When Ann Street Reigned Supreme

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

Author: Susan Wineberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Christmas Past: Holiday Displays Downtown

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

Author: Grace Shackman

As recently as the 1950s, the imposing line of storefronts along South Main Street was relieved by a peaceful patch of lawn and a handsome Greek Revival house. It was the home of shopkeeper Bertha Muehlig, and the site of a fondly remembered holiday display. Every year, Muehlig, owner of Muehlig's dry goods, worked with the Chamber of Commerce to set up a Nativity scene in her front yard.

Muehlig's home and creche are often mentioned when longtime Ann Arborites recall Christmas shopping downtown in the pre-mall era. Fay Muehlig, Bertha Muehlig's niece by marriage, remembers "a baby in a little crib with Mary and Joseph, two or three feet high." After Bertha died in 1955, the Nativity scene was put up in front of the courthouse on the comer of Huron and Main for a few years—until concerns about the separation of church and state ended religious displays on public property.

For most of this century. Main Street was lined with department stores that mounted special window displays to entertain holiday shoppers. Old-timers recall being especially enthralled by the moving displays: a revolving tree in Mack and Company's window, a Shirley Temple doll playing the organ at Goody ear's, and an electric train going around and around in the window of Muehlig and Lanphear's hardware store (co-owner Edward Muehlig was Bertha Muehlig's brother).

Mack and Company, on the comer of Liberty and Main, was the premier department store in Ann Arbor before the Depression. Former employee Mabel Sager remembers that the store's buyers would "go to New York and Chicago and buy real nice stuff for Christmas." The late Edith Staebler Kempft remembered in a 1982 interview that the store always had a live Christmas tree. 'They had a large music box imported from Germany," she said. "They put the tree in the middle. When the music was on, the tree moved. You could see it from the Liberty Street entrance." Helen Schmid remembers a Santa who roamed around the store, talking to children about what they wanted for Christmas.

On the other side of Main Street, Muehlig and Lanphear's hardware store would set up its electric train. "Kids would have their noses up to the window," Marian Zwinch remembers. "Trains were out of the range of most people's pocketbooks." Fay Muehlig agrees, remembering that it wasn't unusual to get "an engine one Christmas and a passenger car or freight car the next."

Goodyear's, located in the next block of Main between Washington and Huron, eventually replaced Mack and Company as the most prominent downtown department store. In the 1950s, it was the first store to introduce free gift wrapping at
Christmas. "We hired young girls who sang carols as they wrapped," former Goodyear's manager Donna Moran recalls. "They were from the high school a cappella choir and wore cute little outfits." Their performance was a big hit, with long
lines, but after a few years they discontinued the singing because "it interfered with the wrapping," Moran recalls. "It was hard to sing and listen to what kind of paper the customer wanted."

On Kids Night, former Goodyear's employee Jean Brumley remembers, "We set up the cafeteria with different items, all low prices that the kids could buy for their parents. The mothers would bring them in and then go off."

For years, a highlight of the holiday season was seeing and hearing the doll in Goodyear's window "play" Christmas music on a pipe organ. "We always watched to see when they would put it in," Fay Muehlig remembers. "It was a fixture of Christmas." Speakers piped the music outside for passersby.

—Grace Shackman

"Watch out! Here I come!"

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

Author: Grace Shackman

When kids could sled down city streets all winter long

Sledding down the middle of city streets? No parents in their right mind would let their children do that today, but in the 1920s and 1930s it was done with the blessing of the city. Every neighborhood had at least one steep street blocked off for sledding, and often there were several within walking distance.

"Oh, it was fun, really fun," recalls Walter Metzger, who sledded on three such streets: Koch from Third to Main, Division from Packard to Hill, and Eighth from Washington to Liberty. "The city blocked the streets with a big long [saw] horse. They also blocked the side streets, but they'd leave room for the residents to drive through. It was very safe. I never remember anybody having an accident with a car."

Al Gallup, who sledded down Highland and Awixa, recalls that the city brought out a sawhorse at the beginning of the season and left it at the side of the road except when the kids were actually sledding. Hills on Broadway and Felch were popular spots. Bob Ryan, who lived on Longshore, used to sled from the top of his street clear down to Argo Pond and, if possible, right out onto the frozen water. "There was no traffic," he recalls. "The only house was Mr. Saunders's of the canoe livery, and he knew to be careful [when driving]."

If there were no sawhorses, one of the kids would stand guard at potentially dangerous intersections, warning sledders when they needed to stop. Braking was done by dragging feet, swerving onto lawns, or, if all else failed, jumping off just before a collision. Harlan Otto, who used to slide down Koch Street, remembers they didn't necessarily stop even at Main. "We'd have someone at the bottom [of Koch] to look out. One time we went down and around the comer on Main all the way to Madison."

Flexible Flyers were the sleds of choice because "you could steer them," explains Coleman Jewett. "Others you had to lean on to guide." Brad Stevens recalls that Flexible Flyers came in different lengths: "The longer it was, the more prestigious." John Hathaway recalls that his Flexible Flyer (which he still has hanging in his garage) was purchased at Hertler's, and that as a special deal the Hertler brothers cut him a piece of rope to tie on the front.

"Not many had sleds," recalls Otto, so "we used to ride double. The bigger kids would get on the bottom and the little on top." Kids sometimes went down a hill on a number of sleds chained together, sticking their toes between the opening where the sled was steered. Occasional mishaps occurred, but the victims all lived to tell the tale.

Larger groups of kids rode on toboggans and bobsleds, the latter often homemade. Hathaway recalls that the bobsleds went a lot faster and could be dangerous if you left a limb dangling. Jewett says that a family in his neighborhood, the Bakers, had a toboggan that held twelve or fourteen kids. "It was fun. Just don't sit in front or back," he warns.

Sometimes kids would enhance their sledding routes by pouring water in the tracks. Metzger recalls that "Bob Muehlig used to take buckets of water and pour it on the curb to make runs for a bobsled." Ryan remembers pouring water on Longshore in new snow so toboggan tracks would freeze at night. "We'd go like the gun the next morning," he recalls.

