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Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

Welcome to AADL's local history page!

We have a large local history collection located on the second floor of the Downtown Library where you'll find a variety of sources for genealogy research. We've also produced several online collections you may be interested in, including...

50 Years of Originality: A History of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair The 50 year history of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair including an exhibit on the path the Art Fair has taken, a collection of over 100 images including photos and promotional materials, audio memories of art fair participants and visitors, and videos.
Ann Arbor Architecture Archive Learn the history of the buildings around us with this gallery of images and text about Ann Arbor's historic structures. Includes the full text of Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.
Ann Arbor City Council Meeting Minutes A chance to view the history of Ann Arbor through the eyes of its governing body. Search the full text of Ann Arbor City Council meeting minutes from 1891-1930 or browse available meetings. All sets of minutes can be viewed as images or as searchable pdfs.
Ann Arbor Cooks Online collection of heirloom recipes and cookbooks from Ann Arbor area community organizations, churches and businesses. Browse or search recipes, or view cookbooks in their entirety. Includes access to Repast, the acclaimed culinary history magazine.
AACHM Living Oral History An oral history project in partnership with the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. The interviews serve as a road map illustrating what local African-Americans witnessed, experienced, and contributed to building the community we share today.
Ann Arbor Facts Data, facts and trivia on our hometown.
Ann Arbor Film Festival Archive The history of North America's longest running festival for independent and experimental film is told through programs, posters, flyers, photographs, newspaper articles and original interviews.
Ann Arbor Observer: Then & Now Online collection of over 130 articles from the Ann Arbor Observer covering a wide variety of local history topics, fully searchable and browsable by subject. Also has an image gallery of historic Ann Arbor photos.
Ann Arbor Police Department History An online exhibit of the history of the Ann Arbor Police Department. Includes full-text of True Crimes and the History of the AAPD, The History of the Outdoor Range and hundreds of photographs and images of memorabilia collected by the department since 1847.
Ann Arbor Summer Festival Archive Learn about the history of one of Ann Arbor's largest cultural events, featuring programs and posters from each year, contemporary newspaper articles, hundreds of photos, and original interviews with past Festival directors.
Downtown A2 Historical Street Exhibit Program Tour the permanent sidewalk exhibits at sixteen landmark sites throughout downtown Ann Arbor. Includes full-text and keyword access to an image database of hundreds of images from each location.
The Ford Gallery of Ann Arbor Founders Who are the people who made Ann Arbor the city we all know and love? From the earliest pioneers to twentieth-century philanthropists, here are the stories of businessmen and women, visionaries and artists, educators and entrepreneurs, doctors, ministers, and mayors.
Freeing John Sinclair: The Day Legends Came to Town Learn about a piece of Ann Arbor's radical past with photos, essays, newspaper articles, the entire run of the Ann Arbor Sun, and original interviews. This website documents the activities of John Sinclair, the day John Lennon and Stevie Wonder played a concert in Ann Arbor, how an Ann Arborite ended up on the FBI's Most Wanted List, and the actions the White Panther/Rainbow People's Party.
Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice: 50 Years of History An online exhibit in partnership with ICPJ, including photos, local news articles, and documents spanning five decades of social justice advocacy and activism in our community.
Making of Ann Arbor Discover the history of Ann Arbor through full-text access to several books and several image collections. Includes a collection of postcards, historic buildings, advertisements, and maps of early Ann Arbor.
Old News Read newspapers from Ann Arbor's past to learn more about the places around you. Old News includes over 115,000 articles and photos from the Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor Courier, Ann Arbor Argus, and Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat. Read full issues of 19th century newspapers and browse or search articles and photos from the 20th.
pictureAnnArbor An online photo collection of Ann Arbor past and present. Search for images of Ann Arbor and add some of your own.
Signal of Liberty Ann Arbor's prominent abolitionist newspaper, with issues from 1841-1847 now available online. Browse the articles in the original or search all newspaper items.
University Musical Society: A History of Great Performances This collection includes full text searching and browsing access to the first 100 years of historical programs from University Musical Society concerts, as well as hundreds of photographs from their 131-year history.
Ypsilanti Gleanings Ypsilanti Gleanings is the official publication of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, which through painstakingly-researched articles, first-hand accounts, and historical photographs, presents a clear picture of the Ypsilanti that once was and still is all around us. Explore this online archive by searching, browsing by issue or browsing by subject, and check out the image gallery of photographs and illustrations from the collection of the YHS.

