The peace rally that took place at Michigan Stadium on October 15, 1969, was the largest anti-war protest in Ann Arbor history. Including some 20,000 attendees, the rally was the culmination of Ann Arbor’s participation in a nationwide event - The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam - that took place that day, with many businesses, churches, and colleges across the country closing to protest continued involvement in the War.
The 1969 South University Riot was a series of confrontations between local law enforcement and factions of Ann Arbor’s counterculture population that extended over three nights, from June 16-18, on or near the four-block South University Avenue shopping district in Ann Arbor.
Monday, June 16
Varying accounts in local and regional media make it difficult to determine exactly what occurred on the first night, June 16, but according to the Ann Arbor News, events began around 10:00 pm when an Ann Arbor police officer attracted a crowd of about 50 people while attempting to ticket a motorcyclist for stunt-riding in the street. The officer called for reinforcements and four additional police cars arrived, but when they eventually left without issuing the motorcyclist a ticket, the crowd -- now estimated at about 300 and comprised of various countercultural groups -- celebrated by staging a spontaneous "liberation party" and cordoning off a block of South University Avenue with tires, boards, garbage cans, and similar items.
Over the next few hours, the crowd swelled to somewhere between 500 and 1000, and members engaged in activities such as dancing, singing, drinking, and throwing firecrackers. Local newspapers also reported that a couple engaged in sexual relations in the middle of South University Avenue. During the revelry, Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter E. Krasny requested that both the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police be on standby in the nearby town of Ypsilanti. Plains clothes police officers were sent in to observe the crowd, but no tickets were issued out of fear that it would cause an “instant riot,” as Lieutenant Eugene Staudenmaeir told the campus newspaper The Michigan Daily. (Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter Krasny would later state that they declined to issue tickets because of “limited manpower.”) The crowd eventually broke up around 1:00 am, with some attendees returning to sweep up the debris and broken glass. Damages were minor, with some broken windows and slogans painted on parking signs and shop windows.
Tuesday, June 17
Although Monday’s event appeared to occur spontaneously, expectations were high for the next night, June 17, after some among Monday night’s attendees were overheard declaring they would attempt another street party on Tuesday at the same time and location. Furthermore, members of the White Panther Party, a local radical anti-establishment organization, issued a statement calling for the transformation of the South University Avenue shopping area into a pedestrian mall or “people’s park,” a pointed reference to the recent People’s Park movement in Berkeley, California that had been violently suppressed only a month prior. As a result, reporters from Detroit and further afield were in attendance that evening; and several high-ranking local officials, among them Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey, Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter E. Krasny, and Prosecuting attorney William F. Delhey, made plans for a “show of force if the ‘street liberations’” took place.
Crowds began to gather in the early evening and by 8:00 pm attendees were participating in a variety of activities: Some erected a barricade of traffic cans, signs, and similar materials; two girls sat down in the middle of the street blocking a car; others set a fire in a garbage can. At around 9:00 pm the crowd had reached roughly 1,000 people, some of whom were merely onlookers hoping for a show. Deputy Police Chief Harold E. Olson attempted to disperse the crowd with the use of a bullhorn, but when he was met with resistance and shouted obscenities, riot-equipped officers from city and county agencies, including nearby Oakland and Monroe counties, were instructed to advance on the crowd, moving westward, with nightsticks, rifles held at port arms, and a half dozen crowd-control dogs from the Sheriff’s Department. Most of the crowd broke and ran, but a few people stood ground until they were seized and removed to an awaiting prisoner bus.
Further down the line, members of the crowd responded by hurling bricks, rocks, and bottles; some objects were thrown from the tops of buildings on either side of South University Avenue. Sheriff Harvey countered these efforts by ordering the firing of tear gas in their direction. Police cleared the street in roughly one hour, making 25 arrests, while some officers traveled further afield onto private property and the U-M campus, using tear gas and flares to illuminate gatherings that had reformed there.
Following the dispersal of the crowd, the area remained relatively quiet, with the exception of periodic police routings of stragglers, until around midnight when another crowd of about 800 gathered near U-M President Robben Fleming’s house a little further west on South University Avenue. Fleming appeared briefly, trying but failing to calm down the crowd. Ken Kelly, a staff member of the Ann Arbor Argus, an underground newspaper, also tried in vain to persuade the crowd to move away.
