A heroic rescue saved the owner, but this historic home may be doomed.
In October, Ann Arbor fire chief Mike Kennedy presented commendations to five people who'd rescued an elderly man from a burning house in September. The "civilian lifesaving awards" recognized three young men touring the town after a U-M football game, and a father and daughter on their way to the airport. Both groups spotted the fire on S. Main and stopped to help.
For years, people who pass by the former Washtenaw County Road Commission site across from the Ann Arbor Y have wondered why something hasn't been done to what is universally agreed is an eyesore. The buildings haven't been touched since 2007, when the city departments located there moved out. The grounds are a mix of broken cement and dirt.
The city would like to see something built there, but there are a number of obstacles. For starters, after more than eighty years of housing trucks and fuel, the soil and water table are contaminated.
A neighborhood morale booster on Soule Blvd
On the afternoon before the Puppy Promenade was scheduled to take place, organizer Linda Hoadley, who lives next door to me, had no idea if it would actually happen. She'd come up with the idea of inviting neighborhood dogs and their so-called masters to congregate at the flagpole in front of Eberwhite School and walk, at a social distance, down Soule to Liberty and back as the rest of the neighborhood watched.
During the warm months of the pandemic, my husband and I took walks in different neighborhoods, often parking in the empty lots next to schools. We noticed that many had nature areas at the edge of their grounds. My interest piqued, I began looking into it and discovered that the Ann Arbor Public Schools were pathfinders in outdoor education--and that much of their success depended on citizen activists who saved and maintained these areas.
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.
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.
Kristine Bolhuis and John Holkeboer saved a blighted Midcentury Modern home—and a neighborhood.
The couple—she's a jeweler, he's an audio producer—are fans of the sparse, clean-lined Midcentury Modern style. When they moved from Ferndale to Ann Arbor in 2011, they were delighted to find a vintage MCM house in Thornoaks, a small subdivision off E. Huron River Dr.
The only problem was the house next door. It was "in bad shape, complete with boarded-up windows, weeds and moss on the roof, and various animals coming and going at will," Holkeboer says.