Panel Information: The Staeblers and the Germania/American Hotel

In 1885 Michael Staebler, a successful farmer from a pioneer German family west of town, constructed this building as the Germania Hotel. Balls, lectures, musical programs, and meetings of the Germania Society were held on the third floor. Staebler later added a fourth story and renamed the building the American Hotel.

He set his sons up in business. Albert managed the hotel and Edward ran a bicycle shop and coal business. The large box shown above in front of the store displayed different grades of coal. A third son, Fred, ran a grocery store across the street. Next door to the hotel, Heinzman and Son offered cash to local farmers for hides and furs.

SITE 4: WALL DISPLAY : The Ann Arbor Railroad

Sponsored by the Ann Arbor Railroad

Photos Courtesy of H. Mark Hildebrandt, Wystan A. Stevens, and the Bentley Historical Library

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Passengers, 1909
Train derailment, 1908
Gasoline-powered Mckeen rail cars
Locomotive
Train ticket
James Ashley
Railroad broadside
Panel Information
Ann Arbor Rail Road Station, 1889

SITE 4: WALL DISPLAY : Industry and Recreation on Allen Creek

Sponsored by Morningside Group

Photos courtesy of Mrs. Nate Weinberg and the Bentley Historical Library

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South view where the railroad crosses first street
King Seeley Co., 1925
High-diving tower, 1909
Water Slide
Allen creek
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Dean's Smokeless Oil advertisement

SITE 3: WALL DISPLAY : Everyone Loves a Parade

Sponsored by MAVDevelopment Company

Photos Courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library

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Camels on parade
Horses on prade
Circus advertisement
Horse-drawn wagons, 1918
Faculty and students WW1
Panel Information
Circus Parade on Main Street Crossing Huron, 1916

Panel Information: Industry and Recreation on Allen Creek

In 1925 King-Seeley, inventor and manufacturer of the first dash-mounted gas gauges for autos, moved into the old Krause tannery building with its tall smokestacks on Second Street (right rear). By 1940 the factory had expanded east to First Street with the five-story facility shown above. It was downtown's last factory in 2005, when the tannery wing was demolished and the remainder remodeled for housing. Allen Creek and its westside tributaries once provided water for mills, tanneries, foundries, and breweries.

The Ann Arbor Railroad, which followed the creek valley, attracted manufacturing, warehouses, and lumber and coal yards. Dean & Co., Main Street's premier grocery, had warehouses on the creek near the railroad. The creek also provided recreation. Early residents bathed in a "little, octagonal, white frame building with a sharp little spire in the middle and Victorian scrolls" that was built over the creek near the corner of West Liberty and South First. Downstream, they skated on the millpond north of Miller and First.

Panel Information: The Ann Arbor Railroad

The Toledo & Ann Arbor Railroad reached Ann Arbor in 1878 amid festive celebrations. "Big Jim" Ashley, former lawyer, abolitionist, and Ohio congressman, was the driving force behind its construction. Always one to seize opportunities, Ashley pushed the line northwest to Frankfort on Lake Michigan, where his railroad-car ferries were the first in the world to cross a wide body of water.

A new depot was built in 1889 two blocks south of here on Second, soon renamed Ashley Street. The railroad’s mainstay was freight. Local merchants had warehouses and sidings where coal, oil, and lumber were unloaded. Passenger traffic was also brisk, especially in summer with vacationers heading to cottages. In autumn football specials from throughout the Midwest brought fans, who disembarked near the stadium. During the game, the engines were turned around for the return trip. Horse-drawn ambulances met patients arriving for treatment at University Hospital. Passenger service ended in 1950, although freight hauling continued. In 1985, after a variety of uses, the depot became a preschool with an old caboose on its playground.

Panel Information: Everyone Loves a Parade

Circuses unloaded near the Michigan Central depot and paraded up Main Street to perform at the fairgrounds or on a farm at Packard and Stadium. Exotic animals passed by in fancy wagons, bands played, the calliope blared, and children screamed with delight.

Some summers Ann Arbor enjoyed as many as three circuses. Barnum and Bailey was the largest. Almost anything was an excuse for a parade — holidays, new buildings, new fire equipment, visiting dignitaries, political candidates, and student celebrations of all kinds.

Panel Information: Ann Arbor Streetcars

In 1908 you could hop on an open-air trolley, ride to the fairgrounds (later Burns Park), and, for 10 cents, see a baseball game. Electric streetcars ran in Ann Arbor from 1890 to 1925. From Main Street, cars followed Detroit Street down to the end of the line near the Michigan Central depot. There the motorman and the conductor reversed the car’s direction by swinging the electric pole on the roof around to the other end. For a single fare, a passenger could ride all evening to enjoy the cool breezes. In 1913, to cut costs, "pay as you enter" cars eliminated the need for conductors. Buses and automobiles eventually put trolleys out of business.

Panel Information: Changing Retail Patterns

In 1896 the Crescent Works, manufacturers of custom-made corsets and "comfortable waists," moved into the upper floors of the new Pratt Block (above). For a few years the corset salesroom was in the central bay on the street between the Portland Café — "Open All Night" — and Hendrick Millinery, one of nine Ann Arbor shops fashioning hats for ladies. By 1909 Schumacher Hardware to the left had expanded into two storefronts of the Pratt Block. They sold everything from bathtubs and sporting goods to toys and vacuum cleaners.

Panel Information: Downtown Movie Theaters

When the Orpheum opened in 1913 at 326 South Main Street, the event drew such a crowd that people had to be turned away. Constructed by clothier J. Fred Wuerth, it was the first theater in town built to show movies. Earlier, one-reel films were shown in storefront nickelodeons like the Star at 118 East Washington Street (lower right). Advertised as "family entertainment," many shows included live acts.

In 1917, behind his clothing shop next door to the Orpheum, Wuerth built a second theater. Movie goers entered below the Wuerth's Main Street marquee (shown above in the 1940s) and passed through a two-story, skylit arcade that led to the theater. The L-shaped plan allowed the two theaters to share backstage space and a single theater organ. In early 1929 the Wuerth was the first local theater to convert from silent films to "talkies." While the Orpheum specialized in more high-toned productions, the smaller, cozier Wuerth showed children's serialized matinees and gave away china to attract viewers. After both theaters closed in 1957, the interior spaces were remodeled for new uses. By 1927 Wuerth's menswear business had become Fiegel's. It survived until 1997.

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