An Ypsilanti Landmark Centennial

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Peg Porter

In October, 1914, the Ypsilanti Ladies Literary Club held its first meeting at 218 North Washington Street. Jennie Gorton, wife of a Michigan State Normal College physics professor, presided. The previous December, the members of the Club approved the purchase of a house owned by Edward Grant for use as a clubhouse.

On October 12, 2014, the Ladies Literary Club will mark the Centennial of its lovely "home." Emile Lorch, Dean of the School of Architecture, University of Michigan, called the building one of the best examples of Greek Revival Architecture in the entire country. The story of the purchase of the Clubhouse appeared in the Winter - 2013 issue of Gleanings.

During the months leading up to the Centennial, a survey originally conducted by Lorch during the 1930s was updated by Steven Stuckey, a graduate student in EMU's Historic Preservation Program. The original survey is at the Library of Congress. The update will be submitted to the Library as an addendum to the Depression era document. An assessment of the structure followed. The assessment and related documentation serve as a blueprint for future preservation efforts to enhance and protect one of the most historically significant structures in Ypsilanti.

As all of this is happening, the clubhouse continues to serve both the Club and the larger community as a site for meetings, weddings, memorial services, family celebrations and other activities and observances. The ladies of the Club made a wise investment in their purchase at a time when women rarely owned property on their own. This