Press enter after choosing selection

Growing up in the American Hotel

Warren Staebler's boyhood neighbors were traveling salesmen and May Festival musicians

In the early years of this century, traveling salesmen would set up shop for a week at a time in the "sample rooms" of the American Hotel at Ashley and Washington. Downtown merchants would come by to order everything from liquor to dry goods for their stores. Composer Victor Herbert, one of many famous musicians who stayed at the American during the annual May Festival, claimed its dining room served the best sauerkraut between New York and Chicago. But to Warren Staebler, the hotel was home.

Staebler's grandfather, Michael Staebler, built the brick hotel (now best known as the home of the Earle restaurant) in 1885. He called it the Germania, after the Germania Society. Like the Schwaben Verein and the Greater Beneficial Union, the Germania Society sold mutual insurance to members, and it also served as a social center. The hotel's top-floor ballroom housed the society's meetings, lectures, physical drills, and concerts.

The society did not prosper, but the hotel did. In 1895, two years after Warren Staebler's father, Albert, began working there, the family divided the ballroom into additional guest rooms, added a fourth story with still more rooms, and changed the name from the Germania to the American. In 1905, the year Albert Staebler married Dora Tice, Michael Staebler retired and Albert and Dora took over the business. Warren was born in 1910.

The family had a four-room apartment on the second floor, but Warren lived in the whole hotel. As a young boy, he rode his tricycle around the terrazzo-floored lobby, sometimes detouring through the adjoining saloon. He and his sister, Bernice, ate their meals in the hotel kitchen, served by the pastry chef. The only meal the family ate together was Sunday dinner, in the hotel dining room.

Warren remembers sitting in front of the lobby fireplace talking with guests, many of them regulars whom he and his family got to know well. Most were salesmen, who arrived by train, usually on a Monday, and stayed the entire week. Many May Festival musicians returned annually for as many as twenty-five years, and the American also welcomed theater troupes performing at the Majestic Theater on Maynard.

After a big storm, gangs of repairmen from Detroit Edison and the telephone company would stay at the hotel while working to restore service. Other guests came for special events or to visit relatives—in an age when even many employed adults lived in boarding houses, they had little space to put up their visiting families.

From the beginning, the hotel also was home to a flock of Staebler family businesses. From the storefront on the building's east side, Michael Staebler sold, at various times, farm implements, fuel, sewing machines, athletic equipment, and various modes of transportation—bicycles, motorcycles, cars. The Staeblers ran Ann Arbor's first car dealership there, selling Toledo Steamers, then Reos, Oaklands, Franklins, and finally Pontiacs.

As his sons came of age, Michael Staebler turned the various businesses over to them. Albert, the fourth of six sons, was given the hotel business.

Warren Staebler recalls that his father supervised a staff of four desk clerks (often university students), two bartenders, a janitor, and a man who drove the horse and wagon to the railroad station to pick up guests. His mother supervised the chambermaids—one per floor—and had most of the hands-on responsibility for the dining room.

Located right behind the lobby, the dining room was very formal, with linen tablecloths and napkins and waitresses in starched uniforms. The food was good enough that people from town came for dinner there, especially on Sundays.

The hotel saloon also served local customers. When Prohibition was enacted, it switched to serving soft drinks, sandwiches, and light refreshments. But business dwindled, so the space was turned over to the family's car dealership (which had expanded on Ashley).

By then, the heyday of downtown hotels was over. The traveling salesmen had all shifted from trains to cars, which gave them the freedom to go directly from customer to customer, bringing their samples with them. In 1927 the American's dining room closed; its space became the Staeblers' Pontiac showroom.

In 1929, Michael Staebler died, and Albert's family moved into his duplex on Liberty and Third streets. The next year, Albert retired. For a while. Warren's uncles, Walter and Herman, who operated the car dealership, also ran the hotel, but they soon leased it to a company who ran it as the Griswold. In 1954 the Milner chain took over, renaming it the Earle after company owner Earl Milner, who had grown up in Ann Arbor. In 1971, the hotel closed for good.

In 1973, four partners, Ernie Harburg, Rick Burgess, David Rock, and Dennis Webster, bought the building, opened the Earle restaurant in the basement, and began restoring the rest of the building. In 1982 they sold the building to Tom Gaithwaite and Marvin Carlson, who gutted the upper floors, which were still divided into sixty-one small hotel rooms, and made the space into elegant offices, today occupied mainly by lawyers. The eastern storefront, until recently 16 Hands, is currently vacant. The western storefront—the original hotel dining room and lobby—is undergoing conversion to the Sweetwaters Cafe (see Changes, March).