We've also invited some local historians to contribute to a local history blog, which begins below. Thanks for your interest, and enjoy!

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Blog Post

Calling All High School Students!

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 2:51pm

Do you love local history? If so, you or your team could win the annual [|Ray Detter Local History Award] for up to one thousand dollars! And our Oldnews team at AADL can help!

Possible projects you could consider include, but are not limited to one of the following:

* Document an historic site in Ann Arbor.
* Assist with Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit tours.
* Develop material for a local historical museum: e.g., Kempf House Museum, Cobblestone Farm, Museum on Main Street.
* Produce media that promotes local history, e.g. Community TV; graphic novel.
* Document an interview with a local historian.
* Contribute to local history efforts at the Ann Arbor District Library.
* Develop a program to promote this Award to all Ann Arbor high schools.

Watch [|this video] for more information about the award, or email project director Ilene Tyler at

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Blog Post

Mast Shoes Marks 75th Anniversary

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 1:39pm

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In 1942, Ann Arbor High School graduate [|Walter Mast] struck out on his own and opened Mast Shoe Store on S. Main St. No sooner had Mr. Mast opened the store than Uncle Sam called and [|Helen Mast] took over running the store while Walter served in World War II.

In 1949 [|Mast Shoes] added a [|Campus] store on Liberty with elegant departments for [|women] and [|men]. Their stores featured the latest styles in [|sandals], winter [|boots], trendy [|boots], and top brands for [|men].

In 1968 the flagship store [|moved] down to 217 S. Main and [|re-opened] with much larger [|display areas]. The [|Westgate] store opened in 1993. In 1997, Tom and [|Greg] Mast made the tough decision to [|close] the [|Main Street] store. In 2004, the Masts closed the [|Liberty St.] store, concentrating their business to Westgate. Stop by Westgate and see the display of vintage photos they've put in the store to celebrate their 75th anniversary.

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Blog Post

Solar Eclipses

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 8:29am


A total solar eclipse will be visible in North America on Monday, August 21. Although in Ann Arbor only a partial eclipse will be visible, it will still be an exciting event! In honor of this event, we have gathered some articles and pictures from past solar eclipses as seen in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor News' photographer, Cecil Lockard, captured the 1970 eclipse in [|time lapse.] Examples of how to view the event include an [|Ann Arbor resident's pin hole box] created for the 1963 solar eclipse, and the use of paper to project an image as seen in this picture from the [|1994 eclipse.] See additional photos and articles from the News pertaining to solar eclipses [|here.]

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In The Path of Amelia Earhart

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 11:32am


Aviation pioneer […|Amelia Earhart] and her navigator Fred Noonan departed Oakland, Calif., on May 29, 1937, in a second attempt to circumnavigate the earth by airplane. About three-fourths of the way, Earhart, Noonan and their plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

In 1967, 30-year-old former Saline schoolteacher and aviator [|Ann Pellegreno] made news by […|tracking] and completing Earhart’s historic flight in a [|duplicate] of Earhart’s Lockheed 10 Elektra. Pellegreno was a graduate of the University of Michigan with two education degrees. At the time of the flight, she and her husband, Donald Pellegreno, were living in Saline.

She became interested in aviation when she helped her husband and brother-in-law build a small [|biplane] and was encouraged to try flying it. She and Donald joined an aeronautical club in Ann Arbor and began a lifetime of flying. While working as an English teacher, she was also involved working as a flight instructor and working for Gordon Aviation at the Ann Arbor Airport.

[|Lee Koepke] told Pellegreno he was rebuilding a plane similar to the one flown by Earhart. Koepke’s encouragement and a book on Earhart’s flight convinced Pellegreno to make the attempt in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Earhart’s flight. The Lockheed plane used in the flight was owned by Koepke, who accompanied her on the flight as a [|mechanic]. Two additional crew members participated, navigator William Polhemus and co-pilot William Payne. The plane was prepared for flight at [|Willow Run Airport]. The plane […|flew] from Willow Run to Oakland, Calif,, to officially begin the world-circling flight at the same place as Earhart.

National news services [|tracked] Pellegreno’s flight as she and her crew […|sky-hopped] around the [|globe] and dubbed her Michigan’s flying housewife. Back at home, the News kept up with Don Pellegreno as he […|“kept the home fires burning.]”

