These three buildings—a pre-Civil War parsonage, a late 19th century merchant’s home, and a 1920s automotive service garage—are now protected by a recorded Preservation Easement limiting future alteration or demolition in perpetuity. The houses are unique survivors of a residential neighborhood that once stood between downtown and State Street.
The Greek Revival house above was built in 1858 as a parsonage for the First Methodist Episcopal Church (then located at East Ann and Fifth Avenue, right inset above). The minister at that time, Rev. Seth Reed, began his career as a circuit rider preaching to early settlers throughout the Michigan wilderness. The church built its new building at South State and East Washington in 1866 (left inset above). This residence was used by its ministers until 1881.
Shoe merchant William Allaby purchased the house in 1882 and lived there until 1910 as the street and neighborhood became more commercial. In 1924 Albert and Beatrice Graves moved into the former parsonage. They built a concrete block auto-repair shop behind the house—Graves Garage—where they also sold used cars. After Albert died in 1927, various auto-related businesses leased the garage. The last—Maynard Battery and Auto Electric Shop—vacated it in 1965. Mrs. Graves had earlier divided the house into two rental apartments.
The Italianate house above was built in 1884 by German immigrant Jacob Hoffstetter and his wife Gertrude. The Hoffstetters had operated a grocery store and saloon on Main Street since 1872 (inset above). They lived above the store until they sold their business and built this house on what was then a prime residential street. Before Jacob died in 1896, they rented the back portion to Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. By 1937, the house was divided into apartments.
In 1980 Rita and Peter Heydon purchased the two houses and garage. They undertook a meticulous rehabilitation, converting the interiors of both houses to residential and office use while retaining the architectural character of the buildings. The properties were listed on the National Register of Historic Places at that time.
After donating the Preservation Easement on the properties to the non-profit Michigan Historic Preservation Network, the Heydons were awarded the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission’s Preservationist of the Year award in 2008. In 2016 the Preservation Network gave them a Lifetime Achievement Award and Michigan’s governor and legislators recognized them "for their extensive community involvement and unwavering dedication to protecting Ann Arbor’s unique heritage for generations to come."
Sponsored by Al and Louisa Pieper
Photos Courtesy of the University Musical Society and the Bentley Historical Library
Click within the image below for a closer look
Anew musical era dawned in Ann Arbor in 1894 when the University Musical Society presented its first May Festival. Touted as “the greatest musical treat in the history of Ann Arbor or of the state,” a trio of concerts of orchestral and choral works packed the 3,000-seat University Hall on State Street. After moving to the new and larger Hill Auditorium in 1913, the festival grew to six concerts over four days, including a chorus of 400 children from local schools. Composers Copland, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky conducted their own works. People often wore formal attire at UMS concerts, but at May Festival time the display of décolletage, trains, tiaras, tails, and white ties was dazzling.
The May Festival ended in 1995. The UMS, long renowned for its classical music presenta- tions and outstanding international performers, was already courting new audiences by expanding its range and variety of artists and programs. Offerings included more drama, dance, jazz, and world music.
Music has always been a part of Ann Arbor life. At the first July 4th celebration in 1825, town founder John Allen’s father played the fiddle for singing and dancing. Two years later, Lucy Ann Clark’s piano—the first west of Detroit—arrived by oxcart. When she played, Potowatomi Indians were said to dance to the strange melodies.German immigrants, local singing groups, bands, parlor organs, and churches kept the town alive with music.
When the Union School opened on State Street in 1856, music instruction was available with singing, piano, harp, guitar, and violin primarily for girls. Male student bands, orchestras, and banjo groups sprang up whenever music enthusiasts got together. Instrumental music was made part of instruction in all public schools in the 1920s.
Music lovers from town and gown began a last- ing tradition by creating the Choral Union in 1879 to sing Handel’s Messiah. Conductor Calvin Cady also privately started the School of Music and the University Orchestra. All three groups were united in 1881 as the University Musical Society.
