Community High School (CHS) is an alternative public high school serving grades 9-12 located at 401 North Division Street in Ann Arbor's historic Kerrytown District. It was one of the first magnet schools to arise from a nation-wide wave of experimental schools that drew on the social movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was specifically influenced by social and political activism in Ann Arbor at the time.
A unique structure on Ann Arbor's west side is for sale and its ultimate fate unknown.
Naylor Motor Sales' five-sided showroom on W. Stadium is based on the "pentastar," the logo comprised of five triangles that Chrysler introduced in 1962 to represent the five brands it sold at the time--Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Imperial, and Dodge trucks. "I hoped Chrysler Corporation would adopt [the showroom design] and make me famous, but that didn't happen," says architect Ted Smith, who designed it in 1965.
The peace rally at Michigan Stadium on October 15, 1969, was the largest of all the anti-war protests in the 1960s in Ann Arbor. 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. Related events at the University of Michigan included teach-ins and forums, and the day concluded with a 6 p.m. torchlight parade winding from the University of Michigan central Diag to Michigan Stadium, followed by a rally inside the Stadium.
Rally organizers were New Mobilization leader Douglas Dowd of Cornell University and Ann Arbor Mobilization leader Eugene Gladstone. Speakers included U.S. Senator Philip A. Hart; SDS founder and Chicago 8 member, Tom Hayden; U. S. Representative John Conyers; State Senator Coleman Young; State Representative Roger Craig; Eugene Charles of the Black Panthers; Rhoades W. Murphy, U-M geography professor; and Ann Arbor City Councilman for the Third Ward, Nicholas Kazarinoff. The local rock band SRC performed at the Rally. Both the U-M parade and rally remained peaceful, a minor incident occurring when a participant near the speakers' platform spit on speaker Tom Hayden and was removed by Ann Arbor police.
A month earlier, on September 19, in a speech at Hill Auditorium during the “Tactic-In” events on the University of Michigan campus, U-M President Robben Fleming came out against the war in Vietnam and promised to make University facilities available for the upcoming October 15 Moratorium. He further indicated that if enough people came out to express opposition to the War during the event, he would personally deliver their message to Washington. Fleming’s anti-war declaration was controversial at the time, as was his endorsement of a University venue for an anti-war protest; however, his decision, made on the heels of many contentious campus-wide protests that had occurred in preceding months - most significantly, the 1969 South University Riot - signaled his evolving belief that suppressing protests would only lead to violence.
In the days after the Moratorium, President Fleming remained true to his word and wrote a letter to Washington stating that the mood on the University of Michigan campus was one of “broad and deep opposition. This opposition is not simply emotional, it is thoughtful. It does not occur because of ignorance, but only after sober reflection.”
Since 1969, the Washtenaw Alano Club (WAC) has fulfilled its mission “to provide a facility and environment conducive to spiritual growth for recovery from addictive behavior” by hosting a variety of 12-step recovery groups and offering social, educational, and recreational activities.
WAC currently serves 1,500 visitors each week over the course of 72 meetings covering eighteen distinct 12-step programs. Among these are: Al-Alanon, ACOA, AlaTeen, Narcotics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Artists Recovering Through the Twelve Steps.
History & Founders
WAC was founded in 1969 through the efforts of a group of people in recovery who decided Ann Arbor needed its own Alano Club. WAC is currently one of numerous Clubs nationwide that host regular meetings and other social events for people in recovery. Some of the early community leaders and members who played a role in establishing WAC are: Leo H. Evans, Grace J. Yesley, Allen L. Rendel, Richard Hammerstein, Judge Sandy J. Elden, James H. Fondren, Rev. Robert C. Grigereit, Ronald D. Rinker, Dr. Margaret Clay, Mrs. Robert Harris, James W. Henderson, Dr. Russell F. Smith, Patricia O'Sullivan, Gerald H. Voice, Ed L. Clark, Margaret E. Brooks, Patricia Goulet, Paul Clark, Elaine Ambrose, Barry Kistner, Steve Carr, and Dr. George S. Fischmann.
WAC filed articles of incorporation on October 27, 1969, and first began meeting at an older house on North Main Street. However, this location's cramped quarters and lack of parking weren't ideal and by March 1970, business meetings were being held once a month at the Calvary Methodist Church at 1415 Miller Avenue. On July 1, 1971, the Club drafted its first By-Laws, and on April 6, 1973, WAC was officially granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Meanwhile, original charter member, Leo H. Evans, initiated fundraising efforts to find a more suitable meeting space and in September 1975, WAC signed a lease for its first home in the Fourth Avenue Arcade at 212 South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. They moved in on November 23.
After three years, the reputation of this particular block of Fourth Avenue, which at the time included both liquor stores and adult bookstores, encouraged the group to begin scouting for a new location. For a short period, beginning in August 1978, this location would be an office building at 2500 Packard Rd, Suite 204; then, on November 4, 1980, WAC moved to 2761 South State Street. During the seven years at the State Street location, the Club expanded services to include additional activities and social events such as volleyball and softball teams.
995 North Maple Road
Late in the summer of 1986, WAC was notified its lease would not be renewed and the State Street building would be sold. With only 60 days to vacate, members scrambled to find a new location. At this time, they learned that the Ann Arbor Public School Board was selling property at 995 North Maple Road - the former Fritz School building - which had served as both an elementary school and alternative school within the Ann Arbor Public School system. Although WAC was not the highest bidder for the property, it was granted the bid of $127,500, due in part to members on the School Board who supported the Club’s mission to serve the community. The Ann Arbor City Council also approved a rezoning request to permit WAC to use the building.
WAC now owns the building at 995 North Maple. Set on a large parcel of oak woods with picnic areas, parking, and a rain garden, its interior space consists of meeting rooms, a lounge, and a concession area. Its first major project was to build a parking lot, and a 1992 fundraising drive helped to replace the aging roof. The work of several Board committees has contributed to other improvements to both interior and exterior spaces over the years.
On May 21, 2013, as part of an effort to rebrand the Club and fulfill a strategic plan to attract more members, the Board of Directors revised Club bylaws to cancel the collection of member dues and changed the name of the Club to Maple Rock. But these efforts were not universally embraced and were challenged by some long-time members. In December of 2015, county judge Archie Brown ruled that the Club was indeed a Membership Non-Profit and, in February 2016, authorized an election to choose new Board members. The Club's name also reverted to the Washtenaw Alano Club.
Events & Activities
Over the course of its history, WAC has sponsored numerous events and fundraisers, including monthly dances held at off-site locations such as Saint Francis of Assisi Church on East Stadium Boulevard. Other annual events include picnics, Christmas tree sales, and free holiday meals. Social activities include potlucks, movie nights, games nights, and sports.
Learn More about the Washtenaw Alano Club:
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.
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.
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."
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.