In Saline, the excitement was building around Pellegreno’s return and plans were made for a […|big parade]. Pellegreno [|touched down] at Willow Run Airport in mid-July. Saline held a [|ticker-tape parade] for Pellegreno and her crew on July 16. A large crowd of enthusiastic fans [|held up signs], cheered and [|wrapped themselves] in ticker-tape while Pellegreno and her crew smiled their [|appreciation] for the strong local support.

Pellegreno wrote an […|award-winning book] on her flight, [… Flight; The Earhart Trail], in 1971. She and her husband left Michigan for teaching positions in Iowa. In 1990, Ms. Pellegreno was inducted into the [|Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame].

Pellegreno, 80, still lives in Iowa and still flying.

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Nickels Arcade Celebrates 100 Years

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 8:58am


By Grace Shackman

Nickels Arcade celebrates its Centennial this year and the Arcade and AADL are commemorating the milestone with exhibits, receptions and a digital history of the Arcade. AADL will host an exhibit at the Downtown Library beginning June 1, 2017, featuring photos, articles, and artifacts that tell the story of the first 100 years of Nickels Arcade. The Arcade "family" will have ongoing exhibits throughout the Arcade and a gala reception in July.

When Tom Nickels inherited his father’s State Street meat market, he decided to tear it down and build the elegant European-style [|Nickels Arcade] that is still there one hundred years later. He bought the land all the way down to Maynard from his siblings and then hired local architect [|Herman Pipp] to design. The section on the southeast corner, then Farmers and Mechanics Bank and now [|Bivouac], was finished in 1915, but the rest was not ready for occupancy until 1917 due to shortage of materials during World War I.

Soon the Arcade filled with up-scale businesses of the kind that European arcades aimed to attract. The oldest business is the barber shop, which opened in 1917 and, although changing owners periodically, has stayed in the same location offering the same service. The oldest store to stay in the same family is [|VanBoven Clothing], which opened in 1927 where the meat market had been located. The [|Caravan Shop] opened the same year but has, like the barber shop, had different owners. Tom Nickels’ sister, Bee Nickels, opened a store that specialized in fine children’s clothing imported from Europe.

Many of the other stores that opened in the first decade stayed for years, including a [|post office substation] (until 1998), [|Bay's Jewelry] (three generations until 1992), and Betsy Ross Restaurant (closed in 1975). Women’s undergarments were sold at the [|Van Buren shop], owned by Mae Van Buren, who had managed that department at Mack’s Department Store and knew how to do perfect fittings. From 1932 to 1982, a mainstay of the Arcade was the [|Arcade Newsstand] at the State Street entrance.

As the economy picked up after World War II, a crop of new stores opened that followed the pattern of pre-war tenants of staying for many years. Milford Boersma, who opened his [|travel business] in 1945, was a pioneer in many phases of travel. Jessie Winchell Forsythe opened [|Forsythe Gallery], the first art gallery in Ann Arbor, in 1954. In 1956 [|University Flower Shop] moved into space that had been Aunt Bees and has been a flower shop ever since. In 1987 the Arcade was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the Arcade is a mix of old-time stores, such as the tobacco shop that opened in 1964 and Arcadian Antiques, which dates back to 1983, with very “now” concerns such as Babo Juice and Food and Comet Coffee, keeping the European feel.

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Civil Rights History Comes To Ann Arbor

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 6:51pm


On March 25, 1965, civil rights activist [|Viola Liuzzo,] 39, of Detroit was driving back to Mongomery, Ala., after a voting rights march in Selma with a black man, Leroy Moten, 19, one of the Selma demonstrators. A car carrying four Ku Klux Klan members began a high-speed chase down Alabama Highway 80. When they caught up with Liuzzo, the men opened fire, killing Liuzzo. Her passenger was uninjured.

In 1983, five of Liuzzo’s children [|filed suit] against the U.S. government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for negligence, cover-up and violation of the their mother’s civil rights. The $2 million lawsuit was brought before a federal court because one of the four men arrested in the murder was an FBI informant. The non-jury trial was heard by U.S. District Judge [|Charles W. Joiner] in Ann Arbor.

The four Klansmen were arrested hours after the incident and charged with conspiring to violate the civil rights of the victim, but one of them, [|Gary Thomas Rowe Jr.] was later dropped from a state grand jury’s murder indictment because he was an undercover FBI informant. An 1975 investigation by the Senate Select Committee to Study Government relations began an investigation. Rowe testified that he has participated in acts of violence that were known and approved by the FBI. Rowe was indicted in the Liuzzo murder in 1978 by an Alabama grand jury but had not been tried because of legal complications.