When he grew up. Warren Staebler operated the Hi-Speed gas station at the corner of Packard and Arch (today a park). Now retired, he still keeps several souvenirs of his unusual boyhood in the hotel his grandfather built: a set of chairs from the dining room and spittoons from the lobby and saloon. Asked about growing up in a hotel, he recalls, "My friends envied me because I had no grass to cut. And I envied them because they had grass to cut." —Grace Shackman

Photo Captions

(Left) The exterior and lobby of the American Hotel. Also called the American House, it was originally named the Germania in honor of the Germania Society, which met in its third-floor ballroom. (Note the very tall windows there; the lower-ceilinged fourth floor was an 1895 addition.)

Founder Michael Staebler is the bearded man behind the counter; standing next to him is his son, Albert, Warren Staebler's father.

(Above) The Earle Building today.

Ward G. Swarts

Document Image(s)

The Many Lives of 210 E. Huron

From Greek Revival to green building

The building at 210 East Huron first shows up on a city map from 1853. Although only a block from the Washtenaw County Courthouse, which was then the center of Ann Arbor’s commercial district, that stretch of Huron was still mostly vacant. The earliest picture shows the temple-like facade of a Greek Revival house.

In the 155 years since that first appearance, 210 East Huron has changed beyond recognition—not once, but three times:

it grew a commercial storefront as a nineteenth-century barbershop; housed a bakery and an auto parts store when Huron was a busy highway; and disappeared behind an avant-garde facade as an architect’s showpiece office.

By comparison, its latest renovation is almost invisible from the street. Inside, though, it’s the biggest change yet: after a just-completed half-million-dollar renovation, it’s downtown’s greenest office building.

Greek Revival was a residential style, so presumably 210 was built as a private home. By 1879, though, it housed George Stein’s meat market. At first Stein lived on the premises, but by 1888 he was doing well enough to buy a home elsewhere.

After Stein left in the mid-1890s, the building became W. F. Wanzeck’s barbershop. Wanzeck added a new facade flush with the street, hiding the original house. Albert Watson, house painter, decorator, and paperhanger, moved in by 1906 and was replaced in 1909 by shoemaker Thomas Lovell, who in turn was succeeded by—or perhaps renamed—the Wear-You-Well Shoe Company.

The little building got a big addition in 1913: its neighbor to the west, the City Bakery, built an L-shaped two-story addition that wrapped around the back of 210. (The bakery was owned by Fred Heusel, great-uncle of the late radio personality Ted.) The bakery soon took over the front of the building as well for its retail shop.

After the bakery closed in 1928, the next long-term tenant was Western Auto, which arrived in 1939. Before the days of expressways, major highways passed through downtown, and the store advertised “everything for the automobile,” including spark plugs, horns, lights, and tires. Clan Crawford, a lawyer who worked downtown, remembers the store as “nondescript. It was a double storefront, with glass windows and a door in the middle.” It also had a small sporting goods section—he and several other lawyers used to browse the fishing gear during their lunch hours.

Washtenaw County’s section of I-94 was completed in 1960, followed by US-23 in 1962. Traffic downtown plummeted, and many car-centric businesses left. Western Auto closed in 1963, and the following year the building was sold to architects Colvin, Robinson, and Wright. Houston “Tex” Colvin, who founded the firm in 1950, dealt with the public. Richard Robinson ran the office and was responsible for the specs, while junior partner Don Wright supervised in the field.

By the time CRW moved into 210 East Huron, the building was very run down and needed lots of work. It was also bigger than they needed—they were able to afford a serious renovation only after signing up a major tenant, the pioneering urban planning firm Johnson, Johnson, and Roy. JJR had outgrown its space in the Hutzel Building at Liberty and Main, where it had a view out the second-floor bay window.

The oldest part of the building, in front, underwent the most drastic change: the architects added a second story, a new roof, and of course a new facade. In the 1960s “modernizing” old buildings was still in vogue, and Don Wright designed an eye-catching slab of brown brick, boldly bisected by a recessed vertical bay.

Wright is modest about his effort. “There were two senior partners,” he says. “While they kept busy, I played with the building.” But JJR cofounder Carl Johnson thinks its “elegant simplicity” was a strong statement of the firm’s identity. “It was compatible with the direction of what they did,” Johnson says. “We thought it was pretty cool—or, as we would have said then, pretty sharp.”

