Ann Arbor public schools, begun in the 1830s, were inadequately funded and poorly organized. This changed in 1856 when the Union School opened (building on right); it was the grandest building in Ann Arbor. Its assembly room, seating 700, was often used for public events. Classes prepared students to enter the nearby university. Nonresidents, who paid tuition, made up more than half the enrollment.
In the 1860s five new ward schools were constructed for primary grades. Increasing enrollment at Union, soon renamed Ann Arbor High, required additions, including the large brick and stone section on the left. Religious and private schools also were available. In the nineteenth century most of Ann Arbor's churches were nearby. They established reading rooms, social centers, and lectures to attract university students. The 1882 First Unitarian Church (to your left) had a social hall and reading room. Directly behind you, the Episcopalians built Harris Hall in1886 for students to meet "under the refining and elevating influence of the Church's social life." A later pastor said their goal was "to intercept students on their way to Joe's and the Orient," two Main Street saloons famous in Michigan student tradition where "the minds and habits of the young should not be formed." Nearer campus on State Street, the Student Christian Association built Newberry Hall (later the Kelsey Museum) in 1891 and then Lane Hall in 1915 for student social and religious activities.