serious researchers may study the map once they have completed our reader registration process, which is relatively simple,” explains Dunnigan. The map itself will also be exhibited from time to time, but at the moment, no public exhibition is scheduled.


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Inglis House

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, September 1990,
September 1990

Author: Grace Shackman

The U-M's elegant retreat was built with a fortune based on factory fans

At one time or another early in this century, all six children of Detroit physician Richard Inglis lived in Ann Arbor. An interesting bunch, they included Agnes, the first curator of the U-M's Labadie collection of social protest literature; Frank, a Detroit pharmacist; David, a pioneer neurologist; Will, a Detroit businessman; and Kate, who owned a fruit and chicken farm that stretched all the way from Geddes Avenue to the Huron River.

But the sibling who left the most imposing legacy was James, a wealthy industrialist. He and his wife, Elizabeth, built Inglis House, an elegant English-style mansion that since 1951 has been owned by the U-M. The university uses it to house and entertain its many visiting dignitaries in suitable style. During her fourteen-year tenure, former facilities coordinator Sandra Simms amassed a collection of thank-you notes extending from former president Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, to the exiled Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama. (An aide wrote to say that "His Holiness very much enjoyed His stay.")

The Inglises built the secluded mansion, which occupies an 8.5-acre plot at 2301 Highland Road, as a retirement home. Its formal, traditional style belies the mundane business that paid for it.

Photograph of Inglis house & front
yard

The Inglis’ stately home, designed by local architect Woody Woodburn to resemble a French Chateau, has hosted visitors ranging from Gerald and Betty Ford to the Dalai Lama.

James Inglis was ten when his father died. The family was left a legacy of $3,000 a year from real estate holdings, enough to live comfortably at that time, but James left school at age fourteen. According to family legend, it was because his mother wouldn't give him enough money to get his hair cut as often as he liked. Starting out as an office boy at $2.50 a week, Inglis advanced to become owner of American Blower Co., where he developed fans for cooling Detroit's burgeoning auto factories. The company was immensely successful and respected — so much so that during the Depression, the National Bank of Detroit asked Inglis to serve on its board to help raise public confidence in the institution.

In 1903, when he was thirty-nine, Inglis married Elizabeth Hughes, a Presbyterian minister's daughter fourteen years his junior. They moved to Ann Arbor about 1918, living originally on Baldwin Street.

They had become familiar with the town during frequent visits to Inglis's sister Kate, who had moved to the farm on Geddes with her husband, Frank Smith, in 1901. The Smiths' big white farmhouse still stands, looking much the same, at 2105 Geddes, near Concord. During the city's building boom in the 1920's, the Smiths started subdividing the farm into residential lots on what are now Highland, Concord, Lenawee, and Lafayette streets. James Inglis saved his sister the job of platting the bottom of her farm by buying the land that ran down to the river as a site for his dream home.

Architect Lilburn "Woody" Woodworth designed an English-style house of stones and irregular bricks, with a slate roof and elegant accoutrements. Though large (twelve rooms on four levels), it worked well as a family home. Inglis's niece, travel writer Carol Spicer (daughter of brother Will), remembers the house as the natural gathering place for the extended family. She recalls "lots of jokes and laughter in the house."

The gardens, designed by Elizabeth Inglis, were also quintessentially English, with a formal garden, a cutting garden, a meadow, an orchard, and wildflower areas. The grounds also included a tennis court and a three-hole golf course and even, at one time, peacocks. (They eventually had to be banished because of their noise.)

James Inglis died in 1950, leaving the house to his wife for her lifetime and then to the university. But Elizabeth Inglis did not wait that long. She gave the house to the U-M less than a year later when she moved to Kalamazoo to be with her daughter.

Elizabeth and James Inglis family seated in
front of Inglis House

Elizabeth and James Inglis (top center) with their children and grandchildren sit under the wisteria covered arches at the back of their house in 1945.

The new U-M president, Harlan Hatcher — like all incoming university presidents since — was given the choice of living in Inglis House or in the president's house on South University. In a 1982 seminar on the evolving role of the president's wife (published by the Bentley Library), Hatcher's wife, Anne, recalled thinking that "in many ways, it would have been nice, for the children particularly, to be in a neighborhood rather than in the middle of a campus with no little kids around to play with. But we really felt that it was important to maintain the central location."