“They were infatuated with the modernist movement,” says architect Rick Hermann, who rented space from CRW and was later part of a group that bought it. With its flat brick surface, gray-painted tubular columns, and framed entrance, he says, “the exterior is not unlike Mies van der Rohe.” Asked about the comparison, Wright agrees that he may have been influenced by the great German-born modernist.

CRW and JJR shared the expanded second floor. Wright remembers that restaurateur Leo Ping was interested in renting the first floor, but the insurance people told them it would be a fire hazard. Instead they divided the downstairs into smaller offices and rented it to attorneys, who found it very convenient to the County Courthouse and City Hall.

The modern facade may have been the most innovative design CRW ever did. They were very well regarded by their clients but were best known for practical designs that worked. Retired U-M planner Fred Mayer describes them as “a journeyman architectural firm. We’d hire them to do renovations and routine projects that didn’t involve sophisticated design, such as remodeling a lab. We knew we’d get the work we wanted from them, but they were not big on the glamorous.” At the Michigan Union, they redesigned the basement cafeteria. “We were told to make it ‘nookier’—more like a nightclub,” recalls CRW architect Bob Chance. That project turned out to be “too successful,” Chance adds: “The students came to study and wouldn’t leave.”

CRW did the same kind of work for another big client, the Ann Arbor Public Schools. “We’d get a call—‘Tex, we need two more rooms at Dicken. Can you do it?’—and we would,” recalls former CRW architect Bob Pierce. Pierce says that some of the younger staff members, himself included, wanted to branch out into more interesting work but that Colvin preferred to stay with what he felt they did best. Pierce eventually left CRW to work for the schools.

When the architecture firm A3C bought the building in 1997, one of the first things they did was alter the front facade, by then more than thirty years old. “We wanted a bit of a contemporary look,” explains Dan Jacobs, principal of the firm along with Jan Culbertson. “In the sixties they were creating austere simple panels; we gave it more level of detail. We wanted the building to have more presence.”

The new owners turned the central recess into a bay window, allowing more light into their second-floor lobby. They softened the monolithic look of the front by adding four rows of lighter brick, and changed the entrance.

Then, last year, they decided to do a state-of-the-art greening of the building. Jacobs was inspired to undertake the renovation after hearing William McDonough, the nation’s leading proponent of green buildings, speak at the 2006 American Institute of Architects Convention in Los Angeles. (In 1999 McDonough had similarly inspired an ecosensitive renovation of the U-M’s Dana Building—one of the pioneer instances of greening an older building.) Jacobs saw the renovation as a way to reduce A3C’s carbon footprint, to introduce green technology to their clients and the general public, and to improve the working environment for their staff.

A3C has maximized the use of natural light by installing skylights wherever possible. The lights are all ultra-efficient LEDs, sensor operated so that no energy is wasted. Dual-flush toilets and sensor faucets conserve water, a passive cooling system draws heat out through two “solar chimneys,” and when heating or air-conditioning is needed, it comes from a geothermal heating and cooling system whose pipes are buried under the alley in back.

To minimize remodeling waste, doors were shuffled from one place to another, and walnut panels removed from the front area went into offices. When the firm used new materials, they chose—whenever possible—either recycled or rapidly renewable ones, such as cork and bamboo. The building has insulation made from old blue jeans, rugs woven from the fiber left at the ends of spools, and wallpaper that’s really paper. When the chairs wear out, the manufacturer will take them back and rebuild them. Although most of these details are invisible in the finished building, they’ve earned 210 East Huron a LEED-CI Gold Certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council—the first downtown Ann Arbor building to be so honored.

The part of the greening anyone can enjoy is a rooftop garden, as aesthetically pleasing as it is earth friendly. Although the post-and-beam construction of the building was strong enough to hold the garden, the roof wasn’t, so A3C’s architects had to add steel beams. They are experimenting with three types of plantings—meadow, arctic ground cover, and a more cultivated, parklike look.

The garden can be enjoyed outside from deck chairs (which were made from old telephone poles) or from the “UrbEn Retreat”—a conference room set in a small, glass-walled penthouse. Made with recycled materials, including wood salvaged from ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer, the retreat is available for use by government and nonprofit groups.

Herman Bock, Decorator

A gift from the past at the Law School

Last summer, Deb Adamic was cleaning the ceiling of the U-M Law Library’s reading room when she spotted a cubby­hole where the ceiling beams meet the wall. Reaching in, Adamic felt something loose and pulled out a grimy tube. Inside was a rolled-up piece of canvas bearing the inscription “Herman Bock—Feb. 5, 1931—Ann Arbor, Mich.—Decorator.”

