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Ann Arbor, circa 1920s, 'Annihilate Ohio State'

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Ann Arbor, circa 1920s, 'Annihilate Ohio State'

By Susan Isaacs Nisbett

In 1905-06, they called Ann Arbor the "Athens of the West."  Another year, she was "Queen of the Huron Valley and Fairest of All University Towns," a title that virtually demands a song.

But circa 1928, the Chamber of Commerce took a more modest stance in its promotional city brochure, "Ann Arbor the Beautiful," whose title is in line with the non-hyperbolic style established in its 1913 booklet, "Ann Arbor, A Quiet Place in Touch with the World."

"We make no claims for 'biggest and best,' state Messrs. M. A. Newton, James A. Kennedy, Jr., and Philip C. Pack in their introduction to "Ann Arbor the Beautiful," a large photographic essay.  "We have no 'records' to flaunt.  We do feel, however, in this city of homes that we've something that others have missed.  If this something is what you seek, and you'll know when you see Ann Arbor, then call this an invitation to come and live in this beautiful city of homes."

A "CITY OF homes."  What an odd ring the phrase has!  Yet, according to the brochure, 85 percent of families in the city, population 39,107, owned their own home, the average value of which was $8,500.  (Today approximately 43 percent of Ann Arbor households own a home.  Average sale price is $68,300.)

Photos of the Georgian Colonial Campbell-Hayes house at Hill and Washtenaw, of dignified fraternity mansions and of the new English Tudor revival homes-typical of Ann Arbor's east side and all the rage in the 20s and 30s-lend the impression that Ann Arbor's citizens live in baronial splendor.  The Chamber reminds us that the city boasts nine parks (90 today), a solid industrial base and a splendid university, employing 3,900 people (nearly 15,000 today), with a 550,000 volume library (5,500,000 volumes today).  Life's amenities at the university include institutions like the Michigan Union, Lawyers Club and afternoon tea at Martha Cook dormitory.

But at the heart of this "city of homes" and, therefore, the brochure's centerfold is...what else?  Michigan football.

THE DATE of the centerfold photo is Oct. 22, 1927, the occasion of the formal opening of the new Michigan stadium.  No game could have better suited the stadium's inauguration than Michigan-Ohio State, upon us again this very Saturday.  And no score could have more pleased the Michigan contingent among the 87,000 fans-all seemingly wearing felt fedoras-than that day's final tally:  Michigan 21, Ohio State 0.  Another photo taken that day (but not included in the brochure) shows Michigan's legendary coach and director of athletics, Fielding Yost, fedora in hand, posing with his elegant, new, two-toned Packard automobile-a gift of the U-M alumni-before the press box of the new stadium.

As Yost stands before the stadium, we see not one tree, not one blade of grass, so new is the construction.  The tall conifers which today contribute an air of stability to the Tudor revival home at 1918 Day St. appear not to have been planted yet; the home stands bare against the sky like a cardboard cut-out pasted on white paper.  In the brochure photo, the magnificent shade tree on the south lawn of Community High School (then Jones School) is still a spindly sapling.  And Angell Hall, recently completed, dwarfs the numerous trees in front of it, many of which are lost today, victims of street widenings or disease.

But they are still serving afternoon tea at Martha Cook, albeit minus the lace tablecloths.  And on fall Saturdays in Ann Arbor the Beautiful, football is still at the heart of the city.

Michigan Stadium opened Oct. 22, 1927 (below), and the worthy opponent was none other than Ohio State.  The score-Michigan, 21, Ohio, 0.  At left, Fielding Yost poses with his new Packard, a gift of UM alumni, before the press box of the new Michigan Stadium on Oct. 22, 1927.


In 1928, Angell Hall (above), shortly after completion, towered above the trees.  At right, Dorothy MacEachron, who graduated from UM in 1928, sits ready to pour for afternoon tea at Martha Cook dormitory, a tradition that still exists today.