Inglis House stood empty until 1964, when the university decided to use it as a guest home for important visitors and out-of-town regents. They refurbished it, filling it with a mixture of modern, traditional, and French Provincial furniture and hanging some original paintings by Courbet and Turner borrowed from the U-M art museum.

It took horticulturist Chuck Jenkins five years to restore the gardens to their former glory after fourteen years of neglect. He says he "got a good sense for the major elements" by looking at pictures and talking to Walter Stampflei, the Inglis's gardener, who still lived in the gatehouse; he also corresponded through a third party with Elizabeth Inglis, who lived until 1974.

Inglis House can accommodate forty people at a formal dinner and more for a reception or meeting. The Inglis family's unusual combination living room/dining room now serves well as a big dining room. Guests easily make do without a living room by beginning their evenings in the paneled downstairs library with hors d'oeuvre and cocktails. Carol Spicer, speaking of the house's present use, says, "If my aunt and uncle came back, they would be pleased."

Lane Hall

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

Author: Grace Shackman

From the YMCA to women's studies

If the walls of Lane Hall could talk, they might recall discussions on ethical, religious, and international topics, and distinguished visitors such as Bertrand Russell, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the Dalai Lama. The elegantly understated Georgian Colonial Revival building on the south-west corner of State and Washington has been an intellectual center for student discussions since it was built. From 1917 to 1956 all varieties of religious topics were examined; from 1964 to 1997 it changed to an international focus. In October, after a major expansion and renovation, it was rededicated as the new home for women's studies at the U-M.

Lane Hall was built in 1916-1917 by the U-M YMCA. Within a few years it came under the control of the university's Student Christian Association, which included the campus branches of both the YMCA and the YWCA. In addition to organizing traditional religious activities, SCA published a student handbook, ran a rooming service, and helped students get jobs.

Funded in part by a $60,000 gift from John D. Rockefeller, Lane Hall was named after Victor H. Lane, a law professor and former judge who was active in SCA. When it opened in 1917, students could read books on religion in the library, listen to music in the music room, meet with student pastors in individual offices, or attend functions, either in the 450-seat auditorium upstairs or the social room in the basement.

Photograph of Lane Hall when it was still
the Y.M.C.A.

Post card view of Lane Hall when it was still the Y.M.C.A.

SCA cooperated with area churches and also provided meeting places for groups that didn't have a home church, such as Chinese Christians and Baha'is. But Lane Hall is most remembered for its own nondenominational programs, which were open to all students on campus. Some, like Bible study, had an obvious religious connection, but the programs also included the Fresh Air Camp (which enlisted U-M students to serve as big brothers to neglected boys), extensive services for foreign students, and eating clubs.

Lane Hall became one of the most intellectually stimulating places on campus. "While the university was, much more than now, organized in tightly bounded disciplines and departments, our program was working with the connections between them, and particularly the ethical implications of those interconnections," recalls C. Grey Austin, who was assistant coordinator of religious affairs in the 1950s. "Religion was similarly organized in clearly defined institutions, and we were working, again, with that fascinating area in which they touch one another."

With the coming of the Great Depression, many students struggled financially. In 1932, looking for a way to save money, a local activist named Sher Quraishi (later an advocate for post-partition Pakistan) organized the Wolverine Eating Club in the basement of Lane Hall. The club's cook, Anna Panzner, recalled in a 1983 interview that they fed about 250 people three meals a day. She was assisted with the cooking by John Ragland, who later became the only black lawyer in town. About forty students helped with the prep and cleanup in exchange for free meals, while the rest paid $2.50 a week.

Lane Hall itself had trouble keeping going during the depression, often limping along without adequate staffing. Finally, in 1936, SCA gave Lane Hall to the university. The group didn't stipulate the use of the building but said they hoped it might "serve the purpose for which it was originally intended, that is, a center of religious study and activities for all students in the university." The university agreed and, while changing the name to Student Religious Association, kept and expanded the SCA programming.

The official head of Lane Hall would be a minister hired by the university, but the work was done by Edna Alber," recalls Jerry Rees, who worked there in the 1950s. "Alber ran Lane Hall like a drill sergeant," agrees Lew Towler, who was active in Lane Hall activities. "You'd try to stay on her good side."