“It was like a gift from the past,” says Adamic’s boss, Ron Koenig. “He put his name up fifty feet off the ground where no one could see it, with the thought that someday someone would see his name.”

Many people know that Law School alum William Cook (class of 1882) gave the money for the beautiful Law Quadrangle. Historians are well aware that York and Sawyer, well-respected East Coast architects, designed the buildings. But until Adamic discovered Bock’s note, the artisans who decorated the building had remained uncredited.

A city directory of the time shows a Herman R. Bock and his wife, Elizabeth, living at 435 South First Street. His occupation is listed as “painter.”

“Decorative painters were the unsung heroes” of historic buildings, Koenig says. “They traveled from project to project and kept a low profile.” Although they’re rare, Koenig had previously run across a couple of other examples of artisans who have left their names to posterity. In the early 1990s, when he was working at the state capitol in Lansing, he found the name Frank Baumgras written on the top of a door frame. The door was poplar and pine, treated to look like walnut. Koenig did some research and discovered that Baumgras was only peripherally involved in the decoration—his brothers and nephews did most of it—so it’s possible he signed his work because he was unused to anonymity. The name was left intact, with a piece of Plexiglas to protect it.

Working at Wisconsin’s capitol in 1996, Koenig was cleaning and replicating painted surfaces when he found five or six signatures entwined in a floral design high on a wall. He realized they were all women’s names and thought, “Wow—what a great thing.” When the wing where he was working was built, from 1910 to 1913, it would have been unusual for women to be involved in such a project.

It is easy to imagine why Herman Bock would have wanted credit for his work on the Law School’s reading room. The coffered ceiling, made of plaster hand painted to look like wood, is gorgeous. The recessed square panels are painted in a fleur-de-lis pattern in blue and ivory. The beams that run across the ceiling are richly decorated in bright colors and have winged shields at their midpoints. Figures of griffins—mythical winged lions—hold more shields at the points where the beams meet the walls.

The four Law Quad buildings were erected between 1923 and 1933. The library was the third completed, in 1931. It looks and feels like a Tudor Gothic cathedral, except that the entrance is on the low, long north side rather than the high, peaked east or west end. There’s even stained glass in the windows—though instead of depicting saints, these feature the seals of other universities with law schools.

Except for routine maintenance and repair, no work had been done on the reading room since it opened. Small lights lit the desks, and light streamed in from the stained-glass windows higher up, but the area between was gloomy. The painted ceiling had darkened with age.

In June 2007 the Law School received a $3 million gift from Charles Munger, a Warren Buffett associate who attended the U-M as an undergrad but didn’t finish (interrupted by World War II, he never got a bachelor’s degree—but did graduate from Harvard Law School). The school raised matching funds for what it called the “lighting project,” since the focus was on making the reading room brighter (it also included safety improvements in the library and neighboring Hutchins Hall).

“The reading room is such a gem,” says Lois Harden, the Law School’s facilities manager. “We wanted to do updates as needed while enhancing the iconic areas and have it all work together, not pull apart.” For instance, exit signs were required but would have looked out of place on the walls. Instead, they were installed on historic-looking metal poles.

Ron Koenig was delighted to win the bid to renovate the ceiling. He had lived in the Law Quad in 1971 when he was a grad student studying English and had fallen in love with the Law Library. Even then, he had noticed that the ceiling needed cleaning.

The ceiling job presented two major challenges: how to work safely fifty feet above the floor, and how to clean and restore the paint without doing any damage. The first challenge was solved with rolling towers. The second was made easier when Koenig discovered that the paint was oil based, not water based, and therefore wouldn’t dissolve in water-based cleaner.

Still, the job was huge. “We cleaned a ceiling the size of a football field with balls of cotton,” says Koenig. He also recast medallions damaged when lights were installed, cleaned parts of the limestone walls that had suffered water damage, and treated metal light units to look like stone.

While work on the ceiling proceeded, Harden sent the reading desks, also untouched since the library opened, out to be refinished. When the ceiling work was done, she also had the original cork floors replaced. They had worn remarkably well and did an excellent job of keeping the noise down, but they were dirty and scuffed. Most of the work was finished by the time the Law School opened last fall. The last job, rehanging the restored chandeliers, was done over Christmas break.

Herman Bock’s signature hasn’t been forgotten. Koenig had the canvas framed on acid-free matting, with glass on each side so that both the front and the back are visible. He will give it to the Law School to display in the building.