During this period, President Fleming also engaged in a heated conversation with Sheriff Harvey, urging him to exercise restraint. Deputy Chief Olson, the other key command officer on the scene, agreed to grant the president some time, but when one of his riot officers was hit by a brick thrown from the crowd, he and Sheriff Harvey ordered their officers to advance. With the crowd still throwing rocks and officers swinging clubs, the confrontation split into three segments, one moving west on South University Avenue, others moving north or south on East University Avenue, and officers pursuing factions down side streets.
By 2:00 am it was over, with 47 arrests. Roughly half of those arrested were charged with “contention in the street,” a misdemeanor; the other half were charged with inciting a riot, a violation of Michigan’s new riot statute that was put in place following the Detroit Riots in 1967 and which was punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Several persons arrested were treated at hospitals for injuries sustained by police, and fifteen police officers were injured by flying rocks, bottles, and, in one instance, a flurry of cherry bombs.
President Fleming and Ann Arbor Mayor Robert Harris quickly issued statements generally supportive of police action; however, Fleming suggested that the use of tear gas caused more excitement than it helped. Other attendees, including Detroit News photographer James Hubbard, disagreed with this assessment of the previous night’s police action, stating that it was worse than what he’d experienced first-hand during the 1967 Detroit Riots.
Wednesday, June 18
During the day on June 18, an ad hoc alliance of local radicals and student government officials (the Radical Caucus, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Rent Strike Committee) staged a rally on central campus attended by nearly 1,000 people, including President Fleming, who urged students to remain calm. Lawrence (Pun) Plamondon, a leader in the White Panther Party, spoke on behalf of the group and asked the audience for a vote on whether they should demand that South University Avenue be closed immediately to make a pedestrian mall. The vote was turned down.
Meanwhile, hoping to avoid another night of conflict, university and city officials scheduled a free rock concert for 8:30 pm in Jefferson Plaza near the U-M Administration Building. During the concert, which was attended by roughly 2,000 people, Mayor Harris addressed the crowd, promising to appoint a special City Council committee to look into the viability of creating a pedestrian mall on South University Avenue or elsewhere in the vicinity. Several other university and city officials, including most members of Ann Arbor City Council, circulated among the crowd to talk with attendees and urge restraint.
There was no police presence at the concert. However, across town on South University Avenue, in anticipation of repeated conflict in that area, law enforcement presence included 300 police officers from six different agencies, an armored car with machine guns, and a police helicopter overhead.
No confrontations occurred during this period on South University Avenue, with most newspaper accounts describing a festive atmosphere and crowds diminishing by 11:00 pm. Shortly thereafter, however, a crowd once again began to form, blocking traffic in the street. When university officials and local clergy both failed to break it up, Deputy Chief Olson ordered roughly 200 police officers to either end of South University and, using a pincer movement with rifles leveled and bayonets fixed, closed in on the crowd.
20 arrests were made and two civilian injuries reported, including that of Dr. Edward Pierce, a physician, former Ann Arbor City councilman, mayoral candidate, and local Democratic Party chairman, who had attended at the request of U-M students for a trained medical presence. Dr. Pierce stated that police knocked him to the ground, struck him repeatedly with billy clubs, and dragged him 30 yards to the prisoner bus. Police claimed in return that Dr. Pierce had crossed the line of officers. He was arrested on a felony riot charge that was dropped the next morning.
Thursday, June 19, and the Aftermath
Although the atmosphere on South University Avenue remained somewhat tense on the following evening, Thursday, June 19, and police were held in a staging area nearby, city and university officials gambled that civilian peacekeeping efforts would be more effective than a show of police force - and their gamble paid off. Crowds thinned out by midnight and dispersed for good around 2:00 am when it started to rain heavily.
By most accounts, the confrontation between local law enforcement and factions of Ann Arbor’s counterculture - what the Detroit Free Press called “The Battle of Ann Arbor” - was a draw. Officials looking into the cause of the riot would later suggest that some attendees in the crowd that first night, June 16, may have been motivated to act out of frustration after attending a City Council meeting earlier that evening where they learned their favorite rock concerts at West Park would be canceled due to citizen complaints. However, the consensus seems to be that what started in the spirit of fun, or even frustration, never amounted to a serious or calculated take-over of South University property, despite attempts by more radical elements among the crowd to turn events in that direction.