The kids would come home sopping wet after sledding. "We all had coal furnaces with registers on the floor. We'd take off our clothes to dry off," Metzger recalls. "The adults hated the cold and snow, but kids loved it," says Jewett. That part is probably the same today.

—Grace Shackman

Photo Caption: John Hathaway still has the Flexible Flyer his parents bought at Hertler's.

The Lost Street Names of Ann Arbor

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, July 2002,
July 2002

Author: Don Callard

The phantom subdivision on North Main, the fate of Thirteenth Street, and how Hanover Square became a triangle

(Click here for a complete list of current street names and their former names.)

Every morning residents of Ann Arbor leave their homes on Mann Street and Israel Avenue, drive to work along Chubb Road or Grove Street, and look for a place to park on Bowery or Twelfth (there's no parking on Thirteenth). University students bike to class on Orleans or Denton, while recycling trucks pick up newspapers and wine bottles on Buchanan and Lulu's Court. Don't reach for a map! We're talking about the lost street names of Ann Arbor.

It happens in every town. Through the years old names lose their charm, newer developers and officials are rewarded, and various city services complain about confusing addresses. Small streets are swallowed up by bigger ones, names disappear only to reappear across town, and some "streets" linger on maps for years before finally being revealed to have been no more than gleams in a would-be developer's eye.

Thirteenth Street?
Numbered streets have led a confused life here. John Allen started us off right in his 1824 plat, showing north-south streets neatly numbered from First on the west to Fifth on the east, with Main Street an alternate name for Third. But when William S. Maynard platted what is today the Old West Side in the 1840s, he created a dizzying mirror image. Starting from Allen's First Street, Maynard numbered his north-south streets from east to west. Old maps and directories show these were usually called West Second, and so on, but First belonged to east and west alike. According to 0. W. Stephenson's 1927 history Ann Arbor: The First Hundred Years, Maynard later asked that the original Fourth and Fifth streets be redesignated as avenues, and so they remain today.

Among the west side's numbered streets, Seventh stands out for both its length (more than two miles, from Miller to Scio Church and beyond)and the startling jog it takes as it crosses Huron. Both reflect its growth in the years following Maynard's original plat. Originally the stretch from West Liberty to West Huron was named Jewett Street, while the dogleg continuing north to Miller was Mann Street, named for the family of Jonathan Henry Mann, the patriarch of the Old West Side's German community. Jewett and Mann were both absorbed into Seventh after being connected up with the original portion south of Liberty in 1891.

In other towns "streets" and "avenues" run perpendicular to one another. Ann Arbor has never accepted that distinction. For a while Huron Street had a south-side parallel named Huron Avenue. Generations of visitors have had cause to be grateful that its name was changed in the 1870s to honor multifaceted local entrepreneur George D. Hill.

Some streets have lost their numbers over the years. In 1889 Allen's Second Street was renamed Ashley, in honor of the Ohio congressman and Montana Territory governor whose Toledo and Ann Arbor Railway Depot was on that street. Ashley had sent his son to the U-M and liked this town so well he moved here himself, building the railroad to circumvent travel through Detroit (and, ultimately, to link Appalachian coal mines with the iron and copper smelters of Lake Superior).

Mulholland Avenue made its debut in the 1928 city directory as "formerly a part of Sixth." The recent creation of the Bach School playground, according to local historian Grace Shackman, had prevented the north and south parts of Sixth Street from connecting, and evidently made the shared name seem dispensable.

The numbering story doesn't end there, however. Developers north of the U-M Central Campus thought it would be a good idea to continue eastward with numbered streets. From Fifth they counted past six streets (including Division and State) and began with Twelfth!

Perhaps the two-digit numbers just seemed too ambitious for a small nineteenth-century town. In any case, not one survived. Twelfth eventually turned into Fletcher, while Thirteenth (which had previously been named Pitcher) is now known as Glen Avenue. Parts of Fourteenth, meanwhile, have subsequently been known by five different names. It was renamed North Forest, then Grant, and then Washte-naw, after that street--which at the time doubled as US-23--was reconfigured to bypass Central Campus.

North of Huron a two-block stub of Fourteenth survived as Washtenaw Place. It was recently renamed Zina Pitcher Place--honoring the same early U-M medical professor for whom Thirteenth had been named in the first place.

North, South, and Middle Ypsilanti
Washtenaw Avenue didn't exist on Allen's original map. The first hint of it appears on an 1836 (precampus) plat that shows Washington Street bending southeastward at its eastern tip. According to Lela Duff's 1962 collection Ann Arbor Yesterdays, a street that we today would recognize as Washtenaw appears on an 1859 map as "Middle Ypsilanti Road."

In the 1860-1861 directory, a number of people are to be found on Ypsilanti Street. This must have been today's North University, which also connected--by way of Geddes Road--to our eastern neighbor. Later directories refer to both Ypsilanti Road and North Ypsilanti Road.

The middle route to Ypsilanti eventually became Washtenaw Avenue. For many years the growing thoroughfare shared its name with Washtenaw Street, a modest two-block affair north of the river near Pontiac Trail. Washtenaw Street was renamed Wright Street in 1889.

There is also a reference in Charles C. Chapman & Company's 1881 History of Washtenaw County, Michigan, to a Manual Labor School "on the south Ypsilanti road" at "what is known as the Eberbach place." The driveway to Christian Eberbach's still-standing Italianate jewel has become Woodlawn Avenue--off the street we know today as Packard.

Initially Packard was just three blocks long: it began at South Main and ended at Hanover Square. South Ypsilanti Road headed southeast from the square. The square was eventually truncated to ease traffic, leaving only a slight bend to mark its earlier history. (Hanover Square's name survives to designate what is now a grassy triangular park at the intersection of Packard and Division; the folded-metal Book sculpture came to rest there.) South Ypsilanti Road was renamed Grove Street before finally yielding to the logic of continuity. It's now Packard all the way to Ypsilanti--where it becomes Cross Street.

The names of other arteries also advanced outward as the city grew. The section of Main Street north of Depot was known as Plank Road for much of the nineteenth century. Built with split logs and planed lumber, plank roads were promoted by local merchants to bring supplies through the mud of Michigan's undrained southern plateau. South of Madison, Main was known at different times as South Plank and Saline Road. Fees were collected at a tollgate for maintaining the route to Saline.

