Building a Better City

With fuller coffers, the city continued its efforts to modernize every corner of Ann Arbor. In addition to the airport, sewage treatment plant, and water softening plant, the city constructed gas pipelines in preparation for conversion to natural gas in 1939. Seven hydroelectric plants provided electricity for 8,000 Ann Arbor buildings and ninety per cent of the neighboring farms. Sanitary and storm sewers, bituminous and concrete paving, and sidewalks and curbs extended into outlying residential areas. Dirt roads vulnerable to rain washouts and susceptible to deep ruts were fast disappearing. In 1939 the streetcar tracks were removed from Main Street.

In addition to having an expanding economy and progressive civic improvements, Ann Arbor remained a safe place to live. Citizens were relatively secure from fire, crime, and traffic accidents. In two squad cars equipped with two-way radios, the thirty-one-man police force protected homes and businesses and patrolled the street traffic. By 1936 traffic regulations alone filled an eighty-six page book. Ten dollar fines for 25 m.p.h. speeding on Washtenaw contributed to the unusually low level of traffic deaths--under five per year. For its size and number of automobiles, Ann Arbor was cited as one of the safest cities in the country.

The residential areas surrounding the city were tree-lined and generally quiet. Home owners of bungalows and mansions participated with equal enthusiasm in the "More Attractive Ann Arbor" campaign sponsored by the Ann Arbor Garden Club and the Ann Arbor News. The increased attention to trees and shrubbery was occasioned by the University's centennial celebrations, which in the summer of 1937 brought thousands of guests from all forty-eight states to the city.

Traditionally a source of civic pride, Ann Arbor's school system not only educated over 5,000 students in well-equipped buildings by professional teachers, but offered a broad range of educational opportunities to the public. Adult evening classes at Ann Arbor High School included typing, sewing, and cooking classes. The Public Library run by the board of education served an active clientele of over 10,000 borrowers.

Representing a broad spectrum of religious practice, twenty-five churches conducted worship services, provided fellowship, and promoted charitable causes. With the exception of the new Presbyterian Church on Washtenaw, there was little church construction during the 1930's; but church activities retained their traditionally important place in Ann Arbor. Local civic and fraternal clubs also contributed to the well being of Ann Arbor. Sponsoring lectures, study groups, and benefits, the Kiwanians, Rotarians, Masons, Elks, and others maintained active memberships. Particularly during the holidays these groups organized benefits and parties for the handicapped or needy children.