Digging into Downtown History

Plus: weaseling a low boy through west downtown

Historic Marker at Ashley and Washington: "Germans in Ann Arbor"

Just a brief note to alert Chronicle readers to two events on the western edge of downtown tomorrow (Oct. 2). At the DDA Board meeting today, Ray Detter, of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, announced that there would be a dedication ceremony at 5 p.m. of the new wall displays at Ashley and Washington streets, which is a part of the Downtown Ann Arbor Historic Street Exhibit Program. “At lunchtime workmen bought beer by the bucket from nearby saloons,” reads part of the text from one of the installations.

The second event is not an “event” per se, but for readers who enjoy watching heavy equipment work, we invite them to head down to the corner of First and Huron, where a guy from Wisneski Contracting will be using a giant excavator to dig up the pilings where the office trailers for the Ashley Terrace project rested while it was under construction.

How do you get piece of equipment that big into downtown Ann Arbor? It’s not easy. Especially when you’re navigating from a map that incorrectly marks the location of your work site. Only because The Chronicle had stopped to take photograph of the new Obama banner hung at the campaign headquarters at First and Liberty did we notice a guy with a printed-out map looking up and down the street on that corner in a way that says, “I’m lost.”

Offering to help him find his way, it was quickly apparent that according to his map he was at the correct intersection, just on the wrong side of the street. When he pointed to his rig, which carried a giant excavator, everything clicked for The Chronicle. At least that’s what we thought at first.


Excavator two blocks south of where the driver wanted it to be.

Having just come from a DDA Board meeting where Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, had chatted with us before the meeting about utilities work in the alley behind the First and Washington lot, we figured that had to be the connection. Walking over to the crew in the alley jackhammering away, our man from Wisneski was skeptical. The key ingredients to his work assignment were (i) dig up the pilings (ii) stay off the new asphalt. Hmmm. Nothing in the alley seemed to match.

When it emerged that the pilings in question had up until recently had office trailers resting on them, then everything did finally click. We remembered a Stopped. Watched. item filed by Tom Brandt a couple weeks ago about the trailers next to Ashley Terrace being hauled away. We walked over to confirm visually. Had to be it. Our Wisneski man made a confirming phone call to square up the discrepancy between reality and the map he’d been provided. He was not looking forward to “weaseling a low boy through downtown” again. We didn’t stick around to see him pull off the maneuver, but the digging won’t start until tomorrow. Time undetermined.


The errant map. First and Liberty is not the same as First and Huron.


Pilings on the lot next to Ashley Terrace. The construction office and demonstration models rested on the pilings before they were hauled away two weeks ago.