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Ann Arbor 200

AADL Talks To: Susan Wineberg

When: March 23, 2023 at 4th Floor Studio in Downtown Branch

Susan Wineberg
Susan Wineberg, October 1995

Susan is a local history institution in Ann Arbor. She’s been president of the Washtenaw County Historical Society, served on the Historic District Commission, and worked with several groups on prominent local history projects and exhibits. She's accumulated a vast collection of local history, including a slide collection documenting local buildings; and she co-authored the book on Historical Buildings in Ann Arbor. Susan talks with us about how she happened upon her love of local history and local architecture in particular. She shares several stories detailing the politics involved in historic preservation efforts and the many friends and colleagues she worked with over the years.

Historical articles and photos about Susan Wineberg

Susan Wineberg Collection

Read Susan's Historic Building, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Transcript

  • [00:00:08] AMY CANTU: Hi, this is Amy.
  • [00:00:10] ELIZABETH SMITH: This is Elizabeth, and today AADL talks to Susan Weinberg. Susan is a local history institution in Ann Arbor. She's been president of the Washtenaw County Historical Society, served on the Historic District Commission, worked with several groups on prominent projects and exhibits. She has also accumulated a vast collection of local history, and she co-authored the book on historical buildings in Ann Arbor. Thanks for coming to chat with us today, Susan.
  • [00:00:35] SUSAN WINEBERG: You're welcome.
  • [00:00:38] AMY CANTU: One of the things we like to just get to ask right off the bat is can you talk about where you grew up, and what brought you to Ann Arbor?
  • [00:00:46] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yes. It's quite a story. I grew up in Chicago, right in the center of the city, in the Lake View neighborhood, and I went to public schools. One of the projects in eighth grade is architecture. I got an interest in architecture from my eighth-grade class, where we actually visited historic buildings as class trips, and you had to write a notebook, and I have all my stuff from grammar school. I tried to give it to an archive. They took my high school stuff, and they didn't take my grammar school stuff, so I still have this notebook of Chicago buildings. Anyway, I wound up going to Northwestern for my first year of college, but then I had a bad love affair and I wanted to get out of Chicago, so I came here. As a sophomore, I had sophomore credentials, but I was part of a group of transfer students who had overbooked, and we were put into the TV room at Mosher-Jordan, and there were eight of us, and we were all living out of our suitcases. Finally, they gave me a room that was already occupied, it was a double and they just took the bed out and put in a bunk bed, and I didn't have a closet, I didn't have a desk, and they were not happy about it, these two girls that moved in. We went down to the housing department and one of the girls parents ran a motel, she said, it's illegal. The amount of air in there is not the right amount for three people. She got their attention, and they said, would you consider living in a co-op? I wound up living in Oxford housing co-ops. That was a really great experience because I got to meet a lot of people, you did share tasks that wasn't horrible at all, it was fun. I'm still friends with people that I met then. I know where they are, we exchange cards at Christmas, stuff like that. They all stay in Michigan, and then I majored in Near Eastern Studies, and wanted to be an archaeologist. But the Near Eastern Studies Department really wasn't geared toward that. But I had a mentor who got me all kinds of Rackham grants, got me into five beta kappa, all kinds of stuff. Then he got upset when I wrote a paper with a geographer here, about his PhD thesis, which I had been in a seminar with him about, and it used computers, and he was horrified. This was 1970.
  • [00:03:34] AMY CANTU: No, wow.
  • [00:03:34] SUSAN WINEBERG: Am I talking too much about this?
  • [00:03:36] AMY CANTU: No.
  • [00:03:37] SUSAN WINEBERG: It was a big deal, I got published in Nature, the guy I worked with liked the idea I had, but he really essentially wrote the article because it involved his computer program. It was a bunch of trading colonies in what is now, Eastern Turkey, and they came from Assyria, which is now northern Iraq. There are tens of thousands of tablets at one site that describe all these trading networks and people's names, and no one knew where the other sites were. They were mentioned on the tablets, but nobody knew where they were. First, I thought I could use this geography plan called a Central Place Theory, which operates that everybody works in a hexagon around a major center, so somehow, if you're on a flat plane, that might work. But it didn't work because we were missing information. Then I had this idea that maybe cities mentioned together on a tablet were closer together, and you could map some kind of virtual place where they would be. But this geographer, he took this and ran with his program, and we predicted latitude and longitude for these sites.
  • [00:04:55] AMY CANTU: You were right?
  • [00:04:56] SUSAN WINEBERG: I don't know, because then I switched into anthropology because basically, they have a whole division of archaeologists. I went back to Turkey, but I worked with Germans, and I was supposed to get the material from there for my dissertation. But what I really wanted to do was to get my own dig, to look for these places where we predicted they'd be, and nobody would support me on this, so I never got to do it. I don't think anybody has done it, so it's still out there. We could test my theory. Well, I just had a lot of disappointments with the people I was working with in the field, and then the people in the department, they are very statistically oriented, I'm not. I'm ABD, and I got my candidacy, but I didn't finish, and then I got into historic preservation by living in an old house and being between jobs. I thought, why don't I find out how old this houses. I was living at 311 East, and I lived there for 19 years, from 1969 to 1988, and then we bought a house. My husband and I bought a house two blocks away, also on Ann Street, 712. We had never lived together, even though we had been married for four years, we still didn't live together because we both had really cheap apartments, 311 Eastern, my landlord was part of the black community that lived in that neighborhood around Ann and Fifth, where the Armory was, and he lived alone next door in a house that he had been a tenant until the owner died, and then he bought it from her estate, and part of her estate was the house I lived in. He never raised my rent in 19 years. It started out as $100 which was a lot in 1969, and then I raised my rent twice because I only had part-time jobs. I never had a full-time job. He was subsidizing me for a wonderful life, and there were other people who lived there, Vicki Honeyman from the Ann Arbor Film Festival, she lived there quite a few years too. Then another woman lived upstairs, and she had a whole unusual circle of friends. We were quite a little group there, we all had cats, so we all took care of each other's cats, and had a big backyard with grass, and we'd see my landlord every Sunday morning. I'd hear him clipping the bushes in front of my bedroom. It was like a Sunday morning wake up. He was a great guy, so I didn't want to give up my $150 a month apartment in 1988. But then he had a stroke, and this evil man, whose name I won't mention, swooped in and took over all his properties. I managed to get in touch with my landlord's family, who I had met once, who lived in Chicago. I finally found an address for them, and wrote them that this had happened. They came up, and they were trying to contest what had happened and the sales, so my landlord was deemed mentally incompetent, but the family didn't pursue it any further, so this man got to keep all the property. But the good thing was that now my landlord had somebody living with him and taking care of him. I felt good about that, but every time I'd think about this, I got upset. Still, and it's a long time ago now, but I thought that he wanted his family to inherit his property. But I said, did you make a will? His name was Mr. Rogers, by the way.
