Friend of AADL's Old News, Wystan Stevens, Dies at 72

Wystan Stevens December 1981

Old News lost a vital member of the team this week with the passing of Wystan Stevens, the dean of local historians. Wystan generously shared his deep knowledge and love of Ann Arbor with Old News since its inception in 2010. He named unknown people, identified unknown buildings, streets and venues, gave context to hundreds of photos, corrected mistakes made by Ann Arbor News reporters and photographers as well as Old News staff.

Just last week Wystan helped us in trying to identify where a group of 1930s photos of bowling teams were taken. We had no names, places, or specific dates on the negative envelopes but Wystan was able to identify people, teams, venues. Here’s an example:

"The man with necktie number 3, second from right, is a very youthful Jerry Hoag, longtime manager of the Michigan Theater and other Butterfield theaters in Ann Arbor. His presence here strongly suggests that the venue is the Michigan Recreation Lanes, which was located in the Michigan Theater Building's basement." ~ Wystan Stevens

Wystan loved to include nuggets of history and the more controversial the better, like this one about the Wolverine Barber Shop:

"Like the old Dunbar Community Center, this building figured largely in the history of Ann Arbor's African-American community. And when it was a hotel, in 1902, it played host for a few days to anti-drink crusader Carrie Nation, on one of her lecturing and saloon-smashing excursions." ~ Wystan Stevens

All we had on this photo envelope was “House Being Demolished, September 1969.” We sent it to Wystan knowing there was simply too little to go but, once again, he knew exactly the where, what and why of the photo:

"Demolition of the former home of piano teacher Geraldine Seeback, who sold it to Comerica Bank for installation of their drive-up banking window branch office and driveway on the site, which was across the street from the 1925 Michigan Bell Telephone headquarters. The brick house next door now belongs to Peter Heydon." ~ Wystan Stevens

He was at his best detailing the history of buildings. The Haven Hall fire photos illustrates just how deep his knowledge of a building could go:

"The Law Building, completed in 1863 north of Mason Hall, was expanded and remodeled several times -- extensively in 1893, and again in 1898 following protests over the 1893 makeover, which had added a useless tower. After the beautiful new Cook Law Quadrangle was completed in 1933, the old Law Building was renamed "Haven Hall" -- it provided offices, classrooms, and library space, until it was destroyed in an arson fire on August 6, 1950. (After the fire, nothing ever again was built on the site.) ~ Wystan Stevens

When it came to making sense of an old aerial photos, which is always hard, Wystan could sort out the direction we're facing, as well as what was to come. Check out his unbelievable commentary for the photos of Tappan Junior High School and Stadium Blvd.

Wystan's contributions to local history go far beyond Old News. He contributed photographs to and research for the Downtown Historical Streets Exhibit Program as well as narrating the video introduction to the Streets Exhibit. And he donated his time and materials to the Ford Gallery of Ann Arbor Founders Exhibit. He even made makes it into our Old News UMS archive of historical programs as narrator in a program from 1979.

Wystan authored, introduced, or had been a consultant for numerous books on Ann Arbor history in the AADL collection. He did workshops on books set in Ann Arbor, led tours of the city's landmarks, including his most famous and popular tour, the Forest Hills Cemetery. He was a favorite subject of Ann Arbor News photographers and his sense of humor came through in every photo. The official historian of Ann Arbor and the unofficial Old News historian will be greatly missed by all of us at Old News.

Thanks for the memories, Wystan.

Were You There?

bikes and aapd

On Saturday, April 19, 1958 the Ann Arbor Police Department held a bicycle auction that drew a big crowd of bidders of all ages. The Ann Arbor News took a lot of photos of the event but only three made it into the April 21st edition. The human interest story concerned then eight-year-old Douglas Hehr and his almost-didn't-happen winning bid.

We've published many of the photos that didn't make it into print and hope you recognize someone, maybe even yourself, in one of them. If you do, share your memories with Old News through the Add New Comment feature at the bottom of this blog. Don't forget that you can earn all kinds of cool prizes in the Summer Game when you share your local history knowledge with Old News.

Mother's Day: The Whole Story

Newspapers have to make tough choices about what photos to publish with articles and how to crop the photo to fit the space available. Old News has a lot more flexibility so we're publishing Mother's Day photos that did and did not make the cut. In one article the photo is cropped but we're publishing the whole picture and perhaps you'll recognize some of the other Ann Arbor High School students.

Although the News usually picked the best photo from a shoot, sometimes we think the others are so darn cute we publish them all. We often don't have names to match the faces and they're too dear to be left anonymous. So if you recognize someone in our Mother's Day photos or have more to add to a story please use the Add New Comment feature to make sure Old News gets the whole story.