For Pontiac Trail that process worked in reverse. Originally Pontiac came all the way in to Main Street, but in 1889 the part south of the river was renamed Beakes to honor Samuel Beakes, the Ann Arbor Argus publisher, who became our youngest mayor at age twenty-seven. At Main Beakes converges with Kingsley, named for the city's most tireless nineteenth-century promoter. Kingsley was originally North Street, so named because it was the northernmost street in John Allen and Elisha Rumsey's original plat.

Campus and beyond
Nothing expands like a university. Clark, Hickory, and Oak streets have been swallowed up by the Medical Center. Haven Avenue, Belser Street, and College Street are now walkways at best.

Two large purchases east of the original village were made by the Ann Arbor Land Company in the 1830s. The company gave forty acres to lure the young U-M here from Detroit, counting on its presence to increase the value of the company's remaining holdings. One can deduce the success of that strategy by observing that a list of the company's trustees (Thompson, Maynard, Ingalls, Thayer, and so on) is a virtual directory of campus-area streets. Much has happened to these names over the years, though.

In 1856 South Thayer connected the campus to today's Hill Street. It eventually was absorbed by Oakland Street (now Oakland Avenue) and lost its first block when the Law Quad was built in the late 1920s.

Today's Tappan started out as Denton (named after a medical professor and legislator), was then called South Ingalls, and was finally given its current name, the newer part below Hill having already been so designated to honor the dynamic university president who fell afoul of his regents.

In 1892 Thayer, Ingalls, and East University all made surprise appearances south of Packard, ending around a square known as Hamilton Park (later Ferry Park, now carved into house lots). Those segments today are known as White Street, Sheehan Avenue, and Golden Avenue. The park's north boundary, North Park Place, has since become part of Granger Avenue. Rose Avenue, the south boundary, has kept its name, but Oakwood Place, later cut across the park, was changed in 1956 to Sycamore Place by someone obviously hoping to discourage squirrels.

Thayer survived north of campus, but even there it lost a block when the Carnegie Library (the Ann Arbor District Library's predecessor) was appended to the back of Ann Arbor High School in the early twentieth century. (After what is now Pioneer High was built in the 1950s, the U-M bought the old school and renamed it the Frieze Building.) Similarly, when the Rackham Building was constructed in the 1930s, it cut off a block of Ingalls. The isolated block of Thayer between Washington and North University survives, but the southward extension of Ingalls was transformed in the 1980s into a handsome pedestrian mall of flowers and fountains enjoyed by concertgoers and by university staff eating lunch.

Church Street south of Hill was known as Wood in 1888. The north block had been the site of Benjamin Church's "mill stick" shop. North University Court off Observatory was once part of Volland Street, which angled over to Washtenaw. For a while Observatory south of Volland was called Forest Hill Avenue, and the first blocks of Geddes leading up to it were Cemetery Street.

Chauncey Millen, dry goods merchant and tax collector, built a "spectacular" home, later replaced by an equally impressive fraternity/sorority house, on the corner of Hill and Washtenaw. The stand of trees behind it brought about the name Forest Avenue, whose extension south of Hill was called White Street (and even White Forest Street!) until 1898.

Cambridge Road had three other names. The curving part between Forest and Lincoln (Millen) was called Israel Avenue, named along with the present Olivia Street for the area's landowners and plat makers, Israel and Olivia Hall. The straight east-west part of Cambridge Road was Hubbard Street in the 1880s and 1890s, while the part north of Washtenaw was known as New Jersey Avenue.

The Halls laid Israel Avenue across the old county fairgrounds, which had been shifted a few blocks away to Burns Park. Ever widening city limits then forced the grounds to move to Vets Park (occasioning the nearby street name Fairview) and finally to Ann Arbor-Saline Road.

South University east of campus was originally Orleans Street--not a bad name for a street famed for art fairs and annual streaks!

Chubb Road and Lulu's Court
Beginning in the 1820s, Harvey Chubb traveled from his farm into town along the ridge of Buttercup Hill. His route soon began to be called Chubb Road (and, briefly, Hiscock's Road and Osborne Road). Later Chubb was inspired to seek office, becoming Ann Arbor Township supervisor in 1831 and then a representative in the 1846 and 1847 state legislatures. You'd think his public service would have kept the name going, but in 1927 it was changed to Sunset Road. (At least it's on the sunset side of town, which is more than you can say for Sunrise Court; located off Miller on the northwest side, it was called Dawn on the 1931 Sanborn fire insurance map.) Chubb Road descended treacherously to Main, but that section was discontinued when the Toledo and Ann Arbor Railroad was built along the escarpment.

Running southward from Chubb Road was one of Ann Arbor's two Grove streets. Later, because of its approximate alignment, it was called North First. Finally, in 1918, it was renamed Daniel Street, after the same farmer and supervisor whose surname, Hiscock, remains with us in a nearby street of that name.

Between Daniel and Spring was Walnut Street, changed after four years in 1940 to Pardon Street, that name lasting until 1974 without a resident. It lies buried now under the grass and trees of lower Hunt Park.

Tiny Lulu's Court off West Summit was gentrified to Hillcrest in 1946. West Summit itself had been High Street until the 1880s, when the downtown part was connected across the tracks and up the hill. (High Street's name subsequently reappeared between State and Division, claiming two blocks that originally had been the western tip of Fuller.)

South of Summit, Miller Avenue reached outward toward Dexter. As it passed nearby farms, side streets were created. Foster Road headed north to the river, where Samuel W. Foster of Dexter had built a mill. The village of Foster (called Foster's Station when it became the railroad's first stop out of town) was later renamed Newport, so in 1926 the rolling lane was changed to Newport Road. A short block's worth leading down to the river from Maple and Newport was left behind to remind us of Foster's enterprise.

Lower Town, Upper Town
There have been alterations to the face of Lower Town, but it is possible, by comparing maps and directories, to guess which old streets in the neighborhood just north of the Broadway Bridge have become our modern ones. Moore was Brown Street, named for Anson Brown, the speculator who assigned New York financial district names (Wall Street, Maiden Lane, Canal Street, Broadway) as talismans against the impending Panic of 1837. His Broadway structure, now the St. Vincent de Paul store, is the oldest surviving commercial building in Ann Arbor.