  • [00:08:59] AMY CANTU: Was it the houses then, or was it that particular street or that neighborhood that really piqued your interest in historical preservation?
  • [00:09:08] SUSAN WINEBERG: Well, what happened was I moved in, in '69, and in'76, there was a threat to a house a block away from me, on Ann Street, and there were people on Ann street who wanted to make it a historic district. After I did the research on my house, I talked to Wystan, and then I met Louisa. I met Louisa trying to save Barbara Waterman Gym. That was '77.
  • [00:09:40] AMY CANTU: Louisa Pieper.
  • [00:09:41] SUSAN WINEBERG: Louisa Pieper, yes. Then, I'm trying to remember when this happened, we got inspected, and they wanted to us to replace all the doors. The house had original doors. The house was from 1866. Original doors, they want solid corridors, and we went to the city and made a pitch to be allowed to keep the doors, if we had smoke alarms. They weren't requiring them then, they do now. They accepted that argument and allowed us to keep the original doors, and that's how I met Louisa. Well, that's how I further met Louisa Pieper, then I learned the ins and outs of City Hall, and how it operated. Then a year later, this threat to one of the houses on Ann street popped up, and they formed a study committee to study whether or not it should be a historic district, that's state law. The mayor appoints a study committee, and Louisa suggested my name, and that's how I got involved.
  • [00:10:54] AMY CANTU: Okay.
  • [00:10:55] SUSAN WINEBERG: Then I studied the whole neighborhood. I became the unofficial historian of what is now the Old Fourth Ward Historic District.
  • [00:11:03] ELIZABETH SMITH: How did you become involved with the Washington County Historical Society, and could you talk a little bit about your presidency?
  • [00:11:12] SUSAN WINEBERG: Sure. How did I get involved?
  • [00:11:16] SUSAN WINEBERG: I know it was Pat Austin who was the president at the time who asked me to join. That was 1986, and at our last board meeting, I discovered I'm the oldest person. I've been there the longest. I thought other people had been there longer than me. But no, I've been there since then. It's a pretty long time. Pat was a very good president. She's an expert on Robert's Rules of Order. She knows how to run a meeting. I'm not sure if it was her that was president. When did I become president? I think it was the early '90s. I was in school at Eastern getting a degree in preservation and they wanted me to be president. I said I have to finish school first because I was working part time and writing the book. The first book I wrote.
  • [00:12:11] AMY CANTU: Historic Building?
  • [00:12:12] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yeah.
  • [00:12:13] AMY CANTU: Marjorie Reade.
  • [00:12:14] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yes. That was '92. I think. I had a lot on my plate. I can't believe I did all that stuff. Now, because I'm lucky if I get one thing done during the day. My presidency oversaw the opening of the museum on Main Street, which was a big accomplishment. When I joined, we didn't really have a project that we were working on, so I was wondering about staying on the board because I felt like there was nothing I could do. But then we decided to move this house from Wall Street. Well, the house on Wall Street had piqued my interest. I had written a paper for Eastern about the houses that were standing when Michigan became a state. I had collected all this documentation, and then it was sitting on my desk. Then I went back to school, and I could use that for a project. I wrote that up, and this house on Wall Street was one of them. Then when I saw it was threatened, I tried to get the city interested in buying it, and the city first said, we'll take it. Then they said, no, they didn't want it. Then another woman, and the same time that I had thought, should be our museum, and she proposed it first. Her name was Thelma Graves, I think. The city gave us this parking lot, it wasn't a parking lot. It was an empty lot that had been the site of a former gas station. I guess it's officially a park in the city. They gave us that, and the university, which owned this house, gave us the house and the $10,000 they were going to use to demolish it. That was used to move it. The day that it was supposed to get moved, there was a horrible storm. All of the people who were coming from DTE to lift the wires and everything, they had to go elsewhere. They did it the next week, and I was in Sweden with my husband's family, I missed it. After all that, I went in, I photographed the interior before it was moved.
  • [00:14:40] AMY CANTU: It crossed the Broadway Bridge .
  • [00:14:41] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yes, it crossed the Broadway bridge. We didn't know at the time that there were bricks in the walls. They were very careful about putting heavy things on that bridge because shortly after it got replaced, and so we discovered bricks on the walls. I did a whole paper about that, it's called nogging. It was a fire stop and also something used to brace the walls. But there's not very much written about it, but it was so common that no one thought to write about it. I started this little project finding every time a house was found that had bricks in the walls, I would make a note of it. I have a short list of really old buildings.
  • [00:15:27] AMY CANTU: That have this number.
