Press enter after choosing selection

The Many Lives of Burns Park

Month
June
Year
2019

Olivia Hall's savvy land swap created a park, a school, and a neighborhood.

Today, Burns Park and its namesake school are surrounded by family neighborhoods. But 150 years ago, they were the back pasture of J.D. Baldwin's fruit farm.

In 1876, Baldwin sold his house on Hill St. (still standing at the corner of Washtenaw) and seventy-eight acres to Israel and Olivia Hall. The west side of the property bordered the county fairgrounds, then at the corner of Hill and Forest.

Modern History

Month
May
Year
2019

Kristine Bolhuis and John Holkeboer saved a blighted Midcentury Modern home—and a neighborhood.

The couple—she's a jeweler, he's an audio producer—are fans of the sparse, clean-lined Midcentury Modern style. When they moved from Ferndale to Ann Arbor in 2011, they were delighted to find a vintage MCM house in Thornoaks, a small subdivision off E. Huron River Dr.

The only problem was the house next door. It was "in bad shape, complete with boarded-up windows, weeds and moss on the roof, and various animals coming and going at will," Holkeboer says.

Ann Arbor Observer, June 2019

Parent ID
Month
June
Year
2019
p {margin-bottom: 0px; margin-top: 0px;} The following articles appeared in the June 2019 issue of the Ann Arbor Observer:
  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


Ann Arbor Observer, May 2019

Parent ID
Month
May
Year
2019
The following articles appeared in the May 2019 issue of the Ann Arbor Observer:
  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


Trinity Lutheran, 1893-1993

Its founding signaled Ann Arbor's growing diversity

Ann Arbor Observer, August 2018

Parent ID
Month
August
Year
2018
p {margin-bottom: 0px; margin-top: 0px;} The following articles appeared in the August 2018 issue of the Ann Arbor Observer:
  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


Ann Arbor Observer, April 2018

Parent ID
Month
April
Year
2018
p {margin-bottom: 0px; margin-top: 0px;} The following articles appeared in the April 2018 issue of the Ann Arbor Observer:
  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


Nickels Arcade: The First 100 Years

It's a mystery why State St. butcher Tom Nickels decided to build an elegant shopping arcade. According to his family he'd never seen an arcade, yet the one he built is breathtakingly beautiful. His descendants still own it, and four generations of family members are convening this month to celebrate its 100th birthday.

Nickels' father, John, had a butcher shop at 326 S. State and an ice business directly behind it, selling ice from Traver Creek. He lived at 334 S. State with his wife, Elizabeth, and their four children.

John Nickels died in 1907 and Elizabeth in 1913. Tom inherited the meat market, ice company, and family home, and bought the land back to Maynard from his siblings. His granddaughter, Elizabeth Herbert Becker, who now owns the arcade with her brother Fred Herbert and cousin Fred Nickels, surmises that he learned about arcades from European magazines and newspapers.

Nickels hired local architect Herman Pipp, who designed the arcade in an elegant beaux arts style with three-story pillars on the State St. side and an ivory-colored terra-cotta facade. Separated by an arch, the rest of the arcade is more modest, two stories high and faced with yellow brick, but with terra-cotta windowsills decorations tie it in with the front.

Nickels didn't build the whole arcade himself: the southeast corner was constructed by the Farmers and Mechanics Bank, which bought the land from him and also gave him a loan. The bank was finished in 1915, but the rest of the arcade wasn't ready for occupancy until 1917 due to shortages of materials during World War I. There were eighteen stores on the first floor, each with a mezzanine and a basement storage area. The second floor was rented to offices or businesses. "It's a little gem box," says Gene Hopkins, an architect who worked on its 1987 restoration. "It's unique. You don't see things like it every day."

Tom's daughter, Theodora Nickels Herbert, recalled the grand opening in a 1974 interview: "There were flowers all around, and it was quite a deal." They came from the Blu Maize Blossom Shop in the arcade. There's still a florist in the arcade, the University Flower Shop. The Arcade Barber Shop now has the spot where barber Myron Baker opened in 1917.

In 1921, Peter Van Boven opened a men's clothing store in the north State St. storefront, opposite the bank. He added a shoe store on the other side of the arcade in 1933. Karen Godfrey, third generation of the Van Boven line and first woman to work in the clothing store, explains its origins: "I understand that my grandpa went into the men's clothing business because he was a dapper fellow and had an interest in men's fashions. Back in the day, the store's emphasis was on selling suits and furnishings. As times changed the store had to adapt." They continue to sell formal clothes but now also have T-shirts, golf attire, Hawaiian shirts (including a Michigan one), and blue jeans.