The first university-hired director of Lane Hall was Kenneth Morgan. The high point of his tenure was a series of lectures on "The Existence and Nature of God" given by Bertrand Russell, Fulton Sheen, and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Morgan left during World War II and was replaced by Frank Littell. "He was a dynamic man who you either liked or didn't," recalls Jo Glass, who was active at Lane Hall after the war. "He made changes and left." After Littell, DeWitt C. Baldwin, who had been Lane Hall's assistant director, took over. Called "Uncle Cy" by many, he was an idealistic former missionary who also led the Lisle Fellowship, a summer program to encourage international understanding.

Although social action was important, religion as the study of the Bible was not ignored. For instance, Littell led a seminar for grad students on aspects of religion in the Old and New Testament. Participant Marilyn Mason, now a U-M music prof and the university organist, compares the seminar to a jam session, saying, "They were very open minded."

Other Lane Hall activities were just plain fun. Jerry Rees enjoyed folk dancing on Tuesday evenings in the basement social hall. Jo Glass has happy memories of the Friday afternoon teas held in the library. "You'd go to religious teas and meet people you met on Sunday, or go to international teas and meet people from other countries," she says, "but you'd go to Lane Hall and meet a mixture of everybody--all kinds of people wandered in."

Doris Reed Ramon was head of international activities at Lane Hall. She remembers that in addition to providing room for international students to meet, the building had a Muslim prayer room and space for Indian students to cook meals together. After World War II, with the campus full of returning servicemen struggling to make it on the GI Bill, a new eating co-op was organized, called the Barnaby Club. Member Russell Fuller, later pastor of Memorial Christian Church, recalls that the group hired a cook but did all the other work themselves, coming early to peel potatoes or set the table, or staying afterward to clean up.

The Lane Hall programming came to an end in 1956, when the religious office was moved to the Student Activities Building. The niche that Lane Hall held had gradually eroded as more churches established campus centers and the university founded an academic program in religious studies. Also, according to Grey Austin, there were more questions about the role of religion in a secular school. "The growing consensus was that the study of religions was okay but that experience with religion was better left to the religious organizations that ringed the campus."

In the 1960s, centers for area studies began moving into Lane Hall--Japanese studies, Chinese studies, Middle and North African studies, and South Asian and Southeast Asian studies, all of which were rising in importance during the Cold War. Many townsfolk, as well as students, remember attending stimulating brown-bag lunches on various international topics, as well as enjoying the Japanese pool garden in the lobby. During this time visitors ranged from president Gerald Ford and governor James Blanchard (who was delighted with the help the center gave him in developing trade with China) to foreign leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Bashir Gemayel, who became president of Lebanon, and famous writers such as Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz.

One of the people who passed through Lane Hall during this period was Hugo Lane, great-grandson of Victor Lane. In response to an e-mail query, Lane recalled that he had an office in Lane Hall when he worked as a graduate assistant for the East European Survey, a project of the Center for Russian and East European Studies. "Needless to say, I took great pleasure in that coincidence. . . . On those occasions when my parents visited Ann Arbor, a stop at the hall was obligatory."

The centers for area studies eventually joined the U-M International Center in the new School of Social Work building across the Diag. After they left, Lane Hall became a temporary headquarters for the School of Natural Resources and Environment while its building was renovated. Then Lane Hall was vacated for its own extensive addition and renovation.

Today, the new and improved Lane Hall is home to the U-M's Women's Studies Program and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. "It's wonderful space to the occupants, very affirming," says institute director Abby Stewart. "It feels good to be here."

The Detroit Observatory

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

Author: Grace Shackman

It launched the U-M on the path to greatness

“How can we truly be called a nation, if we cannot possess within ourselves the sources of a literary, scientific, and artistic life?” asked Henry Philip Tappan, the first president of the University of Michigan, at his inaugural address in 1852. Henry N. Walker, a prominent Detroit lawyer in the audience, was inspired by Tappan’s vision and asked what he could do to help. Tappan suggested he raise money to build an astronomical observatory.

Born into a prominent New York family, Tappan had astonished his friends by agreeing, at age forty-seven, to head what was then an obscure frontier college. The attraction for Tappan, who previously had been a minister, professor, and writer, was the chance Michigan offered to put his educational philosophy into practice—“to change the wilderness into fruitful fields,” as he put it in his inaugural address.