From 1925 to 1933 Longshore Drive between Swift and Barton Drive was called North Boulevard. Its first blocks, east of the right-angle turn, existed as Cedar Street until 1937. Also in 1937. Jones Drive went from a short, stubby street to a longer, winding one when it absorbed Mill Street, named for at least one mill on Traver Creek. A second Mill Street in Lower Town had been changed in 1892 to Swift, possibly in honor of Franklin Swift or his son John, both mill owners.

California Avenue existed from 1917 until 1927. After three years in limbo at rural delivery route 1, its residents found their addresses changed to the more impressive-sounding Barton Shore Drive.

Bowery Street may have been a bit of New York outside Lower Town, or oak-bowered as hinted at by Lela Duff in Ann Arbor Yesterdays, or named for Bowers, the original plat owner. It lasted under that name until 1887, when it surrendered to its own eastern extension, Lawrence. Judge Edwin Lawrence owned a home on Kingsley and other surrounding property. His wife, Sybil (Fuller), and children Mary, Edwin, and John all had streets of their own south of Packard, thanks to son John, an attorney who had bought and platted the addition. (Edwin Street later became part of Hoover; the others survive.) Fuller Road was given that name by John in honor of his mother's family.

A Page Street conundrum exists in this part of town, originally purchased by Caleb Ormsby and David Page. Early maps and bird's-eye views show a street running north from North Street (Kingsley) across Fuller (High) down to the railroad terminal. At first both blocks were called Page, but later that name applied only to the north part, which was all that was described in the directories.

Ninety years later, in the 1940s and 1950s, the Kingsley-to-High section was called Paige Street. It remains as an alley, but the original north part has vanished from its improbable terrain.

The area across the tracks from the Amtrak station that is now a parking lot and Michigan Consolidated Gas property was once a plat of streets where workers lived. Railroad and River streets, and the riverside extensions of Fourth and Fifth avenues, were condemned by the city because they had become an illegal dumping ground, according to Stephenson's Ann Arbor: The First Hundred Years.

West Side, Old and New
When William S. Maynard platted a west-side addition in 1846, its northern boundary was Eber White Road, named for the farmer whose residence it passed. But that road happened to be an extension of Liberty Street, so it became West Liberty. (The 1860-1861 directory shows that White himself called it South Liberty, the bend at the tracks probably marking the West-South change.) The old man's name resurfaced in Eber White (later Eberwhite) Boulevard.

The southern fork of West Huron, now called Jackson Road, was Territorial Road when pastor Frederick Schmid's first German-language Lutheran service was held there in 1833.

Crest south of Liberty was Buchanan Avenue until 1940, but only to Elder Boulevard, which made a south turn, curving west past Soule. Crest has since claimed the first block of that turn, and Lutz has gotten the rest, leaving Elder Boulevard as a single paved block and a few hundred unpaved feet east of Eberwhite. Hazel and Laurel Drives wriggled their way south of West Liberty between Ridgemor and Soule before World War II but disappeared when Zion Lutheran's construction began. Ridgemor itself has shifted to the other side of the church as a private drive.

In the 1940s the Mount Pleasant branch of Eberwhite Boulevard was magically skipped southward across Stadium Boulevard, where it reached to Valley Street. That block is now Woodland Drive, and Valley is part of Glen Leven Road. Kirtland Drive was going to be called Mount Vernon, but that name didn't get past the planning stage. South of Glen Leven is Normandy Road, previously called Norlar Avenue. And Pauline Boulevard, now named after west-side worthy Pauline Allmendinger, was originally West Street.

In 1927 Arbor Drive was changed to Allen Drive, finally memorializing our co-founder. Arbana Drive spent its first four years as Urbana Drive, changing in 1931.

Just west of the former county fairgrounds (now Veterans Park) was Arbor Glen Drive, continued northward by Outer Drive. The former became Maple Road in 1935, and that name overtook the latter a few years later. Beyond Outer Drive was Calvin Street, still there, but beyond it were Warren Avenue and Woodrow Street, both victims of M-14 and its ramp off Miller.

Lakewood Subdivision off Jackson Road between Bethlehem Cemetery and the Sister lakes has undergone name changes calculated to reinforce its watery image. Park Avenue has become Parklake, Grace Avenue is now Gralake, and Highland Avenue is Highlake. Andrea Court was Dolph, which mysteriously slipped south as a connection between Central and Sunnywood, which was earlier called Sunset Drive.

Lost forever?
The 1860-1861 directory records that Charles Besimer, a cooper who worked in Israel Mowry's shop opposite the Michigan Central Depot, resided in Shin Bone Alley, a street appearing on no map and in no other directory. Unless it lives in a local memory or can someday be excavated from a newspaper or diary, this colorful name may be lost forever.

Northfield Road must still exist in Lower Town, but where? Sarah Ann Raub advertised her skills as a fortune-teller there in 1856, next door to "Squire Chase," according to Stephenson's history. Its sole resident in 1860 was constable William H. Mclntyre.

An entire phantom subdivision appeared on maps from 1864 and in directories during the 1880s and 1890s. Center, Summer, Oak, South, Lincoln, and Hamlin streets were laid out east of St. Thomas Cemetery on Chubb Road (now Sunset). The entrance to the black Elks lodge may have been Lincoln Street, continuing as a parking lot behind the lodge. Three of the streets supposedly ran east down the bluff to North Main--highly improbable, given the steep topography.

No residents were ever listed on any of the streets, and the whole enterprise faded away. It was last shown on maps in 1915, and the entire area is now part of the city's Bluffs Park. If any doubt still lingered, it now may be said definitively that Summer, Oak, and Hamlin streets will never be built.

So many different forces brought about all these changes that it seems unlikely the evolution will stop. Undoubtedly some future Ann Arborite will bring up an old 2002 map or city directory on a screen and marvel at the unfamiliar, ever growing lost street names of Ann Arbor.