  • [00:15:28] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yes. It's from the 1830s and '40s.
  • [00:15:31] AMY CANTU: We need to see that list.
  • [00:15:32] SUSAN WINEBERG: Okay.
  • [00:15:32] ELIZABETH SMITH: That sounds really interesting.
  • [00:15:33] SUSAN WINEBERG: It is.
  • [00:15:34] SUSAN WINEBERG: See if I can find it. But anyway, so we moved and then we had to do all these things to get it ready to open. We had to finish the basement, we had to make a parking lot, we had to get attached to the sewer system, and we didn't have enough money to do these things. We spent all the money just getting it painted and moved, all the money we raised. There was a Karen O'Neal was really active in that, and she was president when the house got moved, and she's a civil engineer. She knew. The moving was delayed because we were cleaning the site up from it being a gas station and the state wouldn't okay it. They kept saying it was still dirty and she kept saying, well, what do you want us to do? They said, well, you have to clean it up. It's just they didn't have any rules to follow, and it was a real catch-22, crazy. But eventually, we got it okay to move the house because the University was on our backs to move it. Because they wanted to make a parking lot, and it's now a parking structure there. All of Wall Street is now one big parking structure. There were lots of really old houses. I was on something called the independent individual historic property study committee. A group of us would go out and look at older buildings before they were demolished.
  • [00:17:10] AMY CANTU: Was this when you were with the Historic District Commission? Or when were you with the Historic District Commission?
  • [00:17:16] SUSAN WINEBERG: I was on it three times, so I'm not quite sure the first time. I was only there a year because I got a job to look up every building from 1940 and back. Starting at 1940, city directories, I have sheets for every street and every address. I go back as far as I can. This is before anything was digitized. It's just sometimes hit or miss with these really old ones because if the same family didn't live in it, they had the last issue. I hit the table, sorry. The last city directory that has an index, I believe 1894, so anything before that you just have to hope it's the same family. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn't. I was doing that and that was seen as a conflict of interest because the city was paying me. I had to quit the commission. The second time is a blur, I don't remember. The third time was around 2002-2005 maybe. That's when there was this blog called Ann Arbor is overrated, and I was being raked over the coals for decisions I made regarding what's now the Glenn Hotel, that's going up on Glenn.
  • [00:18:49] AMY CANTU: Can you talk about that a little bit?
  • [00:18:51] SUSAN WINEBERG: Sure. There was a proposal from a Chicago developer, this started before I was on the commission. They were to put up a five-storey building and that was okay. But then they didn't do it, and then they came back a few years later when I was on the commission and wanted to put up a 10-story building. It's right on the edge of the old Fourth Ward Historic District. We rejected it because we said it was too big, it was out of character with the neighborhood. They'd appeal to the state, and the state took like nine months to deal with it, and they supported us. Then they sued the city. The city lawyer said, well, we have two clients, you and the city and we can't have two clients, so you're out of the picture. You have to okay this project because they're suing the city. By then I think I was off when they actually voted on okaying it, but they reduced it to nine stories, still too big.
  • [00:19:59] AMY CANTU: What do you think about what's going up there now?
  • [00:20:03] SUSAN WINEBERG: I went to the ribbon cutting. The Chicago developer went bankrupt, so they never built their 10-storey building. After all this fighting about it and me getting personally singled out on a blog for doing something they didn't think was right. We need density, this cry is not new, the one that's out now. Everybody's talking about density. It was all density, when Hieftje was mayor. I called him high-rise Hieftje because we got a lot of tall buildings when he was mayor. Then it's that whole way of thinking continues historic preservation is denigrated, is backward, and I just don't know what to say to them. We're a vibrant town because we have two historic districts on Main Street and State Street that are just very busy all the time. They're magnets for tourists, and nobody's flocking to Briarwood. I think it's because of the historic buildings. It's a pedestrian friendly atmosphere. You're not overwhelmed by tall buildings. Of course, I don't like the direction the city's going in, but it's impossible now. Then after Freed, this Chicago developer went bankrupt. It's sad that project sat around undone for a long time. Then a group of people from Detroit, one of whom had been a regent, Larry Ditch, they put a proposal together that was basically the project that had been approved and they got approved. Our neighborhood group was invited to the groundbreaking, and we went and what are you going to do? You'd be friendly with them. It's better to have friends than enemies.
  • [00:22:03] AMY CANTU: It's good.
  • [00:22:06] SUSAN WINEBERG: We ate their canopies.
  • [00:22:11] ELIZABETH SMITH: We mentioned it a little bit before. But you wrote a book on historic buildings in Ann Arbor with Marjorie Reade. Could you talk a little bit about how that came about and what it was working on that book?
  • [00:22:23] SUSAN WINEBERG: Marjorie was.
  • [00:22:27] SUSAN WINEBERG: She became a good friend and she was probably 20 years older than me and she said, ''Susan, she had written a really small book during the Cisco Centennial, and they don't even have her as an author. It's a list of authors, but she really wrote the book.''
  • [00:22:46] AMY CANTU: What was it?
  • [00:22:48] SUSAN WINEBERG: It's also called Historic Buildings. It's got an orange cover with.
  • [00:22:51] AMY CANTU: I think I know it.
