SITE 5: WALL DISPLAY : The Staeblers and the Germania/American Hotel

Sponsored by Friends of the Ann Arbor German-American Community

Photos Courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library

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The hotel bar
American hotel Lobby
American hotel dining room
Staebler & Co. Grocery
Edward Staebler drives a Toledo Steamer
German-Owned Stores, West Washington Street, ca. 1890
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Sponsored by the Hutzel Company with Thanks to Washtenaw County Citizens for 150 Years of Business

Photos Courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library

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112 West Washington street, 1872
Eberbach Hardware Co.
Hutzel & Co.
Hutzel's colorful parade float, 1898
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Eberbach Hardware, Northeast Corner, Main and Washington, ca. 1893


Sponsored by Hooper, Hathaway, Price, Beuche, & Wallace

Photos Courtesy of Marilyn Wackenhut and the Bentley Historical Library

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Varcity Steam Laundry, 1905
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Otto Milliner card
Bruno St. James & staff ready to serve customers, ca. 1900
Bertha Muehlig
Bach & Abel, northwest corner, Main and Washington, 1886

SITE 6: WALL DISPLAY : Eating and Drinking in Ann Arbor

Sponsored by the Families of william G. and Andriana Skinner and Nicholas Banos

Photos Courtesy of Pauline Skinner and the Bentley Historical Library

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Metzger, German restaurant
Sugar Bowl broadside
Prohibition advocate Carrie Nation
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Sugar Bowl Restaurant, 109 South Main Street, 1927

Panel Information: New City Government, New Issues, and a New City Hall

The 1963 City Hall, designed by architect Alden Dow, became an instant magnet for demonstrations. Even before landscaping was completed, picketers began protesting to end discrimination in rental housing based on race, creed, color, or national origin. Passage that year of the first fair-housing ordinance in the state reflected Ann Arbor’s concern for civil rights and social issues. In 1956 a new charter had replaced a government run primarily by citizen committees with a professional staff led by a city administrator.

A variety of municipal services — public housing, historic preservation, recycling, golf courses, and swimming pools — responded not only to population expansion, but also to new ideas of the role of local government. The new building gathered city departments, including police and the district court, at one location, but within two decades discussions began about additions or replacement.

Panel Information: Essential City Services

Fred Sipley (circled) was the police marshal before he became the first full-time fire chief in 1889. His successor as chief, Charles Edwards, stands left of the horses in this 1906 photograph. Fires from oil lamps and wood-burning stoves were a constant worry in early Ann Arbor. At the cry of “Fire!” everyone came running with family water pails.

By 1838 the village had two volunteer fire companies, two small engine houses, and a hand-operated fire pump. More companies formed, with names like Eagle, Defiance, Mayflower, and Relief. Volunteers trained, cleaned equipment, and organized social activities at their engine houses. Fiercely proud of their uniforms and equipment, they delighted in parading through town. When Firemen’s Hall was built in 1882, it had a large meeting room upstairs. With the gradual change to a full-time paid department, the room was converted to a dormitory.

Panel Information: Hardware

As Ann Arbor grew, stores that once offered a variety of general merchandise began to specialize in groceries, dry goods, or hardware. In 1878 Christian Eberbach took over Widenmann and Schuh’s store and turned it into the largest of downtown’s many hardware businesses. He sold supplies to carpenters, painters, plasterers, and plumbers. On Saturdays farmers loaded their wagons with cowbells, pitchforks, axes, and machinery parts. Hardware stores also installed and repaired furnaces, roofs, gutters, and even locks.

Eberbach’s clerk, John Fischer, took over the business in 1892. As Fischer Hardware, the store moved to Washington Street and Fifth Avenue in 1937 where it lasted into the 1970s. Downtown’s last hardware store was Schlenker’s on West Liberty. It specialized in tinware and provided contractors and loyal customers with hard-to-find items. After more than a century in business, it closed in 1999.

Panel Information: Dry Goods

Dry goods were sold on this corner for over 120 years. In 1867 Philip Bach moved his store to this new business block selling fabric, cloaks, blankets, linens, and notions. Ann Arbor once supported as many as fifteen stores selling dry goods. Before these shops began to carry ready-made items, most clothing, bed sheets, and household linens were made at home. Dressmakers, milliners, and tailors provided custom clothing.

When Bruno St. James purchased the store in 1895, he employed Bach’s young bookkeeper, Bertha Muehlig. Loved by her customers and employees, she owned and ran the business from 1911 until her death in 1955. Muehlig’s specialized in old-fashioned, hard-to-find items like “Tillie Open Bottoms” (women’s long underwear). William Goodyear, St. James’s former partner, ran another dry goods business nearby. By the 1950s, Goodyear’s had expanded next to Muehlig’s to become downtown’s largest department store.

Panel Information: Eating and Drinking in Ann Arbor

When the Sugar Bowl opened in 1911, it featured homemade ice cream and handdipped chocolates made in the Preketes family apartment upstairs. After Michigan went "dry" in 1918, lunch counters and small restaurants like this, many owned by Greek immigrants, became a major feature downtown. In early Ann Arbor, you could have dined out at one of Ann Arbor’s hotels. By 1860 catered banquets and special celebrations were held at halls such as Hangsterfer's, which stood on the corner behind you.

In 1868 you might choose among twenty-eight saloons for a quick meal. Grocery stores often had a small saloon to accommodate thirsty customers. Five locally owned German breweries supplied beer. Boarding houses near campus served students and single diners. In 1967 the Sugar Bowl closed, replaced by the upscale La Seine restaurant. Although shortlived, it was the first of many restaurants that transformed Ann Arbor into a regional dining center.

Panel Information: Germans on Ashley Street

Fred Wagner's blacksmith shop was one of many German-owned west-side businesses providing services for horse-drawn vehicles. Wagner repaired carriages and wagons and shoed horses. Nearby livery stables rented out horses and carriages. Around the corner on Liberty, at Christian Walker's Ann Arbor Carriage Works, skilled carpenters, blacksmiths, upholsterers, and painters took pride in producing custom carriages.

At lunchtime, workmen bought beer by the bucket from nearby saloons. In 1914 the Wagner blacksmith shop was replaced by the new meeting "halle" of the Schwaben Verein, Ann Arbor’s longest-lasting German organization. The Schwaben name is still on the sidewalk and windows. By the 1920s most neighborhood businesses were serving cars and trucks instead of horses and carriages.

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