Progress and Preservation

Despite the uproar of the 1960's, underneath it all was a steady serious beat. Ann Arbor was a nationally important center of learning and opinion. Adlai Stevenson spoke from the steps of the Michigan Union in 1952. In 1960 two presidential candidates, both of whom eventually became presidents, visited Ann Arbor. SenatorJFK, Peace Corps speech John F. Kennedy, hoping to harness the latent idealism he sensed in his youthful supporters, announced at the Michigan Union at 2:00 a.m., October 14, that if elected he would create a "Peace Corps" and send volunteer workers around the globe. A week later, Richard Nixon stopped his campaign train at the Michigan Central Depot and a crowd of 15,000 gave him a warm welcome. Four years later, on a hot May graduation day, President Lyndon Johnson spoke to a crowd of 80,000 LBJ, 1964 commencement speech in the Michigan Stadium. In perhaps the most important policy speech he ever made, the President unveiled to the graduates and a world-wide audience his plan for the "Great Society." He expressed his hope that a growing impulse for social change and greater equality of opportunity for all might fulfill the age-old promise of America.

All in all, the city responded well to the increased tensions of the '60's. Between 1940 and 1950, Ann Arbor's population increased from 30,000 to 48,000 without too much strain. Between 1950 and 1960 another 19,000 people were added to the city. Stress became evident through the 1960's as the population grew toward the 100,000 mark. By 1965 the University was enrolling 30,000 students. In 1970 the city had two high schools, each enrolling more than 2,000 students and participating in an intense sports rivalry.

Building furiously, Ann Arbor had acquired its first shopping center by 1965 and 9,000 apartment units at the same time. The spring of that year, high-rise construction totalled $21 million and forever changed the city's skyline. Although Ann Arbor was still a town of trees--and enormously proud of the flowering crabs on Awixa--a number of eighteen- to twenty-story buildings poked through the foliage. University Towers, Riverside Park Apartments, and the University's Physics and Astronomy Building joined venerable Burton Memorial Tower. Traffic became an even greater problem and the parking structure a common sight. With the return of Rose Bowl football teams at the turn of the decade, fall Saturdays became even more hectic. A massive regional shopping center, Briarwood, was under construction on the south-west side when this book went into press.

As the city neared its 150th anniversary, it turned its attention to its historic landscape and moved to preserve some of its visual heritage. The Ann Arbor program of preservation is commendable for its twin emphasis on those few aesthetically superior homes of the wealthy as well as the more numerous and modest homes of the working middle classes. In 1971 the Ann Arbor Historical Commission proposed and saw adopted a municipal preservation ordinance. Two years later the ordinance was used for the first time to create a historic neighborhood at Division and Ann streets encompassing four lovely old homes and Ann Arbor's oldest standing church. Previously the commission had purchased and restored the Bennett-Kempf House, a few hundred yards to the south, and made it a living museum of early city history.

The Old West Side Association, encouraged by a local architectural firm specializing in historical restoration, convinced the National Register of Historic Places for the first time that an area, rather than a single structure, could also qualify as a historic trust. The Old West Side is composed of modest late nineteenth and early twentieth century homes in which primarily German working class residents of Ann Arbor lived. The Old West Side has had the beneficial side effect of spawning a host of small shops and businesses in adjacent areas. Around the nearby Farmers' Market are the beginnings of an "Old Town," in conception and direction much like similar areas in Chicago, Cincinnati, and other major cities.

The landmarks of the 1820's and '30's in Ann Arbor are gone, without trace or photograph. Elisha Rumsey's "good framed house," the first such in the village, has long since disappeared from the corner of Huron and First streets. The county courthouse--surrounded by traffic--stands where John Allen once grew vegetables. Yet, the city's long-standing commitment to open parkland and the protection of its trees, coupled with the recent interest in historical restoration will, as the stately homes pictured in the last of these pages demonstrate, allow Ann Arbor to age gracefully.