[Photo caption from original print edition]: (Top of page) A nineteenth-century view of Ann Arbor from Chubb Road—today's Sunset Road. (Map, center) Jewett once linked Liberty and Huron; like Mann, which continued north from Huron to Miller, it was eventually subsumed into Seventh. (Above) Glen Avenue, previously known as Thirteenth Street.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: A century ago, the interurban railroad cut diagonally across Hanover Square on its way to Ypsilanti (above). The area south of Packard became Perry School. The other triangle is now the city's Hanover Square Park.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: Never built, this phantom subdivision between St. Thomas Cemetery and N. Main survived on local maps for more than fifty years. Today the area is part of the city's Bluffs Park.

A Tale of Two Lakes

Published In:
Community Observer,
2004-current

Author: Grace Shackman

Side by side, separate resorts catered to blacks and whites.

People once came from all over southeastern Michigan to play golf, dance, swim, and fish at two resorts on neighboring lakes north of Chelsea. But the guests rarely mingled, because one group was white and the other was black.

415 West Washington

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

Author: Grace Shackman

The garage at the center of the greenway debate

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

The Buried History of Barton Hills

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, June 2005,
June 2005

Author: Grace Shackman and Lois Kane

Ann Arbor's first suburb recalls the golden age of landscape architecture.

Barton Hills Village is a 140-home enclave set on rolling hills between the Huron River and Whitmore Lake Road. Ann Arbor's first suburb was a financial dis­aster for its developers, but a century af­ter it was conceived, it remains a master­piece of the landscaper's art. Designed by the Olmsted Brothers, whose father created New York's Central Park, it was carefully planned to preserve and em­phasize the land's natural forms. Today, its winding lanes and thoughtfully sited homes recall a moment in American his­tory when landscape architecture was an important cultural force.

Apparently, the area has always been recognized as special. In 1998 a builder working on a new home uncovered human remains at a site on Barton Shore Drive. He called the Washtenaw County sheriff's office, which called the U-M Museum of Anthropology. Archae­ologist John O'Shea came to investigate.

In a subsequent talk to Barton Hills residents, O'Shea recalled that he and his colleagues at first doubted whether the site was of archaeological interest: the remains seemed too fresh, and the bones seemed too long to be pre­historic. But further analysis of the bones, soil, and arti­facts established that the first recorded person at the site of what is now Barton Hills was a tall, slim young woman who lived more than 1,000 years ago. She must have been something of an aristocrat, because when she died, she was buried in a stone-lined grave instead of being left ex­posed to birds, insects, and weather, the usual practice at the time.

Even after white settlers cleared the trees from the hills early in the nineteenth century, the 1,000-year-old grave lay hidden and forgotten. Then, a century ago, the land­scape underwent another dramatic change.

In 1905, Detroit's Edison Illuminating Company pur­chased Washtenaw Light and Power, which had been fur­nishing electricity to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti from a hydroelectric plant on Dixboro Road. Edison also bought other properties along the Huron where hydropower could be developed or improved, including the river be­low Barton Hills.

In Kilowatts at Work, a 1957 history of Detroit Edison, author Raymond C. Miller writes that the company wanted the sites mainly to eliminate competitors like Washtenaw Light and Power. Even then, it was clear that hydropower couldn't meet the area's demand for electricity. Nonethe­less, Edison went on to build the dams and generating stations that still define the river all the way from Belleville to Barton Hills.

The company's president at the time was Alex Dow (1862-1942), a Scottish immigrant who taught him­self science. According to Miller, Dow was a well-read man with many interests. "No one could ignore the fact that the introduction of dams and power plants would as­suredly alter the scene," Miller writes. "Dow himself was too much a lover of nature to do unnecessary violence to natural beauty, and the contemporary national emphasis on conservation and the protection of natural resources at­tracted his approval and interest."

Miller's book, commissioned by Detroit Edison, wasn't likely to portray Dow in any but a flattering light. But there's no question that Dow was a visionary. To ob­tain the property for its dams and flowage area, Edison of­ten had to buy larger parcels, including entire farms. In 1913 the company combined all the excess property, total­ing 2,000 acres, into one entity, the Huron Farms Compa­ny, and hired William E. Underdown, a 1904 Cornell graduate, to manage it.

The original idea had been to sell off the excess land, but soon Dow was full of plans to use it. He created a demonstration farm on Whitmore Lake Road, opened a resort for the company's women employees on Huron River Drive, and donated land on Argo Pond to the city for a boathouse and municipal beach. But his most lasting impact came when he hired the nation's leading landscape architects, Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts.

Frederick Law Olmsted and his then partner, Calvert Vaux, were the first people ever to describe themselves as "landscape architects." Their signature creation was the vast and innovative design of New York City's Central Park. The park's "natural design" was not natural at all: it was a carefully engineered replacement for what was then a swampy lowland. Beginning in 1857, Olmsted and Vaux changed it to a glorious centerpiece of the city by adding hills and meadows, massive plantings, curving pathways, and stone walls and bridges.

Olmsted founded his own firm in 1883. Driven by the conviction that beautiful settings would improve the health and welfare of ordinary people, he and his associ­ates shaped such beloved American landscapes as Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.; Detroit's Belle Isle; the spacious grounds of Stanford University; and Boston's "Emerald Necklace" of linked parks. The firm even con­tributed early designs for Yellowstone National Park.

Under Olmsted's son and stepson, who took over in 1895, the firm continued to win high-profile assignments, including the National Mall and the White House grounds in Washington. (In 1918 Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. ex­cused himself from a Barton Hills trip, writing that he was "continuously employed in Washington upon government work.") But during the "City Beautiful" movement of the early twentieth century, many smaller communities also sought guidance from the prestigious firm. Before World War I, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and the U-M all commissioned master plans from the Olmsteds. The firm's list of Ann Ar­bor projects also includes plans for nine east-side sub­divisions and landscapes for an equal number of individual property owners. (Its landscape plan for Harry and Carrie Earhart's mansion on Geddes has been re-created by the building's present owner, Concordia University.)

Edison president Alex Dow oversaw construction of the company's power dams on the Huron River. Dow's wife, Vivienne, chose the site for their sprawling shingle-style home for its view of Barton Dam.

Dow sought the firm's advice on the entire Huron Fa^ms project. But its biggest contribution was its design for Barton Hills. Dow envisioned stately homes, a country club, and even a hotel on the rolling hills north of the newly created Barton Pond.