The Caravan Shop opened in 1927. It was the creation of Frank Karpp, who had worked for Texaco in Africa and the Far East. He used his connections there to procure unique items for his store. It too has been there ever since.

Many other stores that opened in the first decade stayed for years, including a post office substation (until 1998), Bay's Jewelers (until 1992), the Betsy Ross Restaurant (1975), and the Van Buren lingerie shop (in the arcade until 1987, and nearby on State until 1994).

Early second-floor occupants included two prominent doctors, R. Bishop Canfield and Albert Furstenberg. Clarence Fingerle's Arcade Cafeteria, upstairs from the post office, sold reasonably priced food like creamed shredded chicken and dumplings and baked Virginia ham. The late Ted Heusel remembered eating there regularly with his mother.

---

When Tom Nickels died in 1933, the business passed on to his two children, Dora Herbert and her brother, James Nickels.

James' son Fred Nickels, now ninety, recalls that during the Depression, some tenants paid part of their rent in kind, including Roy Hoyer, who had his dance studio on the second floor. "I had to take tap dancing lessons for five years before being allowed to quit," he laughs.

Fred Nickels remembers accompanying his mother to the arcade when she got her hair styled at the Blue Bird Salon, and Mr. Karpp at the Caravan Shop warning him not to touch the exotic merchandise. He had a better time hanging out with janitor Zonie Steinke, his maternal uncle, while he closed up for the night, stoking the furnace and filling the coal bin under the Maynard St. entrance.

James died from tuberculosis in 1936. His half of the ownership went to his two sons, Fred and Bob, but since they were still children, a professional management group was hired. In 1965 the family bought the original bank building and now owns the whole arcade.

"You could survive at the arcade with everything you needed," recalls Dora's daughter, Elizabeth Herbert Becker, who was born in 1936. "You had a post office, restaurant, a bank, and ladies' and men's stores. Everything but groceries, and you could get those at White Market" around the corner on William. As a teenager, Elizabeth worked for her aunt, Bee Nickels, who lived in the Nickels house on Maynard (site of the Collegian building) and owned a store that specialized in baby and children's clothing imported from Europe. As a young adult, she worked at Bay's.

Elizabeth's brother, Fred Herbert, born in 1941, recalls how important the arcade was to their mother: "It was a vital, essential part of her life. She patronized it two or three days a week. She was friends with the tenants." His childhood memories include "the aroma of grilled pecan rolls from the Betsy Ross wafting up from a vent into the concourse."

---

Van Boven's two stores made it through the Depression and World War II. In 1973 the family hired Robert Frost to manage the shoe store, which he later bought. Frost remembers those as the golden years of the arcade, when Jacobson's department store and then Borders books drew a high-end clientele to the area. "We thought it would never end. We had such pride to be on State St.; it was the place to be."

In 1990, U-M student Rich Bellas started working in the shoe store part time. He stayed on after graduation, and became Frost's partner. In 2014 they sold the store to Roger Pothus, the owner of Renaissance clothing. Bellas still works there, but Frost runs shoe stores in Petoskey and Traverse City.

After the Nickelses and the Van Bovens, the arcade's other great dynasty began in 1963, when Jim and Augusta Edwards opened Maison Edwards. Augusta, from Italy, based the inventory on things in European stores such as leather goods, scarves, perfume, chess sets, and pens. In 1964 the couple bought the store next door and turned it into a tobacco shop. From then on Jim ran the tobacco store and Augusta the original store. In 1965 the Edwardses bought the Van Buren shop, and in 1973 they bought the Caravan Shop from the Karpps.

"When they sold to Jim Edwards, they charged him full price for every item in the store, even some damaged things," recalls Fred Herbert. Even so, as the Karpps were childless, the Edwardses helped them out in their declining years. "When the Karpps died," Herbert adds, "they left them more money than they'd paid for the shop."

---

The Edwardses hired Linda Liechty to manage the Van Buren shop and eventually sold it to her. They also helped Liechty's daughter, Rhonda Gilpin, buy the arcade's antique shop when she was just nineteen. She'd asked Jim for advice, and when she couldn't get a bank loan, he lent her the money himself. She opened the Arcadian in 1983, and ten years later, when Edwards was ready to retire, bought the Caravan Shop, too.

Gilpin's children grew up in the arcade, just as she did. "Most kids learn to ride their bikes on the sidewalk in front of their house. I learned riding down the arcade," explains her daughter Bailey, who works with her mother in the Arcadian. Son Steve is working on a master's at U-M but still works with his mother in the summer.