  • [00:22:52] SUSAN WINEBERG: Fire truck on the cover it's very thin, but it was seen as something you'd put in your pocket and it was organized by neighborhood. It was like walking tours, little different walking tours. She trained me how to use the records at the abstract office that was on 4th of a across from the courthouse. They gave us carte blanche, we could go in there and look through their books. They have these gigantic books with handwriting in them about exchanges, sales of properties. She showed me how to look that up, and then they let me photocopy these pages. That was a really useful tool and she did a lot of work that way. I think she was in school at the time, but I can't remember. Then she said, ''Susan, our book needs to be updated. We have to add more buildings. Will you do it?'' I said, ''I will only do it if I get paid. It's too big of a job.'' We wound up I guess there was the Historical Foundation is the publisher and they had some money in their account from selling the first book and some other books too. They were selling a lot of books at the time. They found enough money and they applied for a grant. That's right. Louisa Pieper applied for a grant from the State, I believe, to pay me. That's how I got involved with that and Louisa and Marjorie were more involved in the actual design and printing of the book and they had this elaborate scheme where every the silhouette of each house would be at the top of the page and it was so complicated. We couldn't figure it out, I couldn't figure it out. In the end, I thought, ''Oh, all this work and it's too complicated'' but people were still happy with it. It eventually sold out. Then the second book, the one that's current now, which is now 10 years old, almost, that I wrote with Patrick.
  • [00:25:06] AMY CANTU: Patrick McCauley.
  • [00:25:07] SUSAN WINEBERG: Patrick Mccauley. What happened with the book with Marjorie was that she edited her previous writings and I added new stuff and then with Patrick, I was Marjorie. I edited my old stuff and Patrick did the new stuff.
  • [00:25:24] AMY CANTU: Okay.
  • [00:25:26] SUSAN WINEBERG: That was so, and he's about 20 years younger than me, so maybe 30. I know he's really young to me. I think I met him when he was in his '20s, so he was.
  • [00:25:39] AMY CANTU: Will there be another edition or are you done?
  • [00:25:42] SUSAN WINEBERG: Well, I want there to be another edition because there's a lot of mistakes, many of them I made and I hate it when I make mistakes and I'd like to correct it. A couple of things got left out by accident, but they don't seem to want a book product, the library you're going to put it online. Patrick says, ''Well, you can add things online and you can make corrections online like a Wikipedia entry I guess.'' I guess that's the future of it, but I really thought we were going to do an updated version for the bicentennial, but it doesn't seem like it's going to happen.
  • [00:26:22] AMY CANTU: You've mentioned a couple of people. Louisa Pieper, I'm just going to ask you a few names, if you could just give us a little bit of history about these people that you've worked with. First of all, if you could talk about Ray Detter.
  • [00:26:38] SUSAN WINEBERG: When I was going to the City to prevent the doors being replaced, I went to the building board, what do they call it? Building. Anyway, we were making a small presentation and I had taken two slides and I brought them and I had a little slide holder. They were passing that around this old-fashioned thing where you look up and Ray is there with a similar request because his mother is living in this house, the Rinsey House that's right opposite community high, and it had beautiful wood ceilings and woodwork everywhere and they were asking him to do something that involved covering it up or getting rid of it or something. He came in with this huge board of pictures and I've got this little tiny, little slide viewer. I just thought it's pretty hilarious. He was much better prepared than I was. But we both got what do you call it? A variance. We were asking for variances from the fire code and we both got it and that's how I met him, and then he became the leader of the group that was on the study committee. It was actually Martha Schmidt and Wit Schmidt and Eleanor Pollock and Peter Pollock. They live right next door to where they were going to tear this beautiful house down. They requested the study committee, and then Ray got on the study committee because he knew Louisa somehow. I got on the study committee and we went, oh, I just met you at this hearing for a variance. We both care about this neighborhood. I remember it was a bad year for snow and ice and I went around taking pictures and everything's got icicles hanging down from it because it was a really cold winter, 1977 or eighty something like that.
  • [00:28:42] AMY CANTU: You've known him a long time?
  • [00:28:43] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yeah.
  • [00:28:44] AMY CANTU: You worked with him and Louisa and Grace Shackman on the Downtown Historical Street Exhibits project. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to work with them and what they were like?
  • [00:28:55] SUSAN WINEBERG: Well, I think Louisa really focused Ray on she set up all the plaques and all the glass images and numbered them, and then each one was tackled one at a time and their was a smaller committee of writers that included Grace Shackman, her, and Ray. Then a bigger group that I was part of that included Wystan and Mark Hildebrandt, and a few other people. We would meet in Ray's living room and Ray always served food.
  • [00:29:31] AMY CANTU: Yeah.
  • [00:29:32] SUSAN WINEBERG: He always served sausages, which were so good. I was thinking about them the other day because my husband was making hot dogs that were really good hot dogs and I said, ''Oh, this Ray used to cut them up.''
  • [00:29:47] AMY CANTU: He had all those parts.
  • [00:29:48] SUSAN WINEBERG: He had nuts and other things to eat. We would sit there and pick apart the text, and we really picked it apart, honestly. Wystan was, of course, the worst or the best, depending on your point of view.
  • [00:30:04] AMY CANTU: Yeah.
  • [00:30:05] SUSAN WINEBERG: Because he was a real literary person and he really knew good writing. I was more of the person getting the facts straight. That's at least how I thought of myself. I don't think I'm the greater writer. He was a really good writer.
  • [00:30:23] AMY CANTU: What else about Wystan because I know he's quite a character?
  • [00:30:26] SUSAN WINEBERG: He was quite a character.
  • [00:30:27] AMY CANTU: He was involved with the city, and he lived close to you too, right?
  • [00:30:30] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yes. Well, he lived in the Kempf House for many years. As the unofficial city historian, we got a visit from the official historian of Grand Rapids and he came and gave a talk. Other people were saying, why can't we have an official historian and Wystan, I don't know he wasn't good at politics or something, but he knew everything. He grew up in Ann Arbor and his family. His father was a professor of English and I had a class from him on the Bible as Literature.
  • [00:31:10] AMY CANTU: Wow.
