Monthly Milestone: Sharing Milestones

Church, health practitioner, film festival, business – what's yours?

Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication. It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.

Jacobsons ad

A Jacobsons ad in a 1985 publication commemorating the 150th anniversary of The Ann Arbor News. Both institutions are now out of business. This page proof is hung on an office wall where the Ann Arbor District Library is storing The News archives.

This fall when I visited the Green Road offices where the Ann Arbor District Library is keeping The Ann Arbor News archives, I was fascinated by the page proofs that lined the walls of the entryway.

The proofs are from a 1985 publication commemorating the 150th anniversary of The News. In addition to the usual hagiographic articles you’d expect to find, the pages also were full of ads from local businesses, many of them congratulating The News for its milestone anniversary, and noting their own longevity in the community.

There was so much optimism in those pages – and now, so many ghosts. The News, of course, was shut down by its owners in 2009. Many other advertisers in that publication – Jacobson’s department store, Bill Knapp’s restaurant, Schlenker Hardware, a menswear shop called Marty’s, Fox Tent & Awning – are now found only in places like AADL’s Old News, where articles from newspapers’ past are being archived in digital form.

One of my takeaways from that visit – and I’ll admit it’s no great insight – is to take nothing for granted. Having now run this publication for just over three years, I more fully appreciate just how much work, luck and support it takes to keep something afloat – whether it’s a business, nonprofit, religious institution, marriage or anything else that counts its longevity in years, decades or centuries.

That’s one reason why, as noted last month, we’ve decided to use The Chronicle’s monthly column to celebrate other people’s milestones, too. This month, we’ll share milestones from a church, a holistic health practitioner, a nonprofit and a business. We’d love to hear from you, too – what’s worth counting in your life?

Stacey Simpson Duke, co-pastor of First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, wrote to say the congregation just celebrated its 130th anniversary in its current location, at 517 E. Washington St. The congregation itself is 183 years old, she noted, and existed in two other locations prior to its current site. Members celebrated this milestone, and the rededication of their newly renovated sanctuary, in a worship service last month. She writes:

We haven’t typically celebrated the milestone of existing in this space – we usually just acknowledge our anniversary as a congregation every 25 years – but this year we did some renovating of the sanctuary and wanted to rededicate it; our historian noted that this would coincide with the anniversary of our presence in this location, so we decided that was worth celebrating. It’s interesting to consider having been here this long, given the recent changes in our neighborhood (411 Lofts, North Quad, and – soon to come – the Varsity next door). So much is changing in this area of town, but First Baptist and First Methodist remain.

I wish I had records of how many baptisms, how many weddings, and how many funerals have happened in this space over those 130 years. By my rough count, there have been at least 6,760 sermons preached in that room (though I feel certain the actual number is somewhat higher than that – 6,760 assumes only one sermon a week). More interesting to ponder, but less easy to quantify, is the idea of how many prayers have been prayed there, and how many life questions pondered, and how many friendships forged.

Another Chronicle reader, Linda Diane Feldt, wrote about her milestones as a holistic health practitioner:

Once in a while I try and figure out how many sessions I’ve given. I don’t have full records. But I started giving massages on Feb. 17, 1973. I was keeping a journal then, so I know the exact date. I worked on people throughout high school, at least one a week. About 100. Then, about 2 a week until 1980. About 350 more. Business started slowly, so about 10 sessions a week for 3 years. Another 1,500. Once things took off, I’ve averaged a very steady 15-20 people a week, with a few slow times. So 15 a week, 50 weeks a year is a solid number. 1984 to now, that’s 23 years – taking away some vacation time (although I rarely took two weeks off) as well, 1,140 weeks, just over 17,000 sessions.

I feel confident that most of this is an underestimate. So my milestone would be Feb. 2012 will begin my 40th year doing bodywork. And by then, I will have given approximately 20,000 sessions. So glad that I get to be doing work that I love.

