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Frederick Sorg Block, 1871

Frederick Sorg Block, 1871 image

216-218 East Washington

Frederick Sorg Block, 1871

When Frederick Sorg completed the brick block at 216 for his paint and glass depot in 1871, he realized such instant success that he built a second store next door in 1872 at 218 East Washington. One of the local newspapers, the Peninsular Courier, remarked in July of that year that a "new brick block is going up rapidly." It joined the ranks of Ann Arbor's other brick commercial blocks that were sprouting up in downtown during the boom years of the early 1870s.

Sorg was so proud of this building that he featured it in many of his advertisements. In the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County an engraving shows in delicate shadings the second-floor arched windows separated by thin brick pilasters. It also shows the floor-to-ceiling plate glass storefront windows that were the newest rage among businesses.

Sorg advertised himself as a "house, sign, and ornamental painter, dealing in paints, oils, varnishes, glass etc." Paper hanging, printing and glazing also were his specialties and by the late 1870s he had added graining and gilding. His work was carried on by his son Albert until 1886. In the 1890s Edgar Munyon and his wife Addie ran a millinery shop here and lived upstairs, just as the Sorgs had. Throughout the 20th century the building housed a succession of businesses including a barber shop, a tape recorder store, a donut company, a shoe store and a coal store.

In 1985 Robert Tisch, owner of Tisch Incorporated, an insurance and investment services firm, purchased the building and hired architect Daniel H. Jacobs to remove the porcelain enamel panels that had covered the front since the 1950s. The original facade was then restored using the drawing in the county atlas as a guide.

Recognizing the great improvement both to the building and to the street as a whole, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission awarded Tisch a Rehabilitation Award in 1986 for his sensitive restoration of the building's interior as well as its exterior.

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