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Ann Arbor Yesterdays ~ Let's Finish That Stroll We Started

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Ann Arbor Yesterdays

— Let’s Finish That Stroll We Started

By Lela Duff

Park your car in the Maynard and William Sts. area today and we'll finish that walk we started two weeks ago. Strolling down the right side of William we pause at the corner of Thompson St. to admire the friendly looking big white house across from us, neatly enclosed by a low green picket fence. Built in 1870 by a Mr. Zimmerman, it was bought in 1872 by Prof. Charles E. Green (first dean of the University engineering department) and was the home of that family until 1938, when it was sold to the present owner, Mrs. C. H. Westgate.

It exemplifies the elaborate and delicate woodwork of its period, the outside marked by its little square tower, its many bay windows, and its spindled porches. The porch along the east side is almost playfully decorative, in fact, since it has no convenient means of entrance. Inside are parquet floors, butternut shutters, and lavishly hand carved woodwork, making use of a variety of the choicest woods. Mrs. Westgate tells me that the white pine timbers of the framework are mortised together and that the foundation, of native stone, is 18 inches thick.

As we walk on down past Division St., you will notice, on the other side of William, a sprightly little gray house with a handsome white wrought iron fence. It was built in the 1830's and has lately been refurbished by the M. E. Tanners as a suitable home for their profusion of beautiful antiques. The graceful little porch and the fan-lighted doorway give it an air of elegance that it may not have had in its earlier days.

Mrs. Tanner delights in the bit of history given her by Mrs. Reuben Kempf. She remembered, as a very small girl, walking up Division with her father to call on old General Edward Clark, who was living for a time in this house. It was then called “the Cottage,’’—minus the later built front wing — and was nestled back in an orchard. There this musical child was allowed to play on what, long before, had been the first piano brought west of Detroit. You have often heard how Lucy Clark, the general’s young sister, used to play on it for the entertainment of the Pottawatomie Indians.

At the corner of Fifth Ave., we give just a little sigh over the memory of the splendid old Beal residence with its exotic trees, much as we appreciate the modern library building that has taken its place.

Turning left, we pass along the only stretch of Fifth Ave. that has retained something of its 19th century grace. The street is broad and tree lined, the lawns are ample, and the houses still look like homes, even though most of them have now been divided into apartments. Here and there one notes the simple lines of what might be a century-old dwelling. They say that two of Ann Arbor’s most worthy mayors used to live in this block, Samuel W. Beakes and Francis M. Hamilton, but there is nothing now to designate which were their respective executive mansions.

Farther along, across from the end of E. Jefferson St. is a modest little place that everyone notices, a bright, neat little old-timer, yellow with green shutters. It is undoubtedly one of Ann Arbor’s oldest houses still standing, and it has always been lived in by the Dietz family. The mother of the late Mr. Frank W. Stampfler was a Dietz, and Mrs. Stampfler still lives in the house. The original deed is a mere scrap of paper. The house was built on the very edge of the Allen-Rumsey village, and to the south of it in the early days the woods sloped down to a marsh. Though now covered with aluminum siding, the clapboards underneath are walnut. The present kitchen, too, formerly the "summer kitchen"  has walls and cupboards of the original black walnut. 

As we reach Packard St., we shall swing back to the left, for I want to show you what all the old maps designate as Hanover Square. At its northwest corner, this wooded park, a full block in size, brought Packard to an end, and the road issuing from its opposite corner diagonally was called Grove St. Only a tiny triangle of trees and grass now too remains on our left in the angle before Packard crosses Division, while the Perry School playground and the through street have absorbed the rest of the square.

I shall now leave you to make your way back along Division St. to William, and to do your in own romanticizing about any size, old houses you may spot along this busy thoroughfare.


The house at 415 E. William St. typifies its period . . .

This one at 314 E. William St. was built in the 1830's . . .