  • [00:31:11] SUSAN WINEBERG: I believe, and the first thing he said something about Presbyterians being God's frozen people, and I never forgot that. It's just hilarious. Of course, he's Presbyterian, so he could say that. But I mentioned that when he and his wife died in a terrible car crash, and I tried to cheer Wystan up by telling him this little quip, and he thought it was funny. But he could. It's like he remembered every day of his life he could just go on and on and on, and he gave these wonderful tours of the cemetery.
  • [00:31:44] AMY CANTU: Yeah.
  • [00:31:46] SUSAN WINEBERG: But it was illegal. He was collecting money, but he hadn't gotten the okay from the cemetery. Finally one day they said, ''Maybe we should formalize this so we get a percentage or something.'' I don't know what happened but then he stopped doing it. That was him. Then when he lived at the Kempf house, he got married and he had a kid, and he was only supposed to be him. Eventually, he had to find his own place to live and then he moved to Thayer, which is not far from me.
  • [00:32:22] AMY CANTU: Yeah.
  • [00:32:26] SUSAN WINEBERG: His wife would occasionally stop by. She's a character too, British, very direct.
  • [00:32:43] SUSAN WINEBERG: When I was first on the Historic Commission, we met at Kempf and they'd be walking through our meetings, going into the kitchen, doing stuff and fighting with each other and we just, oh, this is not appropriate. But we weren't being filmed. When we started going to City Hall, then we were on TV and then we had to shape up because we would be eating there and because the meeting was at five and everyone was hungry or I don't remember, maybe it was seven. Anyway, there'd be popcorn and pretzels or something. Anyway, we had to shape up.
  • [00:33:17] AMY CANTU: It sounds like fun.
  • [00:33:18] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yeah, it was fun. We had a good time. It was funny to me that we didn't politic with each other on the commission about how do you feel about this. When we were, you know, not in a meeting, we never like just called people up and said, how are you going to vote on this? We never did that. I was surprised that nobody did it but we would just have our discussions out in the open. We usually agreed on things. We hardly ever disagreed. I did talk to one guy out of doing something that was approved, that I voted against and then he called me up and he said, why did you vote against it? I told him why and he said, oh, I like your logic. I'm not going to do it. That was the nice thing.
  • [00:34:08] AMY CANTU: You've doled out awards over time.
  • [00:34:10] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yeah. That's a committee that I've been the chair for a long time. Until COVID we would give out awards every year. It was supposed to be in May, which is preservation month. But May is also when they talk about the budget and so there was often not enough time on the agenda. We started doing it in June, but we used to meet in March. I offer a list for our different categories of preservation, rehabilitation, and special projects and then sometimes we had a person of the year, a project of the year and a Centennial award. That's what we did, and I had mine all set for 2020 and then we had to quit. Then I thought, oh, well, of course we'll meet next year and of course, three years have gone by now. Now we're going to meet in April. We can't seem to find a date that six people can meet. It's really crazy.
  • [00:35:12] AMY CANTU: It's life now.
  • [00:35:13] SUSAN WINEBERG: But we're meeting in April without two of the people in the committee. What we do is we propose this list and Jill Thatcher, the staff puts a picture of it up on the wall and we talk about it and we decide yes or no and then we have a van tour. We all get in a van and we drive around and look at them in person and decide if they look good in March or April. They'll really look good in the summer.
  • [00:35:39] AMY CANTU: When the trees are out.
  • [00:35:40] SUSAN WINEBERG: When the trees are out and it's green and it's not dirty snow, etc. We never based it on who owned it. That was usually not known until we made a decision and then I would write it up and we would inform the owners they were getting an award. But sometimes of preservation, we wanted to recognize people who have kept their house up really to a good standard of preservation for a long time. It has to be I think you have to have owned it at least 10 years to get that award. Yeah. That's been probably my biggest thing, although I meant to say did I answer your question that you asked me before? I felt like I went off on a tangent.
  • [00:36:28] ELIZABETH SMITH: Yeah. You did.
  • [00:36:30] AMY CANTU: Tangents are fine.
  • [00:36:31] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yes. Well, I'm also the official historian for the historical society. Whenever they get queries, but not always, but a lot of them are forwarded to me and then I write them up and occasionally I always learn something. It's fun.
  • [00:36:46] AMY CANTU: We would like to go on record as saying that we often forward our local history questions to you and you are very helpful.
  • [00:36:52] SUSAN WINEBERG: Oh, thank you.
  • [00:36:56] ELIZABETH SMITH: Segue into your own collection so you mentioned that you've been documenting buildings around town, taking slides and things like that. Could you tell us a bit more about your collections at the Bentley, cookbooks, photos, things like that?
  • [00:37:11] SUSAN WINEBERG: I have collections. I have my papers, like all the papers I have from being on the store district commission and all the boards I'm on, that goes to the Bentley Plus then I guess the slides of Ann Arbor. I thought we're better off there until I discovered you guys and the scanning and you just get it out. Putting it up online is so much better for people to see what it is at the Bentley's More for historic research. I think doesn't get the public exposure that you get through you guys which is great. I have a big collection at Eastern as well of preservation materials that I was just nuts. I don't know, I was doing all this stuff. I was photocopying articles about preservation all over the world and organizing it by state, by style, by country, by architect and the Bentley doesn't want anything that's not Michigan so all that stuff went to Eastern and then the special collections that the hatcher has my big cooking pamphlet collection. I work with Julie McluhI there and I usually give her a box once a year and I give Eastern a box once a year, and I give the Bentley a box once a year. I'm giving them two boxes this year of historical society minutes, e-mails and then the historical foundation, the Old Fourth Ward Association, which I'm involved with because I do the historical stuff for that and I write for the newsletter. Yeah, stuff like that.
