Press enter after choosing selection

A future for past

A future for past image
Parent Issue
Copyright Protected
Rights Held By
Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
OCR Text

A future or past


City’s historic panel outlines its activities

By Chong W. Pyen


Efforts made to protect the past are as worthwhile as efforts made to build a better future, the Ann Arbor City Council was told Monday during presentations marking the 10th year of the Historic District Commission.

Thomas H. Blaske, a commission member, outlined the commission’s activities since 1971 when the city created the body, and Wystan Stevens, city historian, described his work in a slide show. Stevens has been retained as the official historian on a temporary basis amid pressure to replace him.

In what Blaske called the first annual report of the commission, he said the city now has five areas designated for preservation as historic districts and work is under way or nears completion on four other sections. The city passed an ordinance on 1971 creating  historic commission, the first municipality to do so in the United States, he said.

“OUR ACTIVITIES benefit everyone in the city - the rich, the poor, the old and the young,” read the report. “Tax money spent today to protect the past is money spent to protect the future just as much.”

The commission, Blaske said, always tries to avoid heeding “narrow interest groups,” and it tries to stay away from political processes. “Our primary purpose has been to increase public awareness and foster public’s interest. Our concept is not to say, ‘You’ve got to keep it because it’s old.’ It’s got to have some heritage, provide citizens with some positive impact. It goes with the quality of life here in town. You don’t preserve it because it’s old; we preserve it because we believe it’s good.”

The city’s five existing historic areas are: The Division Street district, established in 1973, including several landmarks, such as the Kempf House, the Wilson-Wahr House and St. Andrew’s Church; the Liberty Street district, established in 1975, including three buildings at 113-119 West Liberty; the Old West Side District, established in 1978, affecting some 900 homes; the Northern Brewery district at 1327 Jones Drive, designated in 1978; and the Ann Street district, adopted in 1979.

Five homes at the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street have been recommended for preservation, and council action is expected shortly. Work is also under way on three other historically significant places: the Old Fourth Ward district, the downtown district and the Cobblestone Farm.

The city owns five historical landmarks in the city: the Cobblestone Farm, the Barton Dam powerhouse, the old central firehouse and the Leslie House.

STEVENS SAID he has collected some 50,000 images of the city’s past and present, ranging from old newspapers, postcards, old flour sacks and pictures to restaurant menus (“They won’t be of as much interest to you now as 50 years alter”), flyers and taped lectures. He defined his role as one of “systematic efforts to preserve records of the past along with preservation of records of the present.”

Among his random slides depicting today’s life and scenes in Ann
Arbor which will be capsuled in his archives for the posterity are: downtown parades, a protest rally, a lawn sprinkler going berserk, frisbee throwing at the Diag, a book sale at the Michigan Union, a dozen visiting Japanese teachers each carrying a camera, a block party near Burns Park, a fire engine on the run, mock disaster control and ethnic communities.

“We’re not at the end of time. The present is merely a transition in time,” said the historian.