A post in the Local in Ann Arbor blog reflects on the importance of historic buildings in creating a city’s sense of place. It includes a review of “Historic Ann Arbor,” a new book by local authors Susan Wineberg and Patrick McCauley: ”This book should be on the bookshelf of everyone who lives in Ann Arbor and values any sense of our history and architectural diversity. As Grace Shackman says in her introduction to the book, ‘Susan and Patrick’s love of Ann Arbor shines through every page.’” [Source]
Editor’s note: Laura Bien’s In the Archives column for The Chronicle appears monthly. Look for it around the end of every month or sometimes towards the beginning.
A recent Ward 1 Ann Arbor city council candidate forum included some discussion of the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County, to be located on Pontiac Trail. In this month’s column, Bien takes a look at one piece of African American history with an Ann Arbor connection – the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Ann Arbor barber Henry Wade Robbins is one of many Washtenaw County residents singled out for commendation in a largely forgotten but historically invaluable book assembled in just three months in 1915. “Mr. Robbins has completely negated the popular fallacy that in order to be successful in the barber business the boss was required to draw the color line in his patronage,” says the work’s biographical entry for Robbins.
“This Mr. Robbins has never done. He treated all gentlemen alike and catered to high-class trade, both white and colored, and he has numbered and still numbers among his patrons many of the best-known white people in Michigan …” Robbins owned his own shop and its upstairs apartments at 117 Ann St. where he, his wife Martha, and their son and daughter lived.
The book’s data on employment, home ownership, and achievements by black Michiganders was collected and compiled by a panel of Michigan African Americans selected by Michigan governor Woodbridge Ferris. Their work was compiled into the “Michigan Manual of Freedman’s Progress” (MMFP), which offers a cross-section of successful black Michiganders in the early 20th century.
The passage of nearly four decades can dim even the keenest of memories. But to Hiawatha Bailey, the events of that winter afternoon in 1971 are as clear as if they had happened yesterday. Bailey was 23 and working at the communal headquarters of the Rainbow People’s Party in the ramshackle old mansion at 1520 Hill Street in Ann Arbor.
“I was doing office duty,” he recalls, “which entailed sitting at the front desk and answering the phone. Some friends were there, and we were sitting around, tripping on acid, probably, and the phone rings. I pick it up and I hear this voice, ‘Hello, this is Yoko Ono.’”
Bailey, of course, didn’t believe it for a second. “I said something like, ‘Yeah, this is Timothy Leary,’ and hung up. We all got a good laugh out of it.” A few minutes later the phone rang again. This time the voice on the other end said, “Hello, can I speak to David Sinclair, Chief of Staff of the Rainbow People’s Party. This is John Lennon of the Beatles.”
“I wasn’t even that familiar with the Beatles then,” says Bailey, now lead singer for the Cult Heroes, an Ann Arbor-based punk rock band. “I was more into the Stooges and the MC5, more radical rock ’n’ roll. But I knew right away that it really was John Lennon.” He put the call through.
“Dave and John talked for quite some time,” Bailey recalls. “Lennon said, ‘I heard about the benefit that you blokes are putting on, and I wrote a little ditty about John Sinclair and his plight. I’d like to come there and perform it.’”
Some time in the mid-1970s, waiter Larry Behnke pinned a large sheet of paper to the bulletin board that hung in the kitchen of the Del Rio Bar. Behnke, also an artist, had written at the top in bold, psychedelic lettering: “What the Del Rio Means to Me.”
After a few days the sheet was filled with responses, ranging from the thoughtful to the droll to the pitiable – with some that were just plain wacky.
“A nice corner bar that suffers from delusions of grandeur.”
“A place where you get paid to have fun, where you can be crazy without being committed, and where customers and employees are more important than money.”
“It’s my substitute home where people are nice to me.”
“The Del Rio means a million things to me, which I refuse to limit to the narrowness of words and the confines of space.”
“The Del Rio is benevolent despotism.”
Probably a majority of Ann Arborites never walked through the door of the funky old saloon that used to sit at the northeast corner of Ashley and Washington. But for plenty of those who did, the Del Rio was more than just a bar. It was a state of mind, a way of life, a second home – a tiny world unto itself.
(Ann Arbor City Council March 2, 1896) Council’s meeting over a century ago apparently began with a departure from the usual form to which The Chronicle has become accustomed over the last few months. The mayor of Ann Arbor began with an address, of which we publish here the first two paragraphs.
On Tuesday (Dec. 30, 2008) I noticed work on the front of TCF Bank on South University Avenue: some panels, at least, are being replaced with glass windows. [Editor's note: Cf. comments below.]
This completes a circuit back to fall 1969, when during an anti-war protest, bricks or other objects were thrown through the big glass panes of this bank building, then Ann Arbor Bank.
I left the march at that point, failing to see the connection. Shortly after, Ann Arbor Bank replaced most of the panes with paneling.