  • [00:39:07] AMY CANTU: You've collected a lot of ephemera magazines and advertisements and all stuff just in town from like the film festival.
  • [00:39:17] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yes. I'm an inveterate collector. Some people would call me a hoarder, but I said, I'm not a hoarder. I'm organized.
  • [00:39:23] AMY CANTU: You are organized.
  • [00:39:25] SUSAN WINEBERG: I'm very organized and my biggest collection is information about Ann Arbor buildings which I have in 44 Draor. File cabinets organized by address.
  • [00:39:36] AMY CANTU: What is in there, just an example
  • [00:39:39] SUSAN WINEBERG: If you'd give me your address, I'll go to 715 Spring Street and I'll go to my Spring Street and I'll look through and I'll find what I have on 715, and it's clipped together with a paper clip on a piece of paper that says 715 and I'll take it out and there's whatever I have on that house.
  • [00:39:56] AMY CANTU: Sounds like something we should digitize.
  • [00:39:59] SUSAN WINEBERG: Oh good luck, 44 drawer file cabinets.
  • [00:40:02] AMY CANTU: That sounds great.
  • [00:40:05] SUSAN WINEBERG: You haven't even digitized Wiston stuff?
  • [00:40:07] ELIZABETH SMITH: I know, it's honest.
  • [00:40:08] SUSAN WINEBERG: Well, I think you should digitize it. I think it's very useful.
  • [00:40:12] AMY CANTU: Yeah. People always want information about their homes and you know, there's only so much you can get in the city directory.
  • [00:40:18] SUSAN WINEBERG: Almost everyone wants a photo.
  • [00:40:21] ELIZABETH SMITH: Yeah, absolutely.
  • [00:40:22] SUSAN WINEBERG: Then I forgot to mention, I worked at the Bentley from 1981 - '84. Maybe I worked as an assistant to the photo curator, a job that no longer exists and so I got to learn about how important it is to label your photographs. If they come in unlabeled, they get thrown in the trash because you don't know anything about them. I helped my husband's family in Sweden. His mother started showing me old photos, I said, oh, we have to label, oh, who are these people? When they died, there were all these labeled photographs in my handwriting. She would tell me who they were and I would write on the back. You're supposed to write pencil, but sometimes I don't have a pencil.
  • [00:41:12] AMY CANTU: You have with the stuff you've given us, it's been really well labeled. That's very handy.
  • [00:41:16] SUSAN WINEBERG: Yeah, it's very important to me to label things. That's probably the number one takeaway I got from working there. But I also met some great people because they had a kitchen and we would eat lunch together and then they would have teas once a week. You alternated who was in charge of the tea, so you would bake cookies for the tea and at 04:00 or 03:00 we would all meet and sit around this table and I made two really good friends of people who are archivists and one of whom just I just reconnected with because she wants to move back to Ann Arbor. She lives in Washington, DC. But everything was too expensive for them even coming from Washington and then her husband didn't want to move either because he likes living in Washington. They're still thinking about how they're going to work this out, but yeah.
  • [00:42:11] AMY CANTU: Susan, I have a question for you. I know this is a thorny subject, but as you mentioned earlier, you know, it's density, affordable housing. These are perennial issues but you know, still really strong right now. It's going to continue and as long as we're looking forward, you imagine Ann Arbor in 50 years. What does it look like? What should it look like? How can you have preservation and also grow up and Yeah, that's accommodation.
  • [00:42:43] SUSAN WINEBERG: It's a tough question. But if you look around the town, most of the affordable housing is the old houses. We own an income property next door to us and our rents are much lower than the average, and we're still making money. I don't know what other people think they need to make as a profit because we're not just breaking even or losing money.
  • [00:43:12] SUSAN WINEBERG: It's quite okay. It pays for itself and then some. I would like to see our neighborhoods preserved because I think neighborhoods are very important to the health of a community and tall buildings do not encourage neighborhoods. Most people in tall buildings hardly know each other and they don't have a sense of community the way people in houses do. Maybe, I think, the zoning along Stadium and along South Main around Briarwood, to have really tall buildings there, that's a smart idea. You have people close to shopping and bus lines, and you could build a 50-story building there. It wouldn't harm anything, it wouldn't harm a sense of place. But it does when it's right in the center of a neighborhood that has two story 19th-century houses. I think also demolition is not green, it is putting stuff in the landfill. It is taking away already embedded energy, so to speak, and the National Trust has just come up with some measure for how much energy is in an old building already. We like to encourage adaptive reuse. We have tons of examples of it in Ann Arbor from the Gandy Dancer to the State Theater to the Fire Station, that's now the Hands-on Museum. We have done a lot of adaptive reuse and I would like to see that as a city goal to preserve what's the best about the old. Then the density along those two routes that I mentioned doesn't take care of the students who want to be near campus. That's an issue, I don't know what to say about. I don't know they just pass something Tuesday night, a really tall building on Forrest that involves the demolition of a 1960s apartment building to put up what is it? I think they asked for a PUD. They asked to change their zoning to a PUD so they could put a 19-story building up there.
  • [00:45:33] AMY CANTU: That's pretty tall.
  • [00:45:34] SUSAN WINEBERG: It's very big, and it's surrounded by small buildings.
  • [00:45:38] AMY CANTU: Assuming that there's going to be more raising, there's going to be more, this area's buildings lost. What are the top five architectural gems that you would like to see never touched in this town?
  • [00:45:59] SUSAN WINEBERG: That's hard. Most of them are on campus because they're by famous architects but the rack and building for instance, and all the Albert Kahn buildings on Central Campus. Central Campus is a historic district, by the way. When they tore down Barbara Waterman, which was my first dipping of my toe into the preservation movement. Other people involved, especially John Hathaway, who was a Republican city council member and a local lawyer. He was very good. He got the observatory protected. I believe he was behind the move to get the Central Campus declared a historic district. There's so many important buildings on campus. Kempf is my favorite, of course, Burton Tower is like the symbol of the University. You look at their publications, it's always a Burton Tower picture.