The Law School’s enrollment has doubled since the Law Quad opened. Its next challenge is to create more room without harming the beauty of the original buildings.

Two attempts to expand the complex have been made in the past, one more successful than the other. The ­modern-style metal addition to the library stacks facing Monroe Street is widely disliked, while the clever underground library addition is widely applauded. The Law School is now raising money for a three-pronged project: to replace the stacks’ metal cladding with a stone facade; to create a student commons by filling in a courtyard between the library and Hutchins Hall; and constructing an entirely new building in place of the parking lot across Monroe Street, next to Weill Hall.

Bridge to the 19th Century

Bridge to the Nineteenth Century: Can Bell Road's span be saved?

The Bell Road Bridge in Dex­ter Township is on the Na­tional Register of Historic Places. The plaque so designating it, however, is sitting in neighbor Bill Klinke's garage—because for twelve years the nineteenth-century "iron through-truss bridge" has been rust­ing away on the banks of the Huron River. As the Bell Road Bridge lies there, overgrown with brush and poison ivy, it seems impossible that it could ever rise up out of the muck again. Yet citizen efforts have already saved two similar bridges downstream.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Huron River was spanned with iron bridges at ev­ery mill town—including Dexter, Scio (at Zeeb Road), Osborne Mill (at Tubbs Road), and Geddesburg (near present-day Washtenaw Community Col­lege)—as well as in Ann Arbor and Yp-silanti. Another iron bridge crossed the River Raisin in Manchester.

The bridges came in kits, like giant Erector sets, the pieces sent by rail. Locals assembled them and rolled them on logs down to the river to place on abutments made by local stonemasons. They were a lot better than wooden bridges that needed continual upkeep.

Iron truss bridges, patented by broth­ers Thomas and Caleb Pratt in 1844, are supported by a series of iron triangles held together with iron pins. A "through-truss" bridge has a top section that helps hold up the sides. "These old bridges supported more weight than you would think," says Richard Cook, who helped save the Delhi Bridge downstream of Dexter. "They car­ried not just horses and wagons but heavy steam-powered agricultural equipment."

In 1832 Samuel Dexter, the founder of Dexter, and Isaac Pomeroy built a sawmill a mile below Portage Lake. A later owner added a gristmill, and the hamlet of Do­ver grew up around it. At its peak it had a church, a hotel, a store, a blacksmith shop, several dozen houses, and a post office. A drawing in the 1874 County Atlas shows a wooden bridge across the Huron there. But by the time an iron bridge was installed in 1891, the village was waning; Dover's post office was torn down the next year. The bridge was named after John Bell, whose farm was across the river. By 1915 Dover no longer appeared on maps.

The other surviving bridges also served mill towns. Samuel Foster, a miller from Massachusetts, answered Dexter's invita­tion to work at his mill in Dexter. Eventual­ly Foster started his own mill downstream, where Zeeb Road crosses the Huron; the village of Scio grew around it. Foster later built a second mill downstream at Maple Road. The settlement there, originally named Newport, became Foster's Station but was never very big. There was an iron bridge there as early as 1876.

Another iron bridge was built in 1888 at Delhi. At its peak this village, founded in 1831, was a railroad stop with five mills, a school, and a post office. The last mill was dismantled in 1906, and the stones from the mills spilled into the river, forming the rapids that are now the main attraction at Delhi Metropark.

During the twentieth century, the iron bridges disappeared one by one from the Huron, until only three were left— Bell Road Bridge, the Del­hi Bridge, and the bridge at old Foster's Station, now known as the Maple/Foster Bridge.

In 1992 the Bell Road Bridge closed for awhile after a drunk driver ran into a post. It reopened with a load limit of four tons, which made it impassable for garbage trucks, school buses, delivery vehicles, and fire engines. Its abutments were crum­bling, and in 1995 the Washtenaw County Road Commission put the replacement of the Bell Road Bridge on its wish list for the state's Critical Bridge Fund. Admin­istered by the Michigan Department of Transportation, the fund covers almost all the cost of repairing or replacing failing bridges. In a typical CBF project, the local government pays just 5 percent of the bill; 15 percent comes from the state and 80 percent from the federal government.

The road commission wanted to re­place the narrow iron bridge with a two-lane concrete span. Neighbors pushed in­stead to repair the old bridge, arguing that it was good enough for a small rural road, and that emergency vehicles could cross the river on North Territorial Road a mile south. They attended road commission, township, and county meetings, gathered hundreds of petition signatures, and got the National Register designation.