The left and right were also divided on the use of police force. Letters to the city's newspaper, The Ann Arbor News, were strongly pro-police; whereas letters to the university’s student-run newspaper, The Michigan Daily, where almost universally anti-police and, in particular, anti-Sheriff Douglas Harvey. Ann Arbor Mayor Robert Harris was attacked from both sides - from the right for not hitting hard enough and from the left for not doing enough to hold back the police.
Harper's weekly on Prof. Adams.
Under the caption "The new president of Cornell," Harper's Weekly has the following on Prof. Adams' recent good fortune:
Charles Kendall Adams, professor of history in the University of Michigan, was on Monday, the 13th, elected president of Cornell University, in the room of the retiring President White, by an almost unanimous vote of the trustees, the numbers being 13, to 3 for General Morgan. The new president, who is a native of Vermont, in which state he was born in 1835, owes this flattering election to the influence of the late president, between whom and him the most intimate relations existed during their acquaintance at Ann Arbor, where Professor Adams graduated in 1861, and where Professor White is the chair of history when the latter accepted the presidency of Cornell. Professor Adams id the author of "Democracy and Monarchy in France," and of the "Manual of Historical Literature," comprising descriptions of the most important histories in English, French, and German, together with practical suggestions as to methods and course of historical study, and of which the philosophic character, the profundity of learning, and judicious historical conclusions have given him high standing as a author. At the meeting of the trustees numerous tributes were received, speaking in the strongest terms of testimony to his executive ability and his thorough knowledge of educational systems both in this country and in Europe. The new president, indeed, is generally conceded by scholars to posses qualities of that sterling and lasting kind which, although not showy or brilliant at first sight as those which might be possessed by others, would yet tend to impress the board of trustees and alumni more and more as they know him better and more closely, and through his new position, with an increasing conviction of his scholarship, executive ability, and wide range of educational thought and experience. He has really been the responsible promoter of most of the successful plans of higher education at Michigan University, though others have received the larger share of the credit, and it was entirely through his exertions that the library system at Ann Arbor was built up; and those -- and they are many -- who are not willing to give him credit for the necessary force of character, will find themselves most grievously mistaken.
Ann Arbor today would be just another small Michigan town- no bigger, perhaps, than Saline or Chelsea- had it not been for one crucial event: in 1837, just thirteen years after its founding, it was designated the site for the University of Michigan.
The initial campus, situated on forty acres donated by the Ann Arbor Land Company, was a tiny affair, consisting of one combination classroom building and dormitory along with four professors' houses. The president's house on South University is the lone survivor from that first generation of campus buildings. Though still used as a residence, it has been vastly altered over the intervening 160 years.
The "Diag" took its name from the diagonal walk that crossed what was then largely an open field. But the campus grew quickly, particularly under dynamic presidents Henry Phillip Tappan (1852-1863) and James Burrill Angell (1871-1909).
Except for Tappan's observatory and Angell's Catherine Street hospitals, almost all of the nineteenth century construction took place on the Diag. By the turn of the century, campus was thick with structures, most built of a red brick in a weighty Romanesque style.
Almost all were swept away as the U-M's growth accelerated in the twentieth century. The Diag was completely rebuilt, and surrounding properties were acquired to extend the university's presence far beyond the original campus borders. Today only tiny Tappan Hall, hidden away between the art museum and the president's house, survives as a reminder of the red-brick campus of 1900
When James Burrill Angell arrived as president in 1871, the U-M had nine buildings. He oversaw the addition of fifty more before stepping down in 1909. The elegant oval shape of Angell's 1883 University Library had been truncated by the turn of the century with the addition of new book storage "stacks" at the rear of the building (left), but a gracefully curved reading room still looked out on the center of the Diag. Though the older portions of the building were torn down in 1918, the stacks were incorporated into the present Graduate Library, completed in 1920.