Some skeptics had trouble imagining the transformation Dow proposed. Be­cause the area had been cleared for graz­ing long before, they jokingly dubbed the planned community "Barren Hills."

On December 22, 1915, Underdown reported to the Olmsteds that he was surveying the hill land north of Barton Pond and "would like to arrange with you to lay this out for [a] subdivision ... for fairly high class private homes." By April 1916 the firm had delivered a preliminary plan. The lots were large, from one to eight acres, and a cover letter explained that each had been laid according to "impor­tant views, and with the shape of the land."

The letter noted that the country club was sited high on a hill, "in a most com­manding position" on Barton North Drive. Deceptively rustic, the roads were actually carefully engineered for optimal grading and drainage. The Olmsteds added that Barton Shore Drive, which roughly paral­leled Barton North Drive at a lower eleva­tion, would "undoubtedly prove the most attractive when built as it will follow com­paratively near the water and will command an uninterrupted view over the pool."

"It's that drive along the shore that does it," comments Realtor Ed Surovell, who lives in Barton Hills. "On most of the recreational lakes in this area (and almost everywhere else for that matter) roads have been placed behind the houses (usually seasonal cottages) so that there is no road between cottage and water; here, the mo­torist or pedestrian gets the benefit."

The site was not entirely empty. While the dam was being constructed, several unassuming, traditional houses had been built on the shore for Edison employees; they are still there, now used for Barton Hills staff. During World War I a few grander homes were built by individuals with Edison connections. Underdown, the Huron Farms manager, began work on a house for his family in 1916. He consulted with a "Mr. G. Gibbs" of Olmsted on the construction of the access road, later named Underdown.

Infrastructure work began in earnest af­ter the war. In 1919, by special action of the Huron Farms board, Dow's wife, Vivienne, was given her choice of any lot in the subdivision for $1. She chose a centrally located sixteen-acre site, halfway between the high road and the shore road, that had an excellent view of the pond, so her hus­band could look out and see his dam.

Designed by U-M architecture dean Emil Lorch (who probably also did the Underdown house), the Dow home was started in 1921 and occupied by 1922. It is large, with twenty rooms, but feels com­fortable and homey. In the manner of the British rural gentry, the Dows gave it a name, "Brushwood." (According to their granddaughter, the name came from one of Vivienne's favorite poems.)

After the house was completed, Alex Dow commuted to Detroit, sometimes staying the night or part of the week. For many years Vivienne continued to consult the Olmsted firm, asking about such things as where to locate the rose garden, the configuration of the path to the beach, and how to add a stone wall in front. In Febru­ary 1927, Ferris Smith, who had replaced Gibbs as the Olmsted representative, visit­ed the Dows and reported, "Met Mrs. Dow at 10 o'clock, also Mr. Dow. He left after a few minutes and said that Mrs. Dow was boss of the place."

According to a reminiscence written by former resident Ole Blackett in 1974, the developers first focused on selling multi-acre sites to buyers seeking "large houses suitable for country estates." But if Dow had hoped to lure other Detroit executives to Barton Hills, he was disappointed— most of the early buyers came from Ann Arbor. "For several reasons, among which are the rapid expansion of the University and the great amount of heavy traffic along Washtenaw Ave., it seems that sev­eral people have already decided that they wish to move further out," Smith reported in June 1922. "And while I was in Ann Ar­bor, among those who came out to Barton Hills to look at property were the Dan Zimmermans, Dr. R. Bishop Canfield, Dr. and Mrs. [Breakey], and Dr. and Mrs. Loree." Drs. Breakey and Loree both lived near Central Campus, while Canfield and Zimmerman, a businessman who had in­vestments in everything from artificial ice to ball bearings, were neighbors on Wash­tenaw. (The Canfields' home later became the Women's City Club.)

As lots were sold, architects began con­tacting the Olmsted firm for site informa­tion. For instance, a July 1922 letter from Cuthbert and Cuthbert (William and Ivan, local architect and engineer respectively) asks for specifics for lots 7 and 8. Because each site plan needed detailed drawings, the Olmsteds suggested hiring a full-time architect; they recommended George Babson, who had done similar work for them at Forest Hills Gardens on Long Island.

Detroit Edison completed the first nine holes of Barton Hills Country Club in 1919. In 1922 the clubhouse was built and the course extended and redesigned. "The idea of the country club was to embellish the subdivision," explains Edmond DeVine, who today lives in the Underdown house and as a boy often came to the golf course with his father. The club's original mem­bers constituted a who's who of the com­munity; among them were U-M regent Junius Beal and Walter Mack, owner of the town's largest department store. (Member­ship is not linked to residency—of the 540 current member families, only fifty-six live in the village.)

The first two houses, Underdown's and the Dows', were in the shingled Arts and Crafts style. In the 1920s the English Cot­tage style was popular, with its steeply pitched roofs, casement windows, stained-glass windows, and curved entrances. Cuthbert and Cuthbert excelled at this style, winning an honorable mention in an architectural magazine for the Vernau home on Underdown.

According to Ole Blackett, however, "suddenly the sale of lots stopped....Ap­parently the demand for expensive country estate had run out and Edison was forced to alter its sales policy." Blackett believed that Edison then subdivided larger lots to produce more affordable parcels. How­ever, even the earliest Olmsted maps show many relatively modest homesites of an acre or so. More likely, the developers simply changed their focus from multiple-lot blocks to individual sales.

The first clue that Edison might be lowering its sights came in 1924, when Under-down asked Frederick Olm­sted Jr. his opinion of Henry Flagg houses, which, Underdown ex­plained, were "built low to the ground without cellars." Olmsted was out of the office when the letter arrived, but his staff answered, "We know that Mr. Olmsted has been more or less acquainted with the 'Flagg' house for some time, and while we cannot quote him we understand he is not enthusiastic over them." Nonetheless, three Flagg houses were built near the east end of the development.

Edison's hopes for Barton Hills peaked in 1925, when the company had Olmsted sketch out a possible extension of the de­velopment all the way west to the Foster Bridge on Maple Road. But there weren't enough buyers to fill the original subdivi­sion, much less the extension. Edison stopped consulting the Olmsted firm after 1927, presumably to rein in expenses.

