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The city's growth was not limited to hotels or saloons. Some of Ann Arbor's proudest buildings were erected in this period. Hangsterfer's,Hill's Opera House advertisement with a ground floor confectionery shop and a dance hall and auditorium upstairs, was completed in 1860. Most of the major musical and theatrical presentations which came to Ann Arbor in the 1860's appeared here. Its reputation diminished with the openingCounty courthouse of George D. Hill's Opera House in 1871, which thereafter became the center of the city's cultural life. And, in 1878, the construction of the new courthouse capped the municipal building program.

By 1860 the religious life of Ann Arbor was already well established. The city had ten churches: First Congregational, Episcopal, German Lutheran, Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, First and Second Presbyterian, Quaker, St. Thomas' Catholic Church, and the Universalist Church. By 1872 the Quaker and Universalist churches had disbanded. Two African-American congregations had been formed: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, located on present-day Fourth Avenue; and the African Baptist Church, situated on the south side of High Street. Throughout the '1860's several of the established churches outgrew their facilities and moved into splendid new quarters. The First Presbyterian Church was completed in 1860; the Presbyterian Church, 1865Methodist Episcopal Church in 1867; and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in 1869. Construction continued into the '1870's with the erection of the First Congregational Church and the beginning of the First Baptist Church which was dedicated in 1881.

In addition to the activities of the city's churches, citizens could participate in a great variety of other cultural organizations. In 1866 some prominent women of the town organized the Ladies Library Association. Funded by a system of fees and dues, the library was open to all subscribing Ann Arbor residents. By 1881 it boasted a collection of 200 volumes. Other organizations were tailored to the city's growing numbers of German immigrants: The German Laboring Men's Society; the Turn Verein; and the Schuetzenbund. A number of reform organizations sought to curb the influence of the saloon: the Ann Arbor Temperance Society; the Father Mathew Temperance Society; the Ladies Temperance Union; St. Thomas Benevolent Temperance Society; the Ann Arbor Reform Club; and the Juvenile Temperance Union.

A few organizations defied classification. Of these, the Independent Six was the most baffling. Organized in 1875, the members of this society devoted themselves to the study of Japanese sciences. Its chain of command included, at the top, the Mikado, followed by 1st and 2nd Tycoon, the Daimio, Hattamoto, and chaplain. In 1876 the Independent Six presented its production of Hamlet at Hill's Opera House. The newspaper account failed to make clear the relevance of Hamlet to Japanese studies.