The trial in Ann Arbor opened on March 21. The[| five Liuzzo chidren] –Anthony, Thomas, Penny, Mary and Sally – allege that Rowe killed their mother or failed to prevent the slaying as an agent of a law enforcement agency. The other three men in the pursuit car were tried for murder in Alabama but acquitted.

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Ann Arbor News Photographs from Spring & Summer in Ann Arbor, 1937

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 2:54pm

Media Player

To find out more about the photographs in the slideshow and for dozens more from 80 years ago, check out our Spring in Ann Arbor, 1937 and Summer in Ann Arbor, 1937 collections.

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A History of Welcoming

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 7:23am

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They came for a new life, better opportunities and a [|promise of freedom]. They also came to escape war, political oppression, hunger and natural disasters. Whatever the reason, Ann Arbor has long put out the [|welcome mat] for [|immigrants] and [|refugees], and those who came left their mark on their new home.

Every year [|new citizens] of the United States have pledged their allegiance to the United States at swearing in ceremonies in [|District Court] in Ann Arbor. Each year the Ann Arbor News recorded the names of new citizens from every corner of the world. They were students, carpenters, nurses, engineers, barbers, [|homemakers], lexicographers, medical technologists and scholars. They were [|Ethiopian], Chinese, Haitian, Syrian, [|British], French, [|Greek], immigrants from more than [|100] others nations of the world. The news ran photos showing new patriots [|beaming] with anticipation, [|waving] little American flags and, sometimes, shedding tears to have finally made that final step in the long road to citizenship. The names of former immigrants can be seen all over town in [|historic buildings], [|park names], long thriving [|businesses].

Some came to Ann Arbor as refugees. In 1957, Joseph Kovacs [|celebrated] his 12th birthday with two birthday cakes and his new classmates at Eberwhite School. Joseph and his family had fled Hungary after Soviet troops drove tanks into Budapest. They found a [|warm welcome] in Ann Arbor. In 1940, [|children from Britain] found a safe haven from German bombs. Others from [|France], Germany and other countries found their way from the ravages of Nazism and [|World War II]. Refugees were later welcomed in 1964 from Castro’s [|Cuba], in 1980 from [|Vietnam], in 1982 from [|Haiti] and from many other human and natural situations. Local churches found a place for [|displaced persons], local charitable groups gave shelter, [|clothes], food and opportunities.

Their stories are became part of [|Ann Arbor’s story], a town where people from every walk of life and every corner of the world [|made a contribution] to the community.

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St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Celebrates 190th Anniversary

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 7:39pm

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[|St. Andrew's Episcopal Church] marks 190 years in Ann Arbor in 2017. Old News has digitized hundreds of photos and articles beginning with the [|appointment] of Rev. Gillispie to the rectorship in 1861 to a 2009 story of [|Svea Gray], mainstay of St. Andrew's Breakfast program. Grace Shackman's [|Then & Now] article provides a great overview of the history of the church. The recommendation of Rev. Tatlock in 1895 to provide [|free pews] so that all were welcome at the church foretold the mission of St. Andrew's to be [|inclusive], [|supportive] and most importantly, a [|force] in the community at large. The 39-year rectorship of [|Henry Lewis], from 1922 to 1961, embodied this [|spirit] and became a model for all St. Andrew's [|rectors] to [|follow].

St. Andrew's was a social center for Ann Arborites as well. Their Easter Ball was the [|"society highlight"] of the year, followed closely by their [|Guild Ball in December]. The annual [|Christmas] and [|Easter] fairs raised money for the Church and for their charitable programs. Music remains one of the most noted aspects of St. Andrew's Church. Their [|choirs], [|organists], [|concerts] and plays by the [|St. Andrew's Players] remain not-to-be-missed events. The Canterbury House was a place for [|performance] and [|poetry] and [|protest].

And of course, the [|building]. From any [|view], [|inside] and [|outside], whether [|chapel] or [|vestry], [|details] that have a [|history] of their [|own]. Be sure to include St. Andrew's, 306 N. Division St., on your next walking tour of Ann Arbor. You can also read about the history of [|St. Andrew's] in books at AADL.