The 1931 advertising brochure empha­sized that "homes need not be pretentious" and invited future buyers to "notice the di­versity of architecture and to see how har­moniously the smaller homes blend with the larger residences." Even many of those larger houses seem relatively normal to­day. "The houses that I remember were not fancy," says Sarah Riggs Taggart, who as a child spent a lot of time at Barton Hills because her grandparents on both sides, Henry and Emma Riggs and Grace Walzer, and her aunt Lizzie Oliphant all lived there. "I remember the Breakey house as comfortable, the Riggs house likewise. Gram [Walzer]'s big house was the fanciest, and the fact that subsequent owners haven't tampered with it suggests that everyone has loved it as it is."

Barton Hills grew slowly but steadily even through the Depression. Instead of executives, many of the new arrivals in the 1930s were U-M faculty, such as Bill Haber and his wife, Fanny; William and Louise Trow; and Ole and Ruth Blackett. Helen Underdown built a smaller house on Juniper Lane after William was killed in a car crash in 1930.

In 1941 Dr. Howard and Cecilia Ross built a multipillared house that neighbors sarcastically dubbed "Tara," after the man­sion in Gone With the Wind. That same year, at the opposite end of the architectur­al spectrum, Otto and Eleanor LaPorte built the first Modern-style home in Barton Hills. Designed by U-M architecture pro­fessor George Brigham, "it was so modern, Otto and Eleanor had a difficult time get­ting financing," reports Adele LaPorte, Otto's second wife. "It was so outre, the bank said they'd never get their money out of it." A year later Gene and Sadie Power also built a Modern house, designed by Birmingham architect Wallace Frost.

Home building stopped during World War II, when materials were needed for the war effort. That may have been the final straw for Detroit Edison. As early as 1931, financial people at the company were com­plaining that Huron Farms, as the develop­ment was still called, had cost roughly $234,000 and produced only $22,000. There were also ongoing costs, with Edison employees often siphoned off to do chores at Barton Hills and the other properties.

So in 1944 the company essentially gave the property to the residents. "They contacted the people who lived here and wanted them to take it over," recalls Walter Esch, the village's maintenance superintendent. But according to Esch, "the people didn't have any money, and they didn't want to take it over. So Edi­son put ten thousand dollars in the bank for them to take it over and left Charlie Gallagher, one of their employees, to stay on the premises."

According to Blackett, who was in­volved in the negotiations, the transaction was carefully crafted to allow Edison to write off its losses on the development without creating any new tax liabilities for the residents. Edison sold out to the newly formed Barton Hills Improvement Associ­ation for just $20,000 —and gave the group a mortgage for the entire amount. Though Blackett was on the U-M faculty, he writes that after the transfer, "I went on the road myself and sold lots in order to meet our mortgage payments and our share of the employment payrolls."

By 1949 Gallagher needed help in maintaining the subdivision's 500 acres. He talked Walter Esch, then twenty-three, away from his family farm on North Terri­torial to take the job. Walter and his wife, Mary, moved into one of three three-bedroom employee houses, where they raised ten children. One of those children, David, and his wife, Jan, now live in one of the houses, too. David is the village's assistant maintenance superintendent, and Jan is the village's assistant clerk.

Walter Esch recalls that one of the more colorful postwar residents was Edgar Kaiser, son of the industrialist Henry Kaiser, who had taken over the Willow Run bomber plant to build Kaiser Frazer cars. Edgar enlarged the Riggs home and added a swimming pool. Every year he put up 3,500 outdoor Christmas lights that drew viewers from all around, and ended the hol­iday season with a big New Year's party. "If they [the guests] had too much to drink, Mr. Kaiser would come and say, 'Walt, take one of the cars'—he always had five or six cars from the factory sitting there—'and take them home,' " remembers Esch.

When he started, Esch says, there were still only about thirty homes in the village. The Detroit Edison people were all gone, and most of the residents were profession­als—doctors, dentists, and professors. But the postwar construction boom was start­ing, and after thirty years of delays, Barton Hills was about to fill up.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many new homes were Modern designs by forward-looking U-M professors, such as Brigham and Bob Metcalf. Architects Fran Quarton and Herb Johe built houses for themselves, and Johe designed four others. David Osler, son-in-law of Emil Lorch, also built sever­al Modern houses, and the Colvin Robin­son firm designed a home for George and Elizabeth (Libby) Langford. Generally, these were flat-roof designs that blended in with the landscape and made economi­cal and respectful use of such materials as glass, wood, and concrete. They probably averaged about 2,800 square feet—consid­erably smaller than the mansions that had preceded them.

Multitalented Walter Esch became, de facto, the landscaper of Barton Hills. Olm-sted had laid one-lane gravel roads. Over time, Esch oversaw their widening to two-lane asphalt roads that retain the Olmsted contours. "Oh, Juniper Lane was gravel," he recalls. He and another employee "blacktopped it by hand because they [the residents' association] didn't have any money." Using rubble from city of Ann Arbor demolitions, he widened the shoul­ders where the river sometimes washed out the road.

Over the years, Esch has also been, de facto, fire chief, chief of police, water commissioner, road maintenance adminis­trator and crew, garbage department head and crew, mailman, rescue squad for household emergencies, and bus driver. "Because Walter came at the time the community was just finding its identity," his daughter-in-law Jan says, "many of the current traditions were his idea, and the two just grew up together."

From 1944 to 1975, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day, the Barton Hills bus was available for trips to and from Ann Arbor. "We picked up the maids and everything," Esch says. "There was a family, we had to sit there until the maid had the dinner on the table before we could take her to town, and the board backed her [the lady of the house] up. Charlie and I, we used to argue with the board all the time about that."

The older Esch children went to the two-room Hagen School on Dhu Varren Road. As the district grew, the younger ones went to various elementary schools.

"I think most Barton Hills kids went to University School," Mary says. Walter re­calls that the Barton Hills bus delivered kids to seven schools, including, besides the now defunct University School, St. Thomas, Angell, Tappan, and eventually Greenhills. Ann Arbor school buses now take kids to Wines, Forsythe, and Pioneer.

In 1973 Barton Hills became the first home-rule village in Washtenaw County. This status protected the subdivision from what residents saw then as potential incur­sions of other governments that might ne­cessitate difficult and expensive water and sewage linkups.

