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Joseph C. Watts House, built in 1858

Joseph C. Watts House, built in 1858 image

In 1858 Main Street jeweler Joseph C. Watts built his large brick home on the northeast corner of Liberty and Division within easy walking distance of his Main Street shop. Multiple fireplaces, a roof-top widow’s walk, and ornate trim in the fashionable Italianate style proclaimed his success. The earliest settlers and most prominent citizens built their houses near the center of town. At first, crude, dirt-floored log cabins were clustered near Huron and Main. Single-family frame, brick, and stucco dwellings rapidly spread east to what after 1837 became the University of Michigan campus. On the opposite corner to your right stands druggist Emanuel Mann’s 1850 house of brick covered with stucco scored to resemble stone. This style was so popular that Ann Arbor was referred to as "the little stucco village." In 1829 Mann's parents had been the first German family to settle in Ann Arbor. Next to the park is the 1853 Greek Revival home of Henry Dewitt Bennett, local postmaster and later secretary of the University. In 1970 the house became a city-owned museum honoring Reuben and Pauline Kempf. They bought the home in 1890 and taught piano and voice in the parlor for more than fifty years. The town’s major churches were also part of the neighborhood. University students rented rooms and took meals in nearby homes. The neighborhood remained residential until after World War II, when its prime location between Main Street and campus led to its transformation to commercial uses.

Frame location: South side of Liberty opposite park entrance, facing northeast corner of Liberty and Division

Collection info: Ann Arbor News

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