In 1832, New York native Anson Brown erected the Exchange Block in which was called Lower Town. He was determined to make this side of the river Ann Arbor's center. Where the Potawatomi Trail crossed the Huron River, a wooden bridge had been built in 1828 to carry traffic from Detroit and Pontiac to the village of Ann Arbor. Brown and his partners dammed the river upstream and built a flour mill next to the bridge, where Edison later built the substation to your left.
The partners laid out streets with New York City names: Broadway, Maiden Lane, Canal, and Wall. Brown succeeded in capturing the appointment of postmaster, forcing upper-village "Hill-Toppers" to come to Lower Town for their mail. His ambitious dreams died with him in the cholera epidemic of 1834, but Lower Town survived as a distinct neighborhood with its own school, industry, and commercial center. It was incorporated into the city as the fifth ward in 1861. Workers as well as business owners lived in homes that still remain on Broadway, Pontiac, and Traver.
In the 20th century, single-story commercial buildings, parking lots, and expanding university facilities replaced much of Lower Town. Anson Brown's Exchange Block remains — the oldest surviving commercial building in Ann Arbor.