The Waterman and Barbour gymnasiums, at the comer of North University and East University, were the longest-lived of Angell's great red brick buildings. Their demolition was also a turning point in campus interest in historic preservation. In 1976, when the university announced its intentions to tear down the historic complex, a group called the Committee for Reuse of the Barbour-Waterman Buildings was established and lobbied hard for the university to take another look at alternative uses for the structures, which dated to the 1890s. Petitions were circulated and signed by thousands, citizens wore buttons saying "Recycle Barbour-Waterman," and many spoke before the regents to urge reconsideration.
The regents were not swayed, and the buildings were demolished in 1977 (their site is now part of the chemistry building). But the university has since shown greater sensitivity to historic buildings. And one unexpected result of the regents' intransigence on Barbour-Waterman was the listing of the entire original Central Campus, and other significant buildings such as Rackham and the Law Quad, on the National Register of Historic Places.
President Tappan's Law Building stood at the corner of State and North University. It was completed in 1863, the same year that the U-M's visionary founding president was fired by the regents (see "President Tappan Fired" in "The Top Ten Ann Arbor Stories of the Millennium," p. 31).
The formidable turret was added in a remodeling in 1893 but didn't quite make it to 1900—it was removed during another expansion in 1898. After completion of the Law Quad in the 1920s, the building was renamed Haven Hall and used for LS&A faculty offices. In 1950, a disgruntled student determined to obliterate a bad grade burned it down.
The modern Haven Hall is closer to the center of the Diag. The place where Tappan's Law Building stood is now a lovely, tree-shaded lawn.
When it opened in 1881, the U-M's natural science museum was the first owned by a public university. Designed by architecture prof William LeBaron Jenney—later
famous as the "father of the skyscraper"—the museum had a collection ranging from stuffed animals to Asian manuscripts.
The exhibits moved to the present Ruthven Museums Building in 1928. Jenney's building housed the Romance language departments for three decades before being demolished in 1958.
Exceot for the crowning dome, this long, massive building parallel to State Street bears an uncanny resemblance to Angell Hall. University Hall, completed in 1871, was the U-M's first great classroom building. The impressive dome shown here was actually the building's second- the first was deemed structurally unsound and replaced in 1896. Hidden from State Street when Angell Hall was built directly in front of it in 1924, University Hall lingered on for another twenty-six years before being torn down in 1950.
Stretching the tum-of-the-century date slightly, this multipanel postcard shows the U-M's hospitals as they stood following completion of the Palmer children's ward in 1904. One of the two hospitals flanking the Palmer ward had been built for the U-M's medical doctors, the other for its homeopathic physicians. By 1900, however, the homeopaths had moved out to a new hospital on North University.
The low, many-windowed "pavilion" hospitals reflected the emerging medical thinking of the nineteenth century before the role of germs was understood, disease was thought to be spread by "morbid" air exhaled by sick patients. It wasn't a bad guess, since it led to the division of hospitals into isolated, well-ventilated wards—steps that did help reduce the rate of hospital-induced infections.
By the turn of the century, the germ theory and antiseptic surgery were fueling great strides in health care. The homeopaths soon faded, while the M.D.'s moved into a succession of huge new hospitals—on Ann Street in the 1920s, and overlooking Fuller Road in the 1980s. The site of the old pavilion hospitals is now occupied by the Victor Vaughan Building, Med Sci II, and the Taubman Medical Library.
An impressive testimonial to the growing importance of the physical sciences, the 1885 Engineering Laboratory bore a striking resemblance in both style and scale to the University Library just to the north. It was designed by Gordon Lloyd, the celebrated Gothic architect best known locally for his work on two prominent churches, St. Andrew's and First Congregational.
The engineers expanded into larger quarters bordering the southeast comer of the Diag (home of the famous "Engin Arch"), then leapfrogged East University, and finally relocated en masse to a still-growing complex on North Campus. By then the 1885 laboratory was long gone—it was torn down in 1956.
As the university expanded in the early twentieth century, it acquired and demolished many of the buildings that had bordered the original campus. Between 1909 and 1920, the university gained title to some 114 separate parcels of land, including the Arboretum, the Botanical Gardens off Packard Road, and the site of the power plant on Huron Street. But perhaps its most dramatic acquisition was professor Alexander Winchell's spectac-ular octagon house on North University.