Ann Arbor Police Department: History On The Front Page

Old News has published another trove of photos and articles on the Ann Arbor Police Department that were digitally "ripped from the front pages" of the Ann Arbor News. In June, 1950, Haven Hall was set ablaze by arson. The AAPD investigation led to a graduate student, Robert H. Stacy. Fingered by a girlfriend (who briefly disappeared during trial), Stacy confessed in October, recanted, and was convicted in December, 1950. Many of the photos published on Old News never made it into the Ann Arbor News.

That's also the case with photos involving the murder of nurse Pauline Ada Campbell in September, 1951. The brutal homicide shocked the community and put everyone on edge. It took the AAPD only three days and a good tip to arrest three youths for the slaying. Crowds gathered daily outside the courtroom and legendary News photographer Eck Stanger was granted photo privileges unheard of today.

The Ann Arbor Police Department Online History Exhibit houses hundreds of photos from the AAPD and Ann Arbor News including badges, weapons, and memorabilia from the men and women who were and are the AAPD. We're continually adding to the collection of Ann Arbor News articles about the department, the personnel and policing. There are three full-text histories including Mike Logghe's True Crimes and the History of the Ann Arbor Police Department.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Archive Launched on Old News

radnerradner

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre is celebrating 85 years and AADL has launched a new website detailing the history of this award-winning local theater company.

View hundreds photos from the rehearsals, backstages and performances of the plays including never before seen shots from noted photographer Fred Beutler as well as the staff photographers at the Ann Arbor News. The Archive also includes hundreds of posters and programs from plays and over a thousand articles from the Ann Arbor News.

Old News will be adding more programs, photos and documents from the extensive collection at the Civic Theatre in the coming months but we need your help . . . can you identify any of the people in the photos where we don't have names? Everyone knows someone in Ann Arbor who worked in or for a Civic Theatre play, so browse the photos and add your knowledge in the Add New Comment feature. We have identified the lady at your left, that's Gilda Radner.

70 years ago this week...

Soldiers parade, FDR memorial

70 years ago, on April 14, 1945, Ann Arbor News photographer Eck Stanger took this photograph of a service parade in the U-M Law Quadrangle held in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died two days earlier.

The 60th Anniversary of the Polio Vaccine in Ann Arbor

Kids showing off their vaccine marks

60 years ago, the announcement of the success of the Salk polio vaccine took place right here in Ann Arbor. This momentous announcement followed one of the largest peacetime mobilization of volunteers in American history to undertake the 20th century's greatest public health experiment. Like many other community newspapers, the Ann Arbor News documented the determination of its citizens to fight polio, with feature stories on the afflicted and the swirl of local fundraising efforts to raise awareness, find a cure, and vaccinate area children. Local historian Grace Shackman has written a feature story on Polio in Ann Arbor for our Oldnews site, pulling together dozens of articles and photographs on the history of polio in our community and the announcement of the polio vaccine on April 12, 1955.

Join us on the 60th anniversary, Sunday, April 12, for a special discussion at the Downtown Library with Dr. David Oshinsky, Director of the Division of Medical Humanities, NYU School of Medicine, Professor of History, and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Polio: An American Story.

50th Anniversary of Tornadoes That Swept Through Milan

On Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965, tornadoes and severe weather tore through the Milan area. Considering that more than 270 lives were lost in the Midwest and 42 in Michigan, it was phenomenal that Milan reported only two injuries and no fatalities. Residents described strange clouds and whistling sounds while the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department reported a collapsed bridge and damage to several businesses. The most typical scenes were crushed cars, damaged homes and destroyed buildings. The News got a first-hand account of the damage to Coldwater from a former reporter. Cleanup began immediately but it was years before Milan fully recovered.

Celebrating African-American History In Ann Arbor

Dating back to the Underground Railroad, Ann Arbor boasts a rich and vibrant history for African-Americans. A wonderful piece about this time in Ann Arbor’s history is written by Grace Shackman and can be found here.

There are many African-Americans that created their own piece of history in Ann Arbor. For instance, you can read about Ann Arbor’s first African-American mayor, Albert H. Wheeler, first African-American teacher and later principal at Northside Elementary, Harry Mial and his wife, Joetta Mial, Huron High School's first female African-American principal.

O.Herbert Ellis, who passed away last year is notable for being the first African-American to serve on and to chair the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. You can read more history and the individuals that created it here.

Ann Arbor responds to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kids showing off their vaccine marks

In the days following the assassination, Ann Arbor held a memorial at Hill Auditorium and Ann Arbor News photographers snapped dozens of photos of townies and students participating in marches and peaceful demonstrations. Here they are, for the first time, from the Oldnews archive.

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