Eventually the road commission agreed not to replace the bridge. But in 1997 the bridge was taken down; its abutments were so weak that it was feared a spring flood might wash it away. It's been sitting on the riverbank ever since.

Three years later the same is­sues arose downriver, when the road commission decid­ed the Maple/Foster Bridge was unsafe and needed to be replaced with a bigger, stroriger span that could carry emergency vehicles and school buses. Again, neighbors ral­lied. They formed the Citizens for Foster Bridge Conservancy and raised more than $40,000 to hire an engineering firm. It re­ported that repairing the bridge was feasi­ble, though costly. Barton Hills, northeast of the bridge, offered to put in $250,000 from an escrow fund built up over years of refunds from state road repair money. (Barton Hills is a private village, and it pays for its own street repairs).

In 2003 the road commission spent five months repairing the bridge—replac­ing the timber deck, improving guardrails, and installing cable to strengthen the sides. Roy Townsend, the road commission's di­rector of engineering, estimates the total cost was about $800,000, so the road com­mission paid about $550,000.

Two years later, the Delhi Bridge was closed by the road commission as unsafe. Because the abutments needed much work, the cost of renovating the bridge would be even greater than for Maple/Foster—and there were fewer neighbors with deep pockets like the residents of Barton Hills. Still, a citizens group, the East Delhi Road Conservancy, raised $50,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and $10,000 from in­dividual donations and sales of lemonade and T-shirts.

An engineering study, paid for jointly by the road commission, Scio Township, and the conservancy, showed that the bridge was in good enough shape to reha­bilitate—if money could be found to do so. Then the conservancy discovered that Critical Bridge Fund money could legally be used to restore historic bridges. Al­though MOOT agreed, the road commis­sion was leery, joining the effort only after state representative Pam Byrnes convened a meeting with all the stakeholders.

In September 2005, when the Delhi Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the way was paved for repairing it with CBF money. With 95 per­cent of the cost covered by the federal and state government, the road commission agreed to put up half of the local contribu­tion; the other half was split between the Delhi Road Conservancy and Scio Town­ship. When the cost of the projected repair ballooned to $1.2 million, Huron-Clinton Metroparks chipped in $15,000.

The last hurdle, paying for the upkeep, was cleared when the bridge activists gath­ered enough signatures to ask the township to form an assessment district. About 120 nearby properties will pay around $30 a year to help maintain the bridge.

For further protection, the group got the county to establish an East Delhi Bridge Historic District, encompassing just the bridge itself. This designation ensures that the bridge may not be changed or moved without permission of the county's historic district commission.

"It was a grind," admits Cook. "It took a couple of years, endless meetings, and beat­ing our heads against the wall." But he adds, "Very few get saved. We're very happy."

In fact, according to Townsend, this was the first bridge in Michigan to utilize CBF money for a historic rehabilitation. Because it was historic, the state waived the requirement that the bridge have two lanes. Instead, a traffic light will be put up, perhaps on side poles to make it less ob­trusive. The bridge is scheduled to reopen in June.

Only five Pratt through-truss bridges survive in Michi­gan, and three of them are in Washtenaw County. The restored bridges at Foster and Delhi are the only two still in use in their original locations. The fate of the third, the Bell Road Bridge, remains uncertain.

The cost of saving the bridge hasn't been calculated, but it won't be cheap— Townsend says the abutments would have to be replaced. If it ended up costing $1 million—halfway between what was spent at Foster and at Delhi—then the lo­cal 5 percent match would be $50,000.

Cathy VanVoorhis, one of the leaders of the Bell Road group, is still hopeful. She says that the bridge isn't in bad shape-that most of the rust is on the parts attached to move it, and that it's easier to work with on the ground. "It's not abandoned," she says. "It's a project sitting there waiting for funding."

Dexter Township supervisor Pat Kelly says she wants the bridge saved, but "it's not likely to be rehabilitated anytime soon. In these economic times, there is no way." Meanwhile, Bill Klinke is keeping the bridge's historic plaque safe and dry. "It was the least I could do," he says. "I was hoping someday someone would call and say, 'Let's put it up.'"

[Photo caption from the original print edition]: A 1936 photo of the Delhi Bridge in its prime; in contrast, the Bell Road Bridge sits unused and rusting, and its historic plaque is in a neighbor's garage.

[Photo caption from the original print edition]: A $250,000 contribution by Barton Hills helped save the Maple-Foster bridge, an important route into the village.