Winchell served at various times as professor of geology, zoology, botany, physics, and engineering. The strong-minded Winchell was one of president Tappan's most vociferous opponents but also a powerful advocate of opening the university to women, and perhaps America's most influential supporter of Charles Darwin's then-novel theory of evolution. His unusual octagon home, built according to the tenets of Orson Fuller, a well-known phrenologist and prolific writer on health, happiness, and sex, was surrounded by extensive gardens that complemented his collections of flora and fauna, some of which are now at the Smithsonian.
After Winchell left the university in the mid-1870s, his home was rented by various fraternities. Acquired by the university in 1909, it was demolished shortly afterward to make way for Hill Auditorium.
The original professors' residences from the 1840s found new uses as the campus grew. This one facing South University housed the Dental College from 1877 to 1891, adding a wing (right) in the process. The engineering department took over in 1892 and stayed until 1922. when the building was demolished to make way for the Clements Library.
The U-M Law Quad has a timeless feel, but in fact it is of comparatively recent construction. Two entire blocks of residences were demolished in the 1920s to make room for it. One of the more spectacular of the buildings lost was the 1880 Psi Upsilon fraternity house, which faced South University at the comer of State. A newspaper account from June 30, 1923, noted that "since the beginning of the second semester men have been tearing down the former fraternity houses on State Street, which occupied the land needed for the new [Lawyers] Club. Practically all of the work of the demolishing of the Psi Upsilon house has been completed and the steam shovel will clear away the remainder of the ruins. . . . Practically all of the homes in this block are now being torn down."
Until recently, it seemed that the same fate might befall the row of four nineteenth century houses the U-M owns on Huron across from the Power Center.But after years of designating the location as a future building site, the university is now renovating and rehabbing the houses—an encouraging sign that it has finally begun to develop a preservation ethic.
Burned by the firestorm over its controversial Michigan Stadium halo, the architectural firm of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates is taking a much more conservative tack with its first U-M building.
The Philadelphia firm, headed by the husband-and-wife team of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, is nationally famous for daring designs. When U-M president Lee Bollinger hired VSBA to work on a campus master plan two years ago, one of their first suggestions was to ditch the traditional brick trim planned for the expanded stadium in favor of a maize-and-blue metal halo decorated with gigantic football icons and slogans. The couple, authors (with Steven Izenour) of Learning from Las Vegas, thought the colorful band would, in Venturi's words, "create a gala quality at that end of campus."
They quickly discovered that to many people Wolverine football is more than a game. Infuriated at the halo's breezy irreverence, football fans protested verbally, wrote angry letters, and withheld donations. This past spring, Bollinger finally caved and had the halo taken down.
So when Venturi presented plans for his first U-M building to a group of community leaders in April, the first question on everyone's mind was, Could this be another disaster? Those concerns were soon allayed: presenting the plans for the U-M's new Life Sciences Institute building, Venturi took pains to show how it would fit with the rest of the campus.
After Scott Brown gave an update on the campus plan, Venturi, wearing his usual professorial scruffy sport coat, diffidently held up two poster boards. The audience impatiently craned their necks to see, and then laughed as mayor Ingrid Sheldon stepped forward, seized the boards, and lifted them high overhead. One showed the proposed institute, which will face Washtenaw at an angle south of Palmer Drive. The other compared the new design with similar buildings already on campus.
While saying that he doesn't consider himself a "historical revivalist," Venturi stressed that he does believe that new buildings should harmonize with their surroundings. He called his six-story Life Sciences design "a generic loft building, like the early buildings on campus by Albert Kahn and Smith, Hinchman & Grylls." The simple, functional designs of Albert Kahn (architect notably of the Hatcher Library and Hill Auditorium) and SHG (Chemistry Building, Rackham Auditorium) still look good many decades after they were built, and have proven themselves highly adaptable to changing academic needs—goals that Venturi says he aspires to as well.
The regents approved the Life Sciences Institute plan at their April meeting and went on to appoint VSBA as architects for the Commons—the second new Life Sciences building, which will face Washtenaw in front of the power plant. If VSBA succeed, as they have elsewhere, in combining classic elements in new and unusual ways, they may well be remembered for their U-M buildings long after the halo fiasco is forgotten.
Sophisticated debates on a silly subject
The latke and the hamantasch, two traditional Jewish holiday foods, were also the unlikely subjects of debates held at the U-M Hillel Society in the 1960s and 1970s and then at the Jewish Community Center from 1988 to 1994.
