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Apartment Unit To Replace Historic Novy Home

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World-Famous Bacteriologist Built House

14-Room Structure Erected In 1900 Is Richly Paneled

By Norm Mangouni

Workmen this week began razing the historic old Novy house at 721 S. Forest Ave.

The three-floor, 14-room brick structure, which resembled a turreted castle, is being leveled to make way for a $750,000 apartment building.

Dr. Frederick George Novy, world-famous bacteriologist and scientist who studied under Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, designed the house and supervised its construction practically brick by brick.

Built 58 Years Ago

Built at a cost of $12,000, the house was opened for occupancy in the fall of 1900.

For more than half a century, until Dr. Novy’s death on Aug. 8, 1957, the red-brick house on the wooded 1 ¼-acre lot was the home of the University’s most outstanding name in medicine.

Dr. Novy’s family of three sons and two daughters gfew up in the house, and both Dr. Novy and his wife died there.

Two of his sons, Dr. Robert L. Novy of Detroit and Dr. Frank O. Novy of Saginaw, acted as executors of the estate. They sold the property for a sum in excess of $90,000.

The buyers were Davison Obenauer, Grosse Pointe investor, and several Ann Arbor residents. The five-story, 52-unit apartment building they are financing is scheduled for completion in January, 1959. It will be managed by Ward Realty, Inc., which handled negotiations for the purchase.

The house has a richly-paneled wood interior and solid oak floors which weathered the abrasion of time remarkably well.

On the main floor, there are five rooms, a kitchen, a bath and four fireplaces. The kitchen features a “built-in” ice box and gas range, while the bath has a marble-topped wash basin.

Six rooms, a bath and a fireplace are on the second floor. The third floor has three rooms and a bath. The house also has a full basement.

A Local Landmark

In its time, the building was an Ann Arbor showplace and in recent years one of the last remaining landmarks in the southeast campus area.

About 60 oak trees on the property also will be cleared by the new owners, who obtained a building permit for the apartment project Monday.

Dr. Novy, who lived in Ann Arbor for 74 of his 92 years was already world-famous when the house was built. He moved to Ann Arbor with his family in 1882 at the age of 18.

In the next 18 years, before the house was built, he earned BS, ScD and MD degrees from the University, studied in Europe under Koch and Pasteur and, with Dr. Victor C. Vaughan of the U-M Medical School, established the first laboratory course in bacteriology in the country here.

Dr. Novy met and married Grace Garwood in 1891. She died in 1946.

In 1903, Dr. Novy helped establish the first anti-rabies station in the U.S. here.

He discovered the “Novy rat virus,” one of the first viruses to be identified, and also one of the two most important organisms causing gas gangrene.

Gained Many Honors

Many honors came to the scientist, who lived quietly in the red brick house several hundred feet from the street.

He was made a Chevalier in the Legion d’Honneur of France and a member of the Order of White Lion of Czechoslovakia. He was Henry Russel Lecturer at the U-M in 1927, won the Gold Medal of the American Medical Association in 1930, and was dean of the U-M Medical School for two years before retiring in 1935 with more than 49 years of faculty service.

Many older Ann Arbor residents who remember the doctor and his lifetime of achievement will feel a sentimental tug as workmen demolish the house that Novy built.


LANDMARK TO DISAPPEAR: The 58-year-old Frederick G. Novy residence at 721 S. Forest Ave. is being razed to make room for a new apartment building. The three-story house was occupied by Dr. Novy, an eminent University scientist, until his death last year at the age of 92. It was built in 1900 at a cost of $12,000. News photographs by Doug Fulton.

FRONT STAIRCASE: A richly-paneled oak staircase greeted visitors to the Novy residence. The staircase dominated the entrance hallway of the house. A fireplace was built into the wall at one end of the foyer.

OAK CUPBOARD: A large oak cupboard was still in good condition in the dining room of the Novy house. It was another built-in feature of the building.