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Facility Was Built In 1916

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Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
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The Ann Arbor Public Schools Administration Building at 1220 Wells, which burned early Sunday, was built in 1916 as the Eberbach School. Oscar A. Eberbach of 2250 Belmont Rd. says the building was named after his father, Ottmar Eberbach, who was a member of the Board of Education at that time. The site for the school was part of the old Eberbach farm of Oscar's grandfather, Christian Eberbach, an early mayor of Ann Arbor. Later when the Tappan School, now Burns Park Elementary, was built nearby, Eberbach school was closed for a time. It was reopened in 1925 when Ann Arbor's increasing population overflowed the newer facility. Miss Helen M. Platt of 1101 Birk Ave., retired principal of that school and Burns Park, said she was hired as principal of Eberbach School when it was reopened and remained in that post until its final closing as an elementary school in 1951. "It never was a good school from the standHoint of architecture," she said. Miss Platt added she understands the reason was that the architect was either a Board of Education member or a friend of a board member who provided the plans free of charge. So they couldn't very well be turned down. "I was principal of the school for 26 years and during that time there was little improvement. We used the basement as an auditorium and workshop, and there was no flooring, just all sand and a lot of fleas," she said. "It never should have been used as a school because it was never safe, with the furnace right under the staircase. It was years before we got fire doors," Miss Platt recalled. A Board of Education statement which appeared in the May 3, 1938, issue of The Ann Arbor News agreed with Miss Platt's assessment. "The Board of Education and the community have long recognized the need of school buildings to replace the present Donovan and Eberbach Schools. Both structures are far below the standards that have been set by more modern schools built for the use of children of this city." An editorial in The News, on May 7, 1938, regarding voting on a bond issue to replace the schools, called them "outworn, outgrown, dangerous." The bond issue failed and Eberbach School continued in use for another 13 years as an elementary school. Plans to again reopen the school after its 1951 closing were discussed by the Board of Education in 1954, but apparently did not go through. The first hint that the former school building would become the headquarters for the school district, came in on July 29, 1955, when George Balas, former business manager of the Ann Arbor public schools told the Board of Education that "there is some possibility" the old Eberbach School will "ultimately" be converted into an administration building. On Sept. 30, 1955, The News reported "Eberbach School, boarded up since 1951, will be renovated and will become the administration headquarters of the Ann Arbor Board of Education central staff." Costs of renovating the building the next year were paid from the sale of the former Ann Arbor High School (now the University's Frieze Building on State St. ) to the U-M for $1,400,000. Jack Elzay, former superintendent of schools, announced at a board meeting in December, 1955, that bids for the renovation would be let by mid-March of 1966. He estimated cost of the renovation of the 10-room former school at $100,000, with completion set for August of 1966. The Eberbach School has been used as the' business office of the public schools; since then, with subsequent renovations "having taken place.