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Burns Park Buildings: Cabin, Gazebos Once Graced Fairgrounds

Burns Park Buildings: Cabin, Gazebos Once Graced Fairgrounds image
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By Adam Christman
Several telephone calls have
been received from older residents
who thought the earlier arti·
cles of this series had overempha·
sized the horse racing and amuse·
ment aspects of the fairs held in
the Wells Street area. They wished
to remind me that the original pur·
pose of the falr was to encourage
competition among the farmers to
promote better agricultura;
procedures. I was well aware of
this point, having been raised in a
rural environment in Northwest·
I Dave had many comments
from older residents about the
popu;arity of the events at the
fairgrounds. One of the older Ia·
dies recalled that when she was a
younger mother living on Gott St.,
(around 1910) she would wheel the
baby in his carriage to the fair-grounds
Wells St., returning home
In time to prepare dinner for her
In the evening the family might
again visit the fair using the street
cars for transportation. This
seems an excessive pMce to pay
for free entertainment. In the early
part of the present century, before
the advent of radios and
television. it was probably not
Cabin, gazebos once
graced fairgrounds
to know that the basic
their building Is not made from
scrap lumber. In 1911 the bam referred
to earler was struck by
lightning and burned. A new 12-
stall stable wtlh a tact room, hay
loft and groom's quarters was
built for $1,650. This remodeled
structure ls the senior citizens center
at Burns Park.
Mrs. Malcolmsoo's article on
Burns Park stated that In 1910
there was an open abetter tn the
part. City historian Stevens recalls
that as a boy (late 19408 and
early 1950s) he played In these circular
open buildings witb the conical
roofs. Many readers wm recall
these gazebo-type struetures In
our UtUe bome town parts, where
baDd& played "Sweet AdellDe" on
&mday aftemoool. (Do yw Deed
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~iiiiP.~~~Ii~~~~~ ... ~~~;e~;;~~~~~~~~;·~~~·
were made ~tv:ea~alu:~o:;d~~~= Even ot the present wa::: =::: ~~
most notable being the erection of viewed last year were 92 years old :er::.:~-!:d!~~~~~~ ~~ ::;.
the log cabin In August of that of age, they were only 12, at the ter was apparently moved from
year. Over the doorway of this turn of the century. At that age tbeWellsStreetsldeoftheparkto
were available for the
competitive display of farm products
Programs of early country fairs
in Michigan, including Washtenaw
County, were made available to
me at the Bentley Library. AI·
though a program was not available
for the first Washtenaw County
Fair, it was held in 1848, since the
program of the 1898 fair, with a
picture of the old log cabin on the
cover, was announced as the 50th
Anniversary of the fair.
Programs available for the fairs
between 1853 and 1898 did not differ
greatly. There were competitive
classes for judging live stock,
different breeds of horses, cattle,
sheep and hogs.
On the distaff side, canned vegetables
and fruits, pies, cakes and
bread were presented for competl-
::.i~:,._ to ~"=
the tlrst prize in the men'sdlvtsion
was worth six dol; ars as com·
pared to one dollar in the classes
for women.
The judges were chosen from local
experts in different parts of the
country. In the last years of the
county fairs held .at what Is now
Veterans Park, (1922-1955), ex·
perts in various fields from the
agricultural college at East Lansing
were also used
IN AN EARLY map of Ann Arbor
0869, at the Bentley Ubraryl,
the area of the fairgrounds south
of Hill St. is outlined. The inevita·
ble race track and grandstand are
shown, as well as a number of
what might be considered permanent
buildings. In addition to the
competitive classes listed above,
would appear that for seed
displays some permenent structure
would be needed. By compactson.
however, the facilities at the
Wells St., site were, as late as 1910,
quite meager. Following the
suggestion of Wystan Stevens, our
city historian, a visit was made to
the Parks and Recreation depart·
ment at City Hall to check on a report
made 1n 1972 by Margaret
Malcolmson on Ann Arbor parks,
Mrs. Malcomson Is a true histoMan
who went directly to the hand
written minutes of. the proceedings
of the Park Commission,
Board of Education and the City
Ann Arbor
Diary - Part 34
....... 'ntO-•• ot bOr 1972 report deal wJth the early bls-tory
of Burns Park. Paragraph 2,
page 1, of her report states:
"The fairgrounds in 1910 com·
prised 19.05 acres and contained a
half-mlle racing track, a weathered
grandstand (the lower part of
which was enclosed and provided
storage space and crude toilet
rooms), a pioneer log cabin erected
in 1898 whose logs bore the
names and dates of arrival in
Washtenaw County of many of the
pioneers to this area, an open she!·
ter, a track judges' stand and a
bam for horses.
In an early article of this Neigh·
bors series (No. 12, May 20, 1979)
reference was made to a book by
0. W. Stephenson entitled "Ann Arbor,
the First Hundred Years,"
published in 1927 by the Ann Arbor
~-~~~p~e~::r ~b~o=~~ =~~~.=::te:: un- serve as a cover for a cbUdren's
Washtenaw, 1898." The building From the 1972 report by Mrs. S8Ddplle.
was dedicated Sept. 'n. It con· Maicolmson It was apparmt tbat ALBERT GAlLUP remembers
tained many Interesting and valu· by 1910 prelimlnary Sleps were that tbese g~type structures
able relics of pioneer days in this taken by the part board ~ pur-- were still there in the sumemrs of
country.ln 1915and 1916nearly all chase the fairgrOUDda lor tbeclty. 1949-1951 when be was parts
oftheserellcswereeitberclaimed As part of the deed, the city caret.aker. He recalls that he
by their owners or were stored on agreed to spend $100 per year to stopped a young arsoniSt from desthe
attic of the courthouse, where maintain the racetrack. troying one of the shelters.
~~ :~~: =~:08~~<;:~ THE FOLLOWING paragraph is ~m~~~a~tet !~~- 0i~~s:e~:i~
1917 the building was no longer Ll quoted from Mrl Malcomson's man, who became the full-time
~~~ ~~c~:g~n! ~dcet!'1:':: ~ pm conuniuioners also ~=~~::: ~/~~~~s~~~~;'~~
caringforthe!airgrounds." :':'. ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~v{~ ::~=~~~~~~;r:e:~kes i:::
NOTHING WAS SAID In either Clab, and tor this purpose they roof or the
,_'",; ~~aboftve~re~po~rt.~-~t·penna····.,.·vedfl"'ll!m=e~o~ld Gb(u&ilhdfipnagrst. kto. Ttbhee
toet more fragDi and the carpentry
brought to the fair by women. 01- needed on the barn was met by d ~ ~~!~~: j~~=s~on:"~ _se;.;.lllng..:...the;.;"".:.;:an..:d..:.bUII __ ....:,. _______ ~
temporary fenced quarters. Sure·
ly, I persisted, an enclosed space
was necessary for judging the culinary
skJlls of the womeu. Perhaps,
I suggested, the lag cabin was
used for that purpo~~t? The answer
was always an empbaUc "no." A
tentthen1 No.
"Just an awning to keep out Ule
sun and rain."
None of the older cithens mentioned
the histone bactground of
the log cabin of whicb I was also
unaware at tbat Ume.
Albert Gallup iDfarmed me that
when the log cabin lbeler was replaced
by the pnlalt modem
structure In 1967, Jillions of the