Ann Arbor History

Arborwiki Edit Night

What’s ArborWiki? It’s the community generated source for details on everything from birthday deals to local history to the lowdown on volunteer opportunities for youth and teens. Since it’s a “civic wiki” it’s created, edited and maintained by locals. That could mean you!

If you have an interest in any aspect of the Arbor/Ypsi area—parks, history, local happenings—you might be a perfect ArborWiki contributor or editor. Meet some of the current crew of editors and hop in to edit/create entries about your community. Bring your laptop or use one of ours!

Veteran Ann Arbor News reporter Bill Treml dead at 88

Bill TremlBill Treml

Veteran Ann Arbor News police reporter, William Treml, who retired in 1996 after 40 years at the paper, died Friday at age 88. Over the course of his distinguished career, Bill Treml earned a reputation as one Ann Arbor's best reporters, sometimes arriving to a crime scene with pen, paper, and camera in hand - and at least once in his pajamas. Treml covered some of our city's historic events, including the 1970 John Norman Collins trial and the 1960s UFO sightings. In 2011, we spoke with Treml about his career at the News and he recalled his toughest assignments as well as shared his personal memories of the friends he made along the way.

Read some of Mr. Treml's articles currently available on Oldnews.

Nixon in Ann Arbor, October 27, 1960

Richard NixonRichard Nixon

On October 27, 1960, less than two weeks before the general election, incumbent Vice President and Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon arrived at the New York Central Railroad depot (now the Gandy Dancer restaurant) to greet a crowd of Ann Arbor supporters. Less than two weeks earlier, John F. Kennedy, the Democrat nominee, came to Ann Arbor and delivered an inspired impromptu speech on the steps of the Michigan Union that helped build momentum toward the establishment of the Peace Corps. Nixon, who always thought he was in second place, but was actually leading in public opinion polls at the time, visited Michigan to shore up support in a state whose votes could tip the balance of the election.

In this series of photographs taken on October 27, 1960 by Ann Arbor News photographers Duane Scheel and Eck Stanger, we see Nixon and his wife, Pat, disembarking from the train, shaking hands with well-wishers, and making their way to the speaker’s platform while surrounded by notable Ann Arborites, including former Ann Arbor mayor Cecil O. Creal; local realtor, Wendell Hobbs; Ann Arbor Police Chief Rolland Gainsley; and his successor, Walter E. Krasny.
 
On the platform, Steven Stockmeyer, head of the University of Michigan's Campus Republicans, presents Nixon with a scroll of student signatures to demonstrate their support, and Nixon flashes his ubiquitous “V” sign. One of the best photographs shows Nixon speaking to the crowd against a backdrop of the old Broadway Bridge. Other photos, including this aerial view and photos taken on the hilly area above Depot St. and below High St. show the extent of the crowd.

Alas for Nixon supporters, Kennedy went on to carry Michigan’s 20 electoral votes and win the election that year.

The Monuments Men

One of the most anticipated movies this fall is The Monuments Men, based on the book The Monuments Men : Allied heroes, Nazi thieves, and the greatest treasure hunt in history by Robert M. Edsel.

The Monuments Men, a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of them volunteers, who were museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. These mostly middle-aged family men, walked away from successful careers into the epicenter of the war, risking—and some losing—their lives. They raced against time in order to save the world’s greatest cultural treasures from destruction at the hands of Nazi regime.

A little known fact is that one of these brave men lived among us quietly for decades - Charles Sawyer, a member of the Roberts Commission, established by President Roosevelt on June 23, 1943, charged with promoting the preservation of cultural properties in war areas, provided this mission did not interfere with military operations. Professor Sawyer was the Director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art from 1957-1972.

The Charles Sawyer Center for Museum Studies at the University of Michigan Museum of Art was founded in his honor in 2003. “Charlie” Sawyer passed away after a brief illness on February 25, 2005. Here are the Old News articles on Charles Sawyer.

Opening Night Concert at the Bandshell

Opening Night at West Park BandshellOpening Night at West Park Bandshell

Wednesday, June 19, 2013, marks the opening concert for the Ann Arbor Civic Band summer season! All performances will take place in the West Park bandshell. As you can see from this 1943 photograph of the old bandshell, lounging in the grass before this A2 landmark is a summer tradition that goes back many years. Read about the history of West Park in Oldnews, and catch some of the recent photographs we've posted detailing the construction of the original bandshell in 1938.

Elizabeth R. Dean Day

On March 24, 1981, Ann Arbor City Council declared April 7th being Elizabeth R. Dean Day in memory of the woman who left her estate of nearly $2 million upon her death to the City for the care of her trees.

Elizabeth Russell Dean was born in Ann Arbor on Christmas Eve,1884 to Sedgwick and Elizabeth Strong Dean. Sedgwick and his brother Henry S. operated Dean & Co. on Main Street since 1861. Miss Dean died on April 7th, 1964 at the age of 79.

Next time you stroll down Main Street and admire the lovely trees along the Elizabeth R. Dean Promenade, know that the Elizabeth R. Dean Fund is still at work keeping our trees healthy and bringing beauty and shade to "The City of Trees".

Frank Lloyd Wright's Legacy in Ann Arbor

Frank Lloyd Wright in Ann Arbor, a Then and Now article by local historian Grace Shackman detailed history of the house, and the continued efforts of the architectural community to restore and conserve Ann Arbor's beloved Frank Lloyd Wright home - one he built for Bill and Mary Palmer, just because they asked, known locally as the Palmer House.