Pharmacist Claude Drake managed J. J. Quarry’s drugstore when it opened on North Univer- sity and South State in 1898. A fancy onyx soda fountain was added in the back. Drake recalled, “We sold a special sundae at ten cents that brought in the crowds.” The fountain was removed in 1907 to concentrate on pharmaceuticals and surgical supplies.
In 1929 Claude Drake bought a sandwich shop behind you, just this side of Moe’s Sport Shop. He renamed it Drake’s and added trucks to deliver and sell sweets, ice cream, and sandwiches.
Drake’s was managed by Truman Tibbals. He and his wife Mildred bought the shop in 1933 and ran a unique campus hangout for the entire town for more than sixty years. Candy jars and a soda fountain lined the walls upfront, with high-backed green and black wooden booths in the rear. In the early years a piano player sometimes entertained. Tibbals personally selected over three hundred kinds of candy and tea. It was said, “You know it’s time to leave Ann Arbor when you’ve tried all the teas at Drake’s.”
Tibbals and his family moved out of the upstairs in 1939. He remodeled that space into the Walnut Room, where couples could foxtrot and jitterbug to his large collection of records. Drake’s was one of the hottest dance spots in Ann Arbor during World War II. In the 1950s the Martian Room (it was “out of this world”) replaced dancing with overflow seating. When Tibbals died in 1994, the landmark closed. Loyal patrons bought the shop’s fixtures, signs, and furnishings.
Ann Arborites have always bought books, borrowed books, and had private libraries. In 1832 George Corselius, editor of the Western Emigrant, the town’s first newspaper, advertised a shipment of books for sale at his office. Soon bookstores clustered around the courthouse at Main and Huron streets. After the University of Michigan opened in 1841, students and faculty made their way to Main Street bookstores, which also sold wallpaper and even sporting goods.
On State Street, Sheehan & Co. (above left, circled) was operating by 1874 to take advantage of the university trade. George Wahr opened a branch of his popular Main Street store in 1892. By 1906 there were four bookstores on State Street.
Solicited by UM’s first president Henry Tappan in 1852, Ann Arbor citizens donated $1,500 for 1,200 books, bringing the library’s total to nearly 6,000. After 1863 the books were housed in the new Law Building (interior above). They were moved to the new General Library in 1883. After the Civil War, townsfolk could pay to borrow books from the Ladies’ Library. By 1883 they could borrow books for free at Ann Arbor High School on State Street. The city’s first public library, donated by Andrew Carnegie, was built in 1907.
State Street bookstores have come and gone: Slater’s, Follett’s, Marshall’s, Shaman Drum, and others. When Wahr’s closed in 1972, Tom and Louis Borders moved their used-book store to that location. Selling new books, Borders became a leading national chain. Expanded worldwide by later owners, it was finally overwhelmed by internet competition. Borders closed in 2011.
Ann Arbor’s Art Moderne-style bus depot, touted as one of the most up-to-date in the country, was officially opened in September 1940. A large crowd of dignitaries and admirers assembled as the mayor cut a maize and blue satin ribbon stretched across the glass doors.
The crowd was invited to inspect the station’s impressive interior. Modern in all details,it illustrated how popular and important bus travel was in the1940s. The Ann Arbor News reported that the front exterior was of Indiana limestone and polished black marble with stainless steel and aluminum trim. A large neon sign informed the public that buses of the Blue Goose, Shortway, and Greyhound lines used the station, which included a completely covered passenger loading platform and bus roadway.
The original interior of the depot consisted of a modern waiting room (above right) with terrazzo floor, harmonizing colors, stainless steel trim, and 62 natural birch seats. A telegraph booth, baggage room, and ticket office welcomed those who entered from Huron. A sparkling polished steel lunch counter with 12 seats lined the wall on the left.
Major alterations were made in the decades that followed. The lunch counter was removed in the 1960s. Many of the other decorative elements were lost in a series of Greyhound station remodelings in the 1970s. The interior was later described as having an “industrial plainness”—barren long before the station was demolished in 2014 by First Martin Corporation to make way for a hotel. Although historic elements of the façade and marquee had fallen into disrepair, they have been carefully restored and retained.