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Louisa Pieper, Dedicated Local Historian and Preservationist

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 3:43pm by andrewjmac

Louisa Pieper with Fred, July 1999

Louisa Pieper, longtime Ann Arbor Historic Preservation Coordinator, local historian, and friend to the Library passed away on Wednesday, August 15, 2018.  

After coming to Ann Arbor in 1968, Louisa spent years with Ann Arbor's Historic District Commission, first as staff director and then as Historic Preservation Coordinator for the last 17 years of her career.  In these positions she fought to preserve the fabric of Ann Arbor's past through architecture, helping to establish 12 of the city's Historic Districts.  Many of the buildings in these areas would long since have disappeared or been changed beyond recognition were it not for her tireless efforts.  She was also a founding member of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, which works on legislative issues at the state level to protect and restore Michigan's architectural heritage.

Louisa's work helped to keep the past alive in Ann Arbor by ensuring it surrounded all who inhabited the city.  She had the true preservationist's commitment, not to stopping development, but to balancing development with history in order to enrich the tapestry of city life.  Her goal in all of her work was to preserve "the feeling that people have the past all around them" and to ensure that there would be enough visible evidence of that past that "we can feel connected with it".

Another piece of Louisa's legacy that will endure is the Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit program, which created and maintains the glass and porcelain history panels around the city.  As one of the project's principal creators, Louisa had a hand in researching and writing each of those panels, putting the city's history in front of everyone who walked the streets of Ann Arbor as a citizen or a visitor.  Her ability to convey the large movements of history without losing sight of individual stories is evident in each of these panels.  Each exhibit also demonstrates her eye for the locations and images that would arrest pedestrians and make them pause to learn a bit about the past in the midst of their day.

We are thankful to Louisa as historians for the past that is evident all around us as we walk through the city of Ann Arbor and we are thankful to Louisa as friends for her years of friendship and her unfailing sardonic wit.  Louisa will be missed by all who knew her but her work will live on in the city for generations to come.

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