An adherent of the Prussian model of education, Tappan believed that universities should expand their curriculum beyond the classics to teach science and encourage research. An observatory would embody the new approach perfectly—and Walker was ideally positioned to make it a reality.

Walker was a former state attorney general who often handled railroad cases. Well connected to both intellectuals and business people in Detroit, he attracted contributors who desired to advance scientific knowledge, as well as those who were interested in astronomy’s practical uses, particularly in establishing accurate time.

Photograph of Detroit Observatory,
surrounded by open fields

The earliest known picture of the Observatory, circa 1858. The man is probably first director Franz Brunnow with his father-in-law’s dog, Leo.

Because Walker raised most of its $22,000 cost from Detroiters, the building was named the “Detroit Observatory.” Tappan originally planned to have just one telescope, a refractor, suitable for research and instruction. But Walker offered to pay for a meridian-circle telescope as well. It would be better suited for measuring the transit of the stars and thus for establishing more accurate time—a matter of vital importance to railroads, which needed to run on schedule.

The regents sited the observatory on a four-acre lot, high on a hill outside the city limits. Although only half a mile east of Central Campus, it was then considered way out in the country. In the early days it could be reached only by a footpath, and astronomers complained of the long walk.

Tappan said later that he took credit for everything about the observatory except its location, which he would have preferred be on the main campus. “It has proved an inconvenient location, and has caused much fatigue to the astronomer,” he wrote. However, the remote site probably saved it: nearly every building of its age on Central Campus has long since been torn down.

In 1853, Tappan and Walker traveled to New York to order the refracting telescope from Henry Fitz, the country’s leading telescope maker. With an objective lens twelve and five-eighths inches across, it would be the largest refractor yet built in the United States, and the third largest telescope in the world, after instruments in Pulkovo, Russia, and at Harvard.

Meridian-circle telescopes were not manufactured in the United States, so Tappan went to Europe. On the advice of Johann Encke, director of the Prussian Royal Observatory in Berlin, he ordered a brass meridian-circle telescope from Pistor and Martins, a Berlin firm.

Tappan asked several American astronomers to head the new observatory, but they all turned him down. At that point he thought of Franz Brunnow, Encke’s assistant, who had been very enthusiastic about the project. Some objected to hiring a foreigner as astronomer, but Tappan prevailed. And certainly Brunnow was eminently qualified--he was the first Ph.D. on the U-M faculty. Under his direction, Ann Arbor soon became “the place to study astronomy,” according to Patricia Whitesell, the observatory director, curator, and author of A Creation of His Own: Tappan’s Detroit Observatory. Brunnow socialized with the Tappans and in 1857 married Tappan’s daughter Rebecca.

Tappan launched many other initiatives to turn the U-M into a first-rate university. He moved the students out of the two classroom buildings, letting them board in town, to make more space for academic uses--classrooms, natural history and art museums, and library. He encouraged the growth of the medical school, started the law school, and built the first chemistry laboratory in the country to be used exclusively for research and teaching. Under his leadership, the U-M granted its first bachelor of science degrees in 1855, its first graduate degrees in 1859, and its first civil engineering degrees in 1860.

But Tappan also made enemies--people who found his changes too precipitous or his manner too haughty. In 1863, Tappan was fired in a surprise vote by a lame-duck board of regents. Tappan moved his family to Europe, never to return; he died in Switzerland in 1881. Fortunately, his successors continued on the course he’d set, securing the U-M’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading universities.

Brunnow resigned after Tappan was fired; his star student, James Craig Watson, succeeded him. During Watson’s tenure, a director’s house was built west of the observatory.

Photograph of Detroit Observatory &
director's house

The Observatory with the director’s house on the west side. While Brunnow was able to live in the president’s house, Watson, the next director, needed a home, so one was built that connected to his office in the Observatory.

In 1908 an addition was built to the east to hold a thirty-seven-inch reflector telescope. But as the campus grew out to the observatory, lights from the power plant (1914) and from the Ann Street hospital and Couzens Hall (both 1925) interfered with viewing. Over the decades that followed, the astronomy department transferred its serious research to a series of increasingly remote locations (currently Arizona and Chile). But the old observatory continued to be used for educational purposes until 1963, when the Dennison physics and astronomy building was completed.