"It was absolutely nothing serious," recalls participant Chuck Newman. Each dish had two defenders who would argue for the superiority of their chosen food, often citing evidence from their professions or specialties.
"Sophisticated people arguing in a sophisticated way on a silly subject" is how longtime moderator Carl Cohen, a U-M philosophy professor, describes the events.
The latke, a potato pancake, is often eaten at Hanukkah, a Jewish festival celebrated in December. Because it's cooked in oil, it's considered a symbol of the one day's supply of oil that miraculously kept a menorah burning for eight days after a Jewish army took Jerusalem back from the Syrians in 165 B.C.
The hamantasch, a three-sided pastry filled with prunes or poppy seeds, is eaten at Purim, which falls in February or March. It is meant to resemble the hat worn by Haman, who advised the Persian king Ahasuerus to destroy the Jews; his plot was thwarted by the queen, Esther, who was a Jew.
The idea of-the holiday debate originated at the University of Chicago and quickly spread to other campuses. Herman Jacobs, head of Hillel at the time, introduced it to Ann Arbor in the 1960s.
Cohen recalls that he chose participants for their "willingness to engage in whimsy—flights of fancy—and be downright silly." The debaters lived up to that mission. Computer scientist Bernie Galler remembers that the late James McConnell, psychologist and editor of the Worm Runners Digest, talked of the effects of feeding prunes to his rats. McConnell packed the audience with friends wearing T-shirts with a logo for his side; at an appropriate moment, they tore open their shirts to reveal the logos. The late Bennett Cohen, a professor of veterinary medicine, used slides of animals from his research, with altered captions, to show the allegedly dire effects of whichever food he was against.
Rabbi Robert Dobrusin used biblical arguments to show that the fruit involved in Adam and Eve's fall was really a potato. Rabbi Robert Levy took off his rabbinical robes to reveal a green doctor's coat and offered medical charts that, he claimed, proved hamantaschen were healthier. Surgeon Lazar Greenfield warned that humans have a "grease gland" that could be activated by eating too many latkes, and Lana Pollack, then a state senator, read a Michigan Senate resolution proclaiming that the latke was best.
Chuck Newman ran a negative campaign—"I juggled a latke, showing how it fell apart," he recalls. He also demonstrated how oily the latke was by putting one in a balloon and squeezing out the oil. "But I was faking, because it had oil in it already," he admits.
After a chance for rebuttal and questions from the audience, a vote was taken. The side that received the loudest applause won. The debaters and audience would then adjourn for refreshments—latkes and hamantaschen.
ILLUSTRATION BY WENDY HARLESS
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.
Carleton Angell's beloved sculptures return to the Natural History Museum
The two pumas that guarded the Ruthven Museums Building on North University for sixty-six years are missing. Generations of kids had clambered over the stylized black cats, and countless museum visitors had posed for pictures standing in front of them. But last July, a hole was noticed in the head of one of the pumas.
Officials first suspected vandalism. "They've been hit with paintballs. They were once trimmed with masking tape to look like zebras. And they've been painted green (probably in deference to a certain Big Ten rival)," writes museum employee Dan Madaj. But a more careful look made it clear that the real culprit was years of exposure to the elements. The big cats were removed for restoration and replacement—the first time they'd left their perches since museum sculptor Carleton Watson Angell put them there in 1940.
A farm boy from Belding, in west Michigan, Angell overcame great obstacles to build a career as an artist. Born in 1887, he got his first art lessons as a child from a customer on his father's milk route. But then his father died, and his mother moved back to her hometown of Hion, New York, where Angell worked for seven years to save up for art school. He finally enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1909, at age twenty-two. Afterward he worked at the American Terra Cotta Company in nearby Crystal Lake, making decorative panels for building facades but lost that job during an economic downturn. He returned to Illinois, worked in his brother's grocery store, and married Gladys Thayer.
But Angell continued sculpting and drawing, and in 1922, when he was thirty-five, his persistence finally paid off: he got an offer from the U-M to be a half-time instructor at the College of Architecture and Design. By then he and Gladys had three children, so to supplement his income, they ran a boardinghouse at 1438 Washington Heights (about where the new School of Public Health building is today). Their daughter, Jennett Angell Hamilton, remembers watching her dad strip the sheets from the beds and bring them down for her mother to wash.
