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Robert MacKenzie House, 1916/1927

Robert MacKenzie House, 1916/1927 image

1422 West Liberty Street

Robert MacKenzie House (Anna Botsford Bach Home), 1916/1927

Dr. Robert MacKenzie, a prominent physician and head of the University of Michigan's Obstetrics Department built this neo-classical Italian villa in 1916. Unlike most of his colleagues, MacKenzie and his wife preferred to be in the "country" and have more acreage. Thus they built their new home on the far west side of town where many of Dr. MacKenzie's patients lived. Dr. MacKenzie was fluent in German, which made him popular among the many Germans living on the West Side.

When construction began in 1916, the architect suggested a third floor with a ballroom, but Mrs. MacKenzie vehemently objected to such ostentation. Even without a ballroom it was a grand house, with spacious rooms, verandas, a central hall big enough to play football, and two large fieldstone fireplaces. Ten years later Dr. MacKenzie's health began to fail and in 1926 he and his wife moved to their summer house in Frankfort, Michigan. He died on June 8, 1934.

The spacious house soon proved it could handle a larger family. MacKenzie had been instrumental in expanding St. Joseph Mercy Hospital from its beginnings in a house on North State Street. That house later became the first Old Ladies Home. After the addition of a third floor, the Old Ladies Home moved into the MacKenzie house in 1927 and has been here ever since. The name soon changed to the Anna Botsford Bach Home, in honor of the energetic woman who had worked tirelessly to create a home for elderly women.

Today, more than 75 years later, the goal of the Anna Botsford Bach Home remains the same: to provide a homelike atmosphere for its sixteen elderly residents. The women are friends and companions, and there is a sense of affection and respect for the special care provided there. Through careful maintenance by the Board of Trustees, this structure and its beautifully landscaped site provide grade and charm to Liberty Street, one of the city's main thoroughfares. In 1990 much of the original interior woodwork in the dining room was restored by Jim Stacey. The Ann Arbor Historic District Commission presented the Home with a Preservation Award in 1989.

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Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.