In the tight-budget 1970s, there was talk of bulldozing the observatory. After World War II, the director’s house had been torn down to make room for an expansion of Couzens Hall, and the 1908 addition was razed in 1976, when the university decided it was too run down to maintain. But the original observatory was saved—though the rescue took a three-part campaign lasting close to thirty years.

Step one took place in the early 1970s, when a group of local preservationists led by John Hathaway, then chair of the Historic District Commission, and Dr. Hazel Losh, legendary U-M astronomy professor, convinced the university to give it a stay of execution.

Next, enter history professors Nick and Peg Steneck, who were called in by Al Hiltner, then chair of the astronomy department, and Orren Mohler, the former chair. Peg Steneck remembers that on her first tour of the building, “squatters were gaining access by climbing the chestnut tree out front and entering through the trapdoor in the roof. Evidence of occupancy, such as mattresses and Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes, littered the dome room, and a mural was painted around the wall of the dome.”

Nick Steneck tried to keep the building in use, setting up his office there, teaching classes, and using the upper level for the Collegiate Institute for Values in Science. Peg Steneck started research on the observatory’s history, which grew into a course she still teaches on the history of the university. Under the Stenecks’ prodding, the university took steps to stop the deterioration, fixing the roof, masonry foundation, and stucco.

Step three took place in 1994, when the university history and traditions committee asked vice president for research Homer Neal to restore the observatory. Neal assigned Whitesell, who was working in his office, to write a proposal, which she happily did, starting with Peg Steneck’s research.

Whitesell had a Ph.D. in higher education, was interested in both historic preservation and the history of science, and had long admired the observatory. Her new assignment, she says, “was a dream come true.” Neal agreed to the restoration and appointed Whitesell project manager.

Like the original construction, the million-dollar project, spearheaded enthusiastically by Anne and Jim Duderstadt, was paid for by gifts from private donors. The work began in June 1997 and was completed a year and a half later.
The university’s first total restoration project, the observatory has a lot of “first” and “only” distinctions. It is the oldest unaltered observatory in America that has its original instruments intact, in their original mounts, and operational. The meridian-circle telescope is the oldest in its original mount in the entire world. The building is the second oldest on campus (next to the president’s house) and the oldest unaltered one.

Restored, the observatory serves both as a museum of astronomical history and as a location for many academic events.

Red Howard, small-town cop

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

Author: Grace Shackman

Tough and outgoing, he embodied the AAPD for forty years

Sam Schlecht still remembers a run-in he had with Ann Arbor policeman Red Howard in the 1920s. On a Halloween night, when Schlecht was about ten, he and a buddy played a prank on a neighbor. “We took a couple of big garbage cans and dumped them on the porch,” Schlecht recalls. This act was evidently witnessed, because they had run only a couple of blocks before they were overtaken by Howard, driving the Police Department’s red Buick touring car.

The boys confessed to the crime. “I wasn’t going to lie, because if it got back to my grandmother I would really be up a creek,” Schlecht recalls. Howard told them he was taking them in. After driving toward the police station long enough to make them thoroughly frightened, Howard turned back to the scene of the crime, where he set them to work cleaning up the porch. Schlecht, of course, never performed that act of vandalism again.

When Red Howard joined the police in 1907, Ann Arbor was a town of about 14,000 people. Though the city grew several fold during his forty years on the force, he always remained a small-town cop. He handled wrongdoers more like a strict parent than a legal functionary. “The word was that Red never arrested anyone, but he did more good than anyone else,” recalls Warren Staebler. “A good licking down did more good than fining.”

A big man, six feet two inches and of impressive girth, Howard kept order more by his commanding presence than by his billy club or gun. Although he never advanced beyond the rank of sergeant, he embodied the department to Ann Arborites of his era. People still remember him vividly fifty years after his death.

To Howard, what we now call “community policing” was second nature. He “would walk up and talk to anyone,” recalls Bob Kuhn, who lived on Catherine Street. “He was super to kids,” remembers Mary Schlecht. “Everyone liked him,” agrees Jim Crawford, former head of the Black Elks. On good terms with the Main Street merchants, he was equally comfortable in the rougher bar areas. “No one scared him,” says his daughter, Roseanna Ingram.

As Sam Schlecht found, Howard often acted as judge and jury as well as policeman. When Dick Tasch was a U-M freshman, he and some classmates printed up broadsides taunting the sophomore class and pasted them surreptitiously on State Street buildings. “One night, about one a.m., we put a whole bunch at Goldman Cleaners and Quarry Drugs,” Tasch remembers, “and were going around the corner when there was Red Howard standing. We took off running.”

