Panel Information: The Center of Power and Transportation
Standing here in the 1930s, you would have seen the gas works in front of you with its large storage tanks, as well as Edison's power station at the end of the bridge. The railroad station was behind you.
Early settlers and travelers arrived on foot, on horseback, or by stagecoach, following Indian trails that crossed the river where the bridge is today. Wagons carried supplies until the railroad reached Ann Arbor from Detroit in 1839.
Water was Ann Arbor's earliest source of power. By 1830 a dam upriver diverted water into the millrace, parallel to the river, to provide power for Lower Town's mills and later the Agricultural Works. In 1858, at a site south of the railroad tracks, the Ann Arbor Gas Light Company began using coal to make artificial gas for street lamps, home heating, lighting, and cooking. Gas stored in large tanks was distributed through five miles of pipe. The gas works moved to this larger site north of the tracks in 1900, a few years after an explosion damaged the old works.
After the flour mill burned in 1904, its owners built a small hydroelectric power plant on the site. The next year the Edison Company acquired the dam and the power plant, which they later enlarged. In 1928 they built a warehouse across Broadway on the site of the former Agricultural Works. The gas company became part of Michigan Consolidated Gas in 1938 and merged with Edison into DTE Energy in 2002.