  • [00:46:50] ELIZABETH SMITH: That's true.
  • [00:46:51] SUSAN WINEBERG: It's on the cover of my book. That cover of my book is actually my photo with some drawings in pencil at the top as if it was an architectural drawing. It was very clever what they did with that photo, I really like it and I thought the first book I wrote had the Kempf House on the cover and I said we have to put a university building on the cover. It's the driving force of the town really so that Rackham is my favorite.
  • [00:47:21] AMY CANTU: Any off campus. I'm still sad they took down the Masonic Temple?
  • [00:47:26] SUSAN WINEBERG: I am too. Oh my God.
  • [00:47:29] ELIZABETH SMITH: The question was, what are the top five that are gone?
  • [00:47:33] SUSAN WINEBERG: I wrote this book last in August.
  • [00:47:35] ELIZABETH SMITH: Yes.
  • [00:47:36] SUSAN WINEBERG: The top building that's gone is the Courthouse, which everybody hated.
  • [00:47:41] AMY CANTU: Hated that it's gone or hated it.
  • [00:47:42] SUSAN WINEBERG: They hated it. When it was torn down, they were just looking forward. They had 50 years of being pushed to art modern and Art Deco and streamlined styles, and that was just too gaudy for most people's taste. When it was proposed to be demolished nobody raised their voice against the demolition. It was just something people weren't ready to see as a plus. That's why it's on the cover of my lost an Arbor book because that's the saddest one. Then that in this old Post Office. Every time people look through my book, those are the two buildings they pick out. They say, hey, tore that down. I said he was too busy for people. It didn't even last 50 years. That old Post Office at Maine and Ann, and now the county has a big building on that side for a while it was a park. Another favorite building is just down from there, which is the headquarters for Washington County Commissioners, where they meet. It's the old Post Office. That's one and they kept a lot of the post office stuff inside. At least they did 20 years ago when I got a tour. They had all the old windows where you'd walk up and buy stamps or something. They're still there. A lot of the odd things to do with the heating system, some of the old valves system. We got a real behind the scenes tour from one of the commissioners a long time ago. What's another favorite building.
  • [00:49:20] AMY CANTU: Or one that's lost?
  • [00:49:22] SUSAN WINEBERG: One that's lost. One of the ones that broke my heart the most was on Broadway. It was Absalon Travers house. It was from the 1840s and we had a historic district proposed for that street, and Pontiac Trail, which has all the Beckley houses, which are underground railroad-related. The city denied the request to have that a historic district and it got torn down. I just said it was just very upsetting that here we had the house left from one of the pioneers whose name is on many things. There's Traver Creek and there's Traverwood, and there's the library is named after that Traver Street. He planted all of Broadway and Wall Street. It was a big deal at the time. That just upset me a lot, and that's when it was the first time the city had ever done anything that negative about historic preservation, but that's something that's continued till today really. Because I've been on other study committees like Germantown. No Burns Park, no Pontiac Trail. Those Beckley houses aren't protected. Nothing on Pontiac Trail is protected, and there's a lot of old buildings there from the 1830s and '40s. I don't know, first for a while the University was just building on North Campus. Then they came and right now they're tearing the three houses on here on down, which breaks my heart. They're super fabulous inside. They made no effort to find someone to move it. They advertised it for sale in a weird place that no one would look. Two more houses are going to go, Mr. Cornwall House on Cornwall, the last house on Cornwall, huge beautiful house inside. Then the Pound House on Hill Street also being demolished. There I was thinking of writing an article, writing about demolition because the University is jumping these on official borders between town and gown and one of them was here on and the other was hill. Those two things are now, they are encroaching into neighborhoods and all they'll do is keep spreading into the neighborhood. Once they own something, they don't have to obey historic preservation rules, they can demolish whatever they want. I guess, I just don't see a good future ahead, but I wish they would concentrate their tall buildings in one place and somewhere at the edge of a historic neighborhood where it isn't so overpowering.
  • [00:52:31] SUSAN WINEBERG: When they re-zoned like Huron Street at Division, they were supposed to have overlays for tall buildings to step down when they had a historic next to them, district, and that didn't happen. That forge, what is it called? Not the forge. Something like that.
  • [00:52:54] AMY CANTU: It's huge.
  • [00:52:55] SUSAN WINEBERG: It's really big and now that whole block of Huron is just one big canyon, except for the church on the other side. Who knows, they could move too and then they could build something there. They're not in the district. Two little houses there by the Firestone. They're in the district. That was crazy that we were allowed to do that. Those could be moved easily if somebody gave them away, but who knows? They might not do that. Then now that whole lane of traffic next to those tall buildings on Huron, there's always a car there with its flashers on. You always have to go over to the left lane. It's like a loading zone now. The other day there were five vehicles in that lane. The post office, the Amazon.
  • [00:53:52] AMY CANTU: There's always an Amazon Prime.
  • [00:53:54] SUSAN WINEBERG: Amazon. People in their cars, there's nowhere to pull over. They should get rid of the trees in the front and put a drive in there. It's a state road. I'm surprised it's a Michigan highway, so they're supposed to obey those rules. I don't know. They're opting to get out of it being a Michigan Highway. Maybe they'll succeed. Anyway, I go on and on, don't I? I'm sorry.
  • [00:54:26] AMY CANTU: No, it's all right. But we're probably wrapping up pretty soon. I'd just like to know, in your career and your living here, what are you most proud of that you've accomplished?