A local boy, Tasch was able to duck out of sight and escape, but the others were caught. Tasch drove by later and found his classmates carrying pails and scrub brushes, cleaning up. “You didn’t go to court,” Tasch recalls. “He’d punish you on the job.”

Though overweight and a heavy smoker, Howard could outrun most criminals. He kept his strength up his whole career. Duane Bauer, who joined the force the year before Howard retired, remembers an incident at Michigan Stadium when two drunks were creating a disturbance down by the field. “Red took both by the neck and took them up seventy-two steps. He was a powerful man.”

Before and after football games, Howard also directed traffic at the corner of State and Packard. When people asked if he wasn’t scared of being run over, he’d reply, “If they hit me, they’ll get a big grease spot.” Not surprisingly, he made a big impression on out-of-towners. Bauer, who took over that intersection after Howard retired, recalls, “More people wanted to know what happened to big old Red.”

Howard’s real first name was Marland; he got the nickname Red as a schoolboy because of the color of his hair. He was born in 1878 in Saline, the son of an Irish produce merchant, and grew up on Hiscock Street in Ann Arbor.

At the time, half the town was of German descent. Howard learned to speak the language from other kids in the neighborhood. (“He could rattle off German like anything,” his daughter remembers.) He was often called the German-Irish cop, because he always lived in German neighborhoods and enjoyed German beer and German food.

Howard quit school when he was eleven and worked at a grocery store and then at Godfrey Moving (he was a relative of owner Dana Creal) before joining the police. He married Rose Galligan of Northfield Township in 1903, and they lived at 410 West Washington, where the Y now stands. Along with their own four children, the Howards usually had other relatives living with them.

Howard’s personal life mirrored his police style. He was warm and loving, but also strict. He told his sons, “If you get arrested and go to jail, don’t call me.” He kept a careful eye on his girls. “I couldn’t do anything that wouldn’t get back to him,” recalls Ingram. His granddaughter Joan Dwyer Hume, who also lived in the house, recalls that Howard checked out all her boyfriends to make sure they didn’t have police records. But Hume also has wonderful memories of walking home from St. Thomas School when Howard was walking his beat on Huron Street. He’d watch for her so that he could take Hume and her friends to Candy Land for ice cream.

In 1937, after thirty years of service and completion of a training course on new police methods, Howard was promoted to sergeant. “Even after he was a sergeant, he’d still go out on the beat because he loved it,” recalls Ingram. “He went down to Main Street, where everyone knew him and thought he was the greatest. He didn’t give two hoots for an office.”

Howard’s personality and seniority won the respect of his fellow officers (there were eight when he started, more than forty by the time he retired). “He was the only policeman who could bring a bottle of beer with his lunch,” Bauer remembers. John Walter, who joined the police the same year as Bauer, recalls that they called Howard “Pappy” because he was the oldest man on the force. “He was a joyful guy,” says Walter. “We kidded him an awful lot. He took it and gave it back.”

Howard didn’t retire until he was sixty-nine. “All I ever wanted to do was police work,” he told Ingram. “I loved every minute.” His family held a huge retirement party in his honor. Afterward, Howard spent more time at his cottage on Crooked Lake. He loved to fish, and had a boat that was specially built to hold his weight.
In declining health, he also spent time in the hospital. Ingram and Hume remember coming to visit him and finding three clergymen sitting at his bedside: the ministers from Zion and Bethlehem, and Father Carey from St. Thomas. They were discussing fishing.

Howard died of lung cancer in 1948, just a year after he retired. His funeral was held at St. Thomas with police chief Casper Enkemann and judge Jay Paine among the pallbearers. “When he passed, we learned a lot,” his daughter recalls. “It was such a big funeral. Police came from out of town, firemen, and people he helped. He made an impression. He had more friends than he ever knew.”


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The Anna Bach Home on West Liberty

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, December 1983,
December 1983

Author: Grace Shackman and Mary Hunt

Looking like a yellow stucco Italian villa of neoclassical design, the Anna Botsford Bach Home stands on the very crest of the long hill Liberty Street climbs on its way from town. Between it and downtown are suburban streets of the 1920's, but after it, Liberty takes on an air that is even today rather rural.

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