"My two best friends," says Libby Langford, a critical player in establishing the village, "were Conrail and the Foster Bridge"—the high-speed tracks and single-lane bridge discouraged traffic from Ann Arbor. "Nobody bothers us; we do our own thing; we love it."

The village has its own well on a cleanaquifer. Each home has its own septic sys­tem, and the village requires periodic in­spections. Residents pay taxes to both the village and Ann Arbor Township, currently totaling about 13.5 mills. (The correspon­ding rate in Ann Arbor is 16.9 mills.) One curious legacy of the village's past is that the Barton Hills Maintenance Corporation owns the roads and therefore is able to limit access to the village—signs at the en­trances announce "No thoroughfare" and "Private road."

Only a few empty lots remain, and most of those belong to families who own two. So, for the most part, if a new house is to be built, an old one must come down. In the past ten years the village has seen about half a dozen "teardowns." The long-forgotten stone grave was discovered during one of these projects, for Domino's Pizza president and U-M regent David Brandon.

These new homes vary in architectural style, but all of them are several times larger than the buildings they replaced.

That's become an issue for the mainte­nance corporation, which must approve all building plans. "As I look to the future," says president Chuck Bultman, "one of the struggles of the corporation is to find a way to work with the larger house typical today, sited on lots designed for a more modest house size."

The first generation of residents were, like Alex Dow himself, wealthy white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. But unlike some developments of its era, Barton Hills never had restrictive deed covenants that barred minorities. Today, residents include African American, Middle Eastern, Indian, Kashmiri, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and East Asian families.

Prosperity, however, remains a require­ment. According to the 2000 census, Bar­ton Hills' median household income was $149,000, more than triple Ann Arbor's $46,000. And while Ann Arbor posted a healthy median home value of $181,000, it paled next to Barton Hill's $710,000. Real estate agent Nancy Bishop, who lives in the village, estimates that house values start at about $600,000 and run all the way up to $5 or $6 million.

Since 1949, Walter Esch has done whatever needs doing in Barton Hills. His wife, Mary, raised ten children in a bungalow originally built for workers on Barton dam. Now their son David and daughter-in-law Jan work for the village, too, and live in another of the houses.

There have been a few minor adjustments over the years, but overall, Barton Hills' layout remains remarkably faithful to the parklike de­sign worked out by the Olmsteds more than eighty years ago. The biggest change is that hills once barren are now almost covered with trees.

The Olmsteds recommended trees as early as 1916, and the U-M forestry school oversaw plantings in the 1920s. The firm was never commissioned to develop a maintenance plan for the village, but to judge by its work elsewhere, it would al­most certainly have provided for glades, dells, and long clear views between group­ings of well-tended trees. Instead, coveted and cosseted, the trees have multiplied into a thick forest that presents a major challenge to the Olmsted plan.

The original country club building nes­tled into the landscape yet offered a lovely view of the river from its long covered veranda. Over the decades, however, trees grew and blocked the river view. In the late 1980s the original clubhouse was torn down and replaced by a large, traditionally columned building placed right up against Country Club Road. The site described by Olmsted Brothers as the best in Barton Hills is now occupied by a parking lot.

Knowledge of Dow's Olmstedian vi­sion died out with the first generation of residents. Many present residents inter­viewed for this article hadn't even known of the Olmsted connection when they bought their houses. As the years went by and trees continued growing, people living away from the shore forgot about the views and instead enjoyed the closeness to nature and privacy that the trees provided.

"When the view died, the plan died. Views only exist for the fortunate few," says Ed Surovell, adding that people today are attracted by the trees instead. "It was a change in social values. Trees were good, positive. City folks can't tell good trees from bad."

They're trying to learn. In 2003 the vil­lage's board of trustees hired Clark Fores­try to conduct a study of the state of the woods. (Though the firm is based in Bara-boo, Wisconsin, owner Fred Clark grew up in Barton Hills.) Commissioning of the study "is an indication of the awareness that the trees need to be managed and plans made for the future," Jan Esch says. "It has been supported by consistent, if limited, budgetary funding. Some funds were spent last year on garlic mustard control and ash tree removal, with contin­uing efforts under way for this year." There are other environmental issues as well, such as plant growth in Barton Pond and the village's resident deer herd, which has grown so large that it has to be man­aged by professional sharpshooters under a state permit.

Although it has acquired more and big­ger houses, Barton Hills hasn't become a mere house museum. The rolling hills, al­luring roads, and general focus on the pond remain intact. A century after Alex Dow started buying up property along the Huron, the Olmsted Brothers' work has held up well.


[Photo caption from original print edition]: (Above) An Olmstead Brothers blueprint shows the signature stone pillars at the entrance. (Left) The country club was set on the hilltop overlooking Barton Pond - one of the many views lost as woods grew up throughout the subdivision (below).

[Photo caption from original print edition]: As early as 1931, Edison's financial people were complaining that the development had cost roughly $234,000 and produced only $22,000. There were also ongoing costs, with Edison employees often siphoned off to do chores at Barton Hills and the other properties.

Old West Side Story

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, August 2001,
August 2001

Author: Grace Shackman

The Germans in Ann Arbor

A century ago, German immigrants and their descendants were Ann Arbor's biggest eth­nic group. Starting in 1829, and continuing for 100 years, Germans immigrated to the area in waves, fleeing political and eco­nomic troubles in their homeland.

Most came from small villages surrounding Stuttgart in the kingdom of Wurttemberg. They called themselves "Swabians" after the country that encompassed Wurttem­berg in the Middle Ages. "The name stuck although the country didn't," explains Art French, president of Ann Ar­bor's Schwaben Verein.

The Pardon Block

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

Author: Grace Shackman

A family of butchers left a monument on Main Street

Eighty-nine Years at the Corner of Main and Stadium

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, October 1992,
Ocrober 1992

Author: Grace Shackman

Schneiders' corner has been a fruit farm, a gas station, and a haven for hungry police officers

In 1903, blacksmith John Schneider sold his shop on Washington Street near Ashley and bought a fruit farm and a farmhouse on South Main Street. The family remained in business on the corner continuously until last summer.

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