In 1926 Angell was offered additional work at the U-M Museum of Natural History, which was preparing to move from State Street to North U. Celebrated industrial architect Albert Kahn designed the V-shaped building, but Angell contributed many decorative details, including the bronze front doors and the limestone bas-reliefs of animals and naturalists on the facade. And even after the building opened in 1928, he continued to produce busts of important people connected with the museum, both living and dead. They were placed in alcoves around the rotunda as he finished them during the 1930s.
The pumas were his last major contribution to the decoration. In an article in the August 17, 1940, Michigan Alumnus, Angell explained that although lions are often chosen to guard public buildings, he preferred Michigan's native cats. After building scale models to check the proportions, he constructed full-size figures of wood, wire, plaster of Paris, and clay. From these he created plaster molds, which were used to cast the final versions in terrazzo, a stone aggregate. Sixty-six years later, the terrazzo finally began to show its age.
Angell's main job was to make models for dioramas, miniature recreations of natural and historic scenes. He worked with scientists to model extinct animals from fossil skeletons, and with anthropologists to show how people in different cultures lived. He often depicted American Indians, whom he typically showed at work—making pottery, drilling, carrying things.
None of Angell's Indian dioramas are still on display, but it's interesting to wonder how he would have reacted to the recent protest by art students who charged that the museum's current representations of Native Americans are racist. Angell worked hard to create accurate depictions. Jennett Hamilton recalls how the family traveled to a reservation in Missaukee County, where her father spent nine hours sculpting an Ottawa chief named Henri. When the chief died soon afterward, the Angell family went back north for the funeral.
His work at the museum led to commissions from other university departments, community groups, and individuals. Angell eventually completed hundreds of local projects, including a bronze bas-relief of philanthropist Horace Rackham in the Rackham Building and a plaque at Angell School depicting the school's namesake, U-M president James B. Angell (the two Angells were believed to be distant relatives).
By 1936 Carleton Angell was earning, enough that he and his family were able to leave the boardinghouse. They lived at 933 South State Street and 1217 Lutz before building a home at 3125 Hilltop in the early 1950s. Angell created Arborcrest Memorial Park's Four Chaplains monument in the family room at the Hilltop home. It depicts four clergymen—two Protestants, a Roman Catholic, and a Jew—who died after giving up their life jackets to others when their ship was torpedoed during World War II. He completed another commission—relief panels for the Washtenaw County Courthouse depicting local life—in the home's garage. Daughter Jennett remembers how when he was done her father enlisted her husband and brothers, along with every other able-bodied relative and friend he could find, to help him deliver the massive artwork.
Angell died in 1962 from a massive heart attack. Though he was seventy-four, granddaughter Barbara Gilson says that his death came as a shock, since he seemed in good health and was by then taking care of Gladys, who had suffered a stroke. Dariel Keeney recalls, "The last thing my grandfather said to me on my last visit to him in the hospital, hours before he died, was 'Take care of your grandmother. She is so precious to me.'"
Since their installation, Angell's pumas have served as symbols of the museum, standing out in all weather. Over the years various small repairs were made, but last July's discovery made it clear that the time had come for a complete overhaul.
This time the museum is taking a twor pronged approach. The Fine Arts Sculpture Centre in Clarkston made molds from the original figures and then cast replicas in bronze. The Venus Bronze Works in Detroit has added a black finish to the bronzes, and also has restored the original terrazzo figures.
The pumas are expected back around the middle of May. The bronze cats will take over the plinths outside the doors, while the terrazzo originals will be placed in a yet-to-be-determined location inside the museum. On June 2, the museum will celebrate their return with a Puma Party, including a display of Carleton Angell's work in the rotunda.
[Photo caption from original print edition]: Farm-boy-turned-artist Carleton Angell created much of the ornamental detail on the Ruthven Museums Building, including the ornate bronze doors and the bas-relief sculptures on the facade. The two pumas guarding the entrance were the final touch—Angell chose Michigan's native cats instead of the customary lions.
[Photo caption from original print edition]: Bronze replicas of the pumas were cast at the Fine Arts Sculpture Center in Clarkston. The Venus Bronze Works in Detroit has since added a black finish to match the terrazzo originals.
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