  • [00:54:41] SUSAN WINEBERG: Well, my books, I'm quite proud of having the books out and I helped save one house that was on Wall Street that's moved to the Arb. It's the Reader Center. I was instrumental in starting that process. I got the Ann Arbor News to write a story about it and then someone at the Arb who just recently died, she worked for the university and thought it would make a great community. What do I want to say? Just a center, a place for people to go to the Arb to get information, to hold classes, things like that. They moved that, and they moved the, what's it called? The little building that went with it. I'll think of it eventually. I haven't been at a loss for words for an hour. [LAUGHTER] What is it? Smokehouse. A lot of houses had smokehouses and so the little smokehouse got moved too.
  • [00:55:48] AMY CANTU: Where is that? Why do I do not know about that?
  • [00:55:51] SUSAN WINEBERG: As you enter where the Reader Center is, it's right next to it. It's off to the side. I don't know if they smoked meat in there anymore, [LAUGHTER] but I don't know what they use it for. But they weren't going to move that and we encouraged them to move it. That's one thing. Just my historic district, where I live, I'm very proud of the historic districts that I was able to get established, like downtown, Main Street and State Street. Because I know the State Theater almost lost its marquee because the owners were then borders books and they wanted to take the marquee down for some reason. Because maybe it was expensive to maintain it. I don't know. They came to a meeting and said, what would happen if we took the marquee down? I said, well, you wouldn't make very many friends if you did that. You'd have a lot of people mad at you.
  • [00:56:47] AMY CANTU: That is true. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:56:49] SUSAN WINEBERG: I said, we can't stop you from doing it, but I really don't think it's a good idea and so they kept it. Then Urban Outfitters moved in and they used the marquee for a while until they started to show movies again upstairs. That's another thing I think that I was instrumental. Well, two things with the State Theater. One, I think I got the ball rolling for the Michigan to buy the State Theater because I have trouble getting around. I use a cane when I walk usually, and you were in the balcony and there were no hand rails and I had leaned on a seat to balance myself and it was broken and I fell forward. Then I said, they need to put an elevator here, and they need to fix these seats. I complained to the City, and the next thing you know, the owners are planning to take the theater out and make it office space and the Historic Commission is asked to approve windows in what's now the theater space. That got the community aroused. No, we don't want to lose this. Then Russ Collins stepped in, and he's really good at making things happen. He worked out a deal where they would manage and own the second floor there, and then they did that whole remodel, and I had kept a piece of the original carpeting. When Urban Outfitters moved in, I saw them tearing up the carpet. I said, can I have a piece of that? Then I knew where it was, and I gave it to Russ and Russ said, my god, we only have a black and white picture of the carpet. This is fantastic. When you go in and you see that gaudy [LAUGHTER] green and orange carpet, that's because I had that piece that I'd saved and he wanted to give it back to me. I said, no, you need to keep that, you need to frame it and put it up somewhere. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, I'm told that he mentions my name when he talks about the carpeting. That's something I'm proud of too that I show off.
  • [00:58:57] AMY CANTU: Well, that's great. [LAUGHTER] That's a great legacy, Susan. It's typical.
  • [00:59:02] SUSAN WINEBERG: Thank you.
  • [00:59:02] AMY CANTU: You've got all sorts of stuff and you've made a lot of difference.
  • [00:59:06] SUSAN WINEBERG: I think I'm a frustrated archivist [LAUGHTER] or librarian or something because I love getting things to the right people. Documenting the old fourth ward got me started on keeping track of buildings by address, but that's another thing I did. When I worked at the Bentley, I was in charge of accessioning the Ivory photo collection. It was 10,000 negatives, it was mostly negatives and they were poorly labeled. I made a decision and my boss said, that everything was going to be organized by address. I sat there with things like, it would say, Ralph's Market. Well, who knows where Ralph's Market is? It was on Packard. I looked it up in a city directory appropriate to the date and got the address. That whole collection is organized by address and that's when I got the idea to do my own collection like that. I think it worked out. I think it turned out to be useful for people.
  • [01:00:12] ELIZABETH SMITH: Absolutely. We definitely appreciate it. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:00:14] AMY CANTU: Yes, we do.
  • [01:00:15] SUSAN WINEBERG: The other thing was that a lot of houses were named, like this is the Wilson War-house, but no one knew where it was and sometimes the names would change over time because somebody else lived there a long time. I said, that's not a good system. [LAUGHTER] It might work if you were in a small group where everyone understood what you meant. But when you start having to find something, that makes it really hard in my files, I also have three by five pieces of paper where I tell myself where stuff is and what I have. I have all these. They're not cards, there's six little drawers where you would have a card catalog. I got these from work. There is steel case, gray metal and I needed more, so I went on to eBay. They're very expensive, they're collectibles. I couldn't believe it. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, I had to spend a lot of money to get a new old one to accommodate my growing collection of three by five slips of paper. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:01:25] AMY CANTU: You do sound like a librarian. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:01:29] SUSAN WINEBERG: Frustrated. No one saw that in me.
  • [01:01:32] AMY CANTU: Well, we appreciate it.
  • [01:01:34] SUSAN WINEBERG: Good.
  • [01:01:35] ELIZABETH SMITH: Great. Thank you so much for talking to us today.
  • [01:01:38] SUSAN WINEBERG: You're so very welcome and thanks for letting me just go on and on about myself.
  • [01:01:43] AMY CANTU: Thank you for everything you've done for the city.
  • [01:01:46] SUSAN WINEBERG: Thank you. That's really nice to hear.
  • [01:01:55] ELIZABETH SMITH: [MUSIC] You can find more information about Susan Weinberg and Susan's historical photo collections at aadl.org/wineberg. AADL talks to you is a production of the Ann Arbor District Library.