From the nonprofit sector, Donald Harrison – executive director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival – notes that the festival will be celebrating a significant milestone next year:

Not New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. And not Sundance. Ann Arbor is actually the home of the longest-running film festival focused on independent and artist-made cinema in the country. Since its humble yet visionary beginnings in 1963, the AAFF has screened more than 5,000 films and championed the early work of thousands of filmmakers, including luminaries like Gus Van Sant, Agnes Varda, Andy Warhol, Brian DePalma, Yoko Ono, Kenneth Anger and Barbara Hammer. On March 27, 2012 the Ann Arbor Film Festival will reach its 50th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, the AAFF has launched 50FORWARD to share films and stories from Ann Arbor’s rich history with independent cinema, as well as raise both awareness and support for its 50th season.

Kristi Gilbert from the landscape architecture firm JJR contacted us about a milestone for the company: JJR recently received the Landscape Architecture Firm Award for 2011, given by the American Society of Landscape Architects in recognition of work that’s had a lasting influence on the profession. Another milestone is a move that the company will be making next month, after being located on or near Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor for 50 years.

In 1961, William Johnson, a professor of landscape architecture at U of M, joined with his brother, Carl Johnson, and another colleague, Clarence Roy, to start Johnson, Johnson & Roy. In 1969, JJR moved into the Dobson McOmber building at 301 North Main after restoring and rehabilitating the historic steam printing company building. In the early 1990s, JJR moved into a new building, which was right next door at 110 Miller Avenue, and this December we are moving to our new place at 201 Depot.

One of the things I love about my work at The Chronicle is the chance to see connections – to figure out the web of relationships that knit this community together. I most recently encountered Stacey Simpson Duke at an Ann Arbor planning commission meeting, where she spoke in support of The Varsity development that’s proposed for the property next to First Baptist Church. Linda Diane Feldt – who’s also an author, herbalist, and frequent Stopped.Watched contributor – lives nearby, and I often see her downtown, walking her dog Nala.

Donald Harrison and I ate breakfast together last month at Selma Cafe, where we chatted with host Jeff McCabe about the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – yes, there are people who talk about the DDA over breakfast. And in The Chronicle’s early days, I covered the Ann Arbor public art commission when its meetings were held in the JJR conference room – one of the public art commissioners, Cheryl Zuellig, works for the business.

Everyone experiences these kinds of links – the cliché of six degrees of separation often seems more like one or two. I’d like to think that in some ways, The Chronicle is helping make those connections – and I hope we’re able to do that for many years to come.

Do you have a milestone to share? Drop me a line at and we’ll include it in an upcoming Chronicle monthly milestone column. We’d like to create on ongoing archive of community accomplishments, both large and small – and we hope you’ll be a part of that.

About the writer: Mary Morgan is publisher and co-founder of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle could not survive to count each milestone without regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of local government and civic affairs. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!


  1. November 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm | permalink

    The Ann Arbor Public Schools will be celebrating a milestone this coming Sunday, November 6th – Allen Elementary School will celebrate it’s 50th anniversary!

    Allen is located at 2560 Towner adjacent to Buhr Park. The celebration at Allen is from 2-4pm. A short program will feature returning principals and a spouse of a former principal..Thad Carr, Betty Springfield and Janette Jackson.

    The Allen School Chorus will perform and current Allen students will present a time capsule . All Allen alumni are encouraged to attend!

  2. November 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm | permalink

    This year marks the 185th anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. One of the founding members was the wife John Allen, one of the founders of the city of Ann Arbor.

  3. November 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm | permalink

    Oh, I totally agree with you re: six degrees of separation! Whenever this state pisses me off by messing with teacher pay (cough, $10,000 pay cut this year, cough), I start thinking about moving to where my dad spends 1/2 the year. But then I remember that it is doubtful that I’d find a community as lovely as this one. It is totally cool to read the Stopped, Watched or whatever and say, “Hey! I know that person!” even if I only “know” him or her online (Trevor Staples comes to mind…never met him but see his posts all the time :)). So I guess my “milestone” is living here for 10 years (as of this past April) and hoping to be here for 100 more! Thanks for keeping us together!!

  4. November 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm | permalink

    Re: Milestones. Over on Damn Arbor, Ben is marking the one-year anniversary of that blog: [link]

  5. November 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the link Dave.