Though he never built another home in Ann Arbor, his legacy is woven into the fabric of the community. Many of the local architects, among them Alden Dow and Lawrence R. Brink were students of FLW, while others like George R. Brigham, Jr. were known for designs inspired by FLW's philosophy.

This generation of architects in turn passed along the FLW influence to the next generation - well-known architects Robert Metcalf was in fact, a protege of George R. Brigham.

Read up on local architects and browse through AADL's Architecture Archive to discover more of Ann Arbor's architectural history.

Ann Arbor Goes to the Movies

In 1908, 5 cents would get you into a movie at The Casino. The Theatorium on Maynard, built on a former skating rink, showed one-reelers. The Majestic, a W.S. Butterfield theater, opened on December 19, 1907, quickly followed by the Whitney on Main Street the next January. The chain also operated the Michigan, the State, the Wuerth, and the Orpheum.

On Saturday afternoon September 11, 1915, 2000 Ann Arborites poured into the new Rae Theater (capacity 385) on Huron Street to see Pearl White in the Iron Claw. But the big hoopla occurred on Sunday September 12, when the first legal and public showing of a motion picture took place on a sabbath day in Ann Arbor history, and it took a special election to accomplish that.

The Old News team has digitized many of the news articles on the early history of Ann Arbor's movies theaters.

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain

Forty-four years ago, on November 10, 1968, Neil Young (whose critically-acclaimed autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippy Dream is currently a New York Times bestseller) recorded the song "Sugar Mountain" here in Ann Arbor at the now-legendary Canterbury House, then located at the end of this alley at 330 Maynard.

Recorded between the time of Young's membership with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, this ode to lost youth written four years earlier was acknowledged by fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell (who also played the Canterbury House) as the inspiration for her similarly-themed, The Circle Game. It's one of Young's earliest and more traditional folk songs, and the sincerity evident in this live recording is underscored by its remarkable intimacy.

Check out Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House in our CD collection and some of our Oldnews articles about Ann Arbor's Canterbury House, at the time a coffee house music venue and center for outreach programs associated with St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. Local writer Alan Glenn wrote a great article about the Canterbury House in a recent issue of Michigan Today.

The Story of Argus Camera

The story of the Argus Cameras, Inc. is one of ideas, perseverance and adaptability.

Founded in the Depression years by businessmen who were as tough as the times, it employed, at its height, 1300 workers and occupied 2 city blocks on 4th Street.

In 1929, local inventor Charles A. Verschoor and Mayor William E. Brown Jr. started a radio manufacturing business with support from local bankers called the International Radio Company. In 1932 they produced the Kadette, the first radio that used tubes instead of a large transformer. Verschoor then traveled to Europe researching the idea of producing a camera (like the Leica) but made and sold for $10. With the first camera rolling off the assembly line in 1936, the name of the company was changed to Argus, after the Greek mythological god of 1,000 eyes. The Model A camera was so popular, it sold 30,000 units by Montgomery Ward in the first week.

In the 1940s, with stiff competition from cheaper Japanese cameras available on the market, Argus diversified its product lines with projectors, optical and specialty equipment for several United States Department of Defense contracts during WWII, and the Korean War, thus saving many local jobs.

Local historians like to point out that Argus Cameras, as one of Ann Arbor’s early industries, was 100% Ann Arbor: 100% Ann Arbor capital, 100% Ann Arbor brains, and 100% Ann Arbor people. The Old News staff have gathered decades of news articles, photos and videos that trace the rise and decline of this very important manufacturer in local history.

While the business no longer exists, Argus cameras remain much sought-after collectibles. (See them at the Argus Museum Exhibits and photos taken by AADL photographer Tom Smith). The original Argus buildings still stand, now used by various departments of the University of Michigan, and inspired local author Steve Amick’s second novel Nothing but a Smile (2009) .

AADL has partnered with the Argus Museum to digitize a wide variety of images and documents that build a fuller picture of what it was like to work at Argus Camera, its products, people, and impact.


Ann Arbor News Articles

AADL has digitized hundreds of articles from the Ann Arbor News documenting the history of Argus Camera as it happened. These articles include announcements of new products, changes in the company, and the company's impact on the Ann Arbor Community. Argus Camera's role as an industry leader and a major employer in the area assured that coverage by the Ann Arbor News was in-depth.


Argus Eyes

AADL has digitized the Argus Eyes, the employee newsletter of Argus Camera. This publication includes details about the company and its workers, from descriptions of new product lines and facilities to birth announcements and company picnics. And of course, given its source, it is also full of spectacular photos, many of them from the Ann Arbor area.


Podcasts

AADL has conducted the following interviews regarding the history of Argus Camera:
-Cheryl Chedister, Argus Museum Curator
-Milt Campbell, Art Dersham, and Elwyn Dersham, long-time Argus Camera employees
-Art Parker, long-time Argus Camera employee


Argus Camera Publications

In addition to the Argus Eyes, the Argus Museum and AADL have made available digitized copies of many of the publications created by the Argus Camera organization over the years. These include instruction manuals for many of Argus's products, parts lists for the same, and educational booklets on how to take better photographs using Argus cameras.


Photos

The Argus Museum and AADL have also made available a collection of photographs of Argus products and the museum itself. These include high-resolution photos of some of Argus Camera's most iconic creations, from the Kadette Radio to the Argoflex camera.


Argus Videos

We've also digitized two historic films about Argus cameras, Argus Eyes for Victory, from 1945 and Fine Cameras and How They Are Made, from 1953.

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