Chuck Ghawi also got involved in the arcade at a young age. As a student at U-M in the 1980s, Ghawi walked into Maison Edwards Tobacconist and asked for a job. He remembers that "three men in three-piece suits all said 'no' at the same time." But he kept coming back, and they finally relented and hired him part time. After graduation Ghawi kept in touch with the Edwardses, and in 1991 they sold him the store. Although he only occasionally smokes a cigar or a pipe, he still loves the business and the chance to visit with customers. "I don't get to travel because I have to be in the store, but the world comes here," he says.

In 1987, when the arcade was seventy years old, it received National Register of Historic Places designation. Architects Four was hired to do a restoration. They repaired or replaced terra-cotta that was cracked or damaged, repaired the skylight, designed consistent signage, moved the AC units, and removed the asphalt tile covering the glass-block floors.

The biggest retail tenant now is Bivouac, which sells outdoor gear and clothing from the former bank and several neighboring State St. storefronts. But owner Ed Davidson says that when he first talked to the arcade's management company about renting space, they turned him down. "They said, 'You look like a bum off the street, and you want to rent a clothes store?'" he recalls.

Davidson argued that the jeans and army surplus he sold were the new trend, but his long hair and brief credit history--he'd only been in business a year and a half--worked against him. So he phoned Dora Herbert to plead his case, offering to put up as many months' rent as she wanted in escrow. To his surprise, she asked only for two months' rent--and came to his grand opening in her wheelchair.

---

Today, Nickels Arcade is a mix of new and old stores. Entering the tobacco store is like being in a time warp, while Comet Coffee and Babo provide a hip European look. Many tenants have left the floor bare with the original maroon, gray, and white tiles. Some have also kept the mezzanines, usually for offices. The original bank safe and vault are still in the basement of Bivouac, used for storage.

The arcade does show its age. Tenants note that there are no elevators to the second floor, uncertain heat, and no central air. And as beautiful as it is, it's a landmark mainly to people who spend time on campus. "I have people come in and say they've lived in Ann Arbor for twenty years and never knew this existed," says Rich Bellas.

Still, the overwhelming opinion of the tenants is that they love the arcade. Graphic artist Mike Savitski, who designed the concourse banners announcing the 100th birthday, has had an office upstairs since 1998. He says he especially appreciates the location during Art Fair, when he can work quietly, then walk out to "find the place packed like sardines," and at Christmas, when the arcade becomes "a Dickens-looking scene with greens hanging, lights glowing, troubadours singing, and the cold outside."

Architect Lincoln Poley, a tenant since 1987, loves "the architectural style, the openness of the building, the fenestration, and the decorative elements." Landscape designer Norm Cox (1995) appreciates "the sense of community combined with the cool factor of working in a pedestrian arcade located across the street from the Central Campus and all of its energy."

"I'm an architecture and history buff from way back," Savitski says. "The arcade embodies both these things. To walk through it several times a day is a real treat."

Library Threads

For nearly two centuries, volunteers and professionals have connected local readers to a wider world.

From its earliest days Ann Arbor has been a reading town with enthusiastic library supporters. Its first library was launched in 1827, just threeyears after the ci!J was founded. Even so, the history of our libraries is not a straight line from then to now. Different threads, professional and volunteer, paid and free, have woven back and forth ever since.

Today those strands are woven tightly together: we now have the professional Ann Arbor District Library and two independent volunteer groups that work closely with it. The Friends of the Library turns sixty-three this year, and the Ladies Library Association celebrates its sesquicentennial this month -- jointly with the AADL, which is marking its own twentieth year of independence (see Events, October 1).

We know about the 1827 library because in 1830, George Corselius ran an article lamenting its deficiencies. The editor of the Western Emigrant sought "twenty or thirty individuals" able to pay $3 each to expand that small collection into a more robust "circulating library." For that fee, readers could read Fanny Trollope's Domestic Manners of the Americans or the Encyclopedia Americana. Other private libraries followed, as well as reading clubs whose members bought books to share.

It wasn't until 1856 that the city had its first free, publicly accessible library. When the Union High School opened that year at the comer of State and Huron, citizens could use the library in the superintendent's office.

In 1866 the Ladies Library Association was formed as a subscription library. According to the group's history, the thirty-five founders -- "a determined group of socially prominent local women" -- paid $3 to join and $1 a year in dues for the privilege of borrowing books from its collection. They also sponsored lectures, concerts, art shows, and readings.

After renting various places, in 1885 the LLA bought a lot at 324 E. Huron. The club hired Chicago architects Allen and Irving Pond -- whose mother, Mary, was a member of the LLA -- to design the city's first freestanding library there.

Four years later, in 1889, the school board moved the high school library into its own room, and hired twenty-three-year-old typist Nellie Loving as the district's first librarian. She stayed for thirty-nine years and was an energetic advocate. "She even went to the firemen at the station," recalled Elizabeth Stack, a founder of the Friends of the Library. "They were just sitting around. 'Why don't you read something?' she asked." She followed up by bringing them books, which they later returned asking for something "livelier."

Loving's response is not on record, but the ladies of the LLA didn't just want to entertain readers-they saw themselves as "a force for intellectual and moral improvement." The minutes of the group's 1872 annual meeting observe that though the demand for fiction exceeded the supply, "we are happy to state that a large proportion of the books purchased during the year are of a character to stimulate earnest thought and fully meet the needs of the intellectual mind."

From its start, the LLA women wanted a free public library -- but they couldn't get the city to fund it. Finally, in 1902, LLA president and school board member Anna Botsford Bach suggested that the two groups apply jointly for a $20,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate who was building libraries all across America. However, they deadlocked over the location: the school board insisted that the library be in or near the high school, while the LLA wanted a separate site.

The problem was solved two years later, but at a high cost: in 1904, the high school burned down. Luckily students rescued most of the 8,000 books in the middle of the night; they were stored across the street in the Methodist Church's parlor.

The school board applied for and won a new $30,000 Carnegie grant. The library was built alongside and connected to the new high school, but the school faced State St. and had a skin of brick, while the library faced Huron and was finished in stone.

In 1916, on its fiftieth anniversary, the LLA gave its collection of several thousand books to the public library, and its building to the school board. The building was used by the Red Cross in World War I, and later by the Boy Scouts. It was tom down in 1945; its site is now occupied by the fortress-like Michigan Bell building.

In 1928, Nellie Loving's successor, Frances Hannum, separated the school and public collections. She moved the schoolbooks to the third floor and made the bottom two floors a public library, with the lower level the children's room.

In 1953, the city sold the high school to the U-M, using the money to start work on what is now Pioneer High. The university renamed the old school the Frieze Building, after a beloved classics professor. When it was tom down in 2007 to make way for North Quad, the library's Huron St. face was incorporated into the wall of the quad-what preservationists call a facadectomy.

The school's move again brought up the question of where the public library belonged. The Friends of the Library was organized in 1953 to lobby for a downtown site: the comer of Fifth and William, where the old Beal house was for sale. Elizabeth Stack organized the Friends' first fundraising book sale on the grounds of the house. Friends member Bob Iglehart recalled in

The Ladies Library Association built its own "circulating library" on Huron in 1885. a 1995 remembrance that "it was a rather pitiful affair, not a whole lot of books, but there were also homemade cookies, potted plants, and the general aspect of a ladies church affair." And it raised enough money to rent a bookmobile to take books to playgrounds that summer.

The schools did buy the site, and the new library, designed by Midland modernist Alden Dow, was dedicated on October 13, 1957. Clements Library director Howard Peckham said that the shared civic space "added an extra room to each of our houses." The Friends moved their growing collection of donated books out of Stack's garage and into the library's basement, and their sales to its sheltered front porch.

The new library was still run by the school system, so the Friends lobbied for a citizens' committee to advise the school board on the library's needs. Fred Mayer, a committee member in the 1960s, recalls that they dealt with such issues as fees for nonresidents, problem patrons, new programs, and summer reading.

Finances got easier after 1973, when the school board put a separate 1.3-mill tax for the library on the ballot. It got more votes than the schools millage, and in 1974, the library added a 20,000-square foot addition. Designed by architect and book lover Don Van Curler, its high wells of windows and enclosed garden fit with the original Dow design. In 1991 Osler/ Milling designed a second addition, adding two floors to the Van Curler addition, renovating the older part, and updating mechanical systems.

In 1980 the Friends expanded their annual sales into a bookshop in the library's basement. Elizabeth Ong, who organized it, is still an active volunteer. The shop was managed for many years by volunteer Mary Parsons, who stressed in her final report that "the sales should always be considered a community service first." But in addition to getting books into the hands of new readers, the sales also raised a lot of money. The Friends used to sponsor the "Booked for Lunch" speaker series and many other services and amenities such as literacy programs, staff workshops and scholarships, and taking books to hospitals and senior residences. They also advocated for the new branches and led millage campaigns.

In 1994, when the state's Proposal A took away school boards' authority to levy taxes for public libraries, the schools and city council sponsored creation of a new district library. An interim board was created, with Mayer as president, to divide the buildings and land, and reconfigure services that had been provided by the schools.

On June 10, 1996, voters in the Ann Arbor School District overwhelmingly approved a two-mill district library tax, and elected the first library board. Of the original seven members, only Ed Surovell remains today. Twenty years later, he says, "We're dramatically better, with higher attendance and a higher number of programs." He points to advances such as more foreign language books, the incorporation of the county library for the blind, and the construction of three new branches, Malletts Creek, Pittsfield, and Traverwood, plus the expansion of the Westgate branch.

As for the Internet, Josie Parker, director of the library since 2002, says, "We decided, instead of fighting it, to use it as a tool." Parker points out that "the public can now use the library's catalogue 2417 wherever they may be." Reserving or renewing books and getting books from other libraries are also much easier. The online Summer Game attracts 7,000-9,000 players, from children to adults.

Although Ann Arbor voters have a history of supporting library funding, in 2012 they turned down a millage to build a new downtown library. Since then, the AADL has been figuring out how to best use the present building, make necessary repairs, and, in Parker's words, "match the collection with the space." Fiction has been moved to the second floor and magazines and local history materials to the third floor. The first floor still has art prints, DVDs, and new and Zoom Lends books (high-demand volumes that rent for $1 a week), along with art, science and music tools. These are stored on wheeled carts, so a large area can be cleared for special events such as the Maker Faire and a comic book convention. A library board slate running in November (seep. 35) says they'll make a new millage vote a priority.

Like the library itself, the Friends now make greater use of the Internet. In Parsons' time, when they spotted valuable books or documents, they worked at either finding a place to donate them, perhaps to the Bentley or Clements, or sold them. The Internet has made this process much easier. (It helps that many of their sorters are retired librarians or specialists who are good at identifying books of interest.)

When the elevators failed during a routine inspection in 2014, the Friends bookstore moved up to the first floor. Business was so good there that they stayed. The group now annually gives the library $100,000 or more; the money is used mostly for children's activities, including library visits for every second grader in the district. The Friends' former basement space is now the AADL's "Secret Lab," where children can work on messier projects such as cooking or art.

The Ladies Library Association also is still active. One of its earlier members, Alice Wethey, "was a terrific treasurer," says Joan Innes, a member for sixty-three years. "She was a tremendous investor and put our money into blue chip stocks." The LLA's twenty-woman board, which includes both Innes and her artist daughter, Sarah, uses the income to support the library's purchase of art books, framed fine art reproductions that patrons can borrow, and art-themed games for the children's department. As the new branches opened, the LLA also bought original works by local artists to display there.

The library has just hired its own volunteer coordinator, Shoshana Hurand, formerly with the Arts Alliance. "It's a real breakthrough and will offer volunteers a wider variety of opportunities," says library board member Margaret Leary. Parker explains that until now library volunteers have been handled by whoever answered the phone for the specific project. Now one person will see where volunteers might fit-maybe with kids' sewing or art projects, or online help, or in many other ways. The Friends will stay totally separate, although both entities will probably send people to each other.

On October 1 (see Events), the Ann Arbor District Library and the Ladies Library Association will celebrate their twentieth and !50th anniversaries, respectively. The event will feature a talk by Francis Blouin, U-M professor of history and information and retired head of the Bentley Historical Library, entitled "Connecting the City."

"We talk a lot these days about 'connectivity' that now means being plugged into the Internet and all the information it provides," Blouin explains. "But being connected certainly predates the arrival of the smartphone. Ann Arbor in the nineteenth century, though a small town, also wanted to be connected to the wider world." Thanks to generations of avid readers and hardworking library supporters, those connections now are stronger than ever.


[Caption 1]: Founded in 1866 as a subscription library, the Ladies Library Association continues to support library purchases. Artist-member Sarah Innes envisioned an early meeting (left) and painted a group portrait today (below).

[Caption 2]: A $30,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie paid for the city's first dedicated public library. Only its facade survives, on North Quad.

[Caption 3]: The Ladies Library Association built its own "circulating library" on Huron in 1885.

Ann Arbor Observer, December 2017

Parent ID
Month
December
Year
2017

The following articles appeared in the December 2017 issue of the Ann Arbor Observer:
  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places:


  • , by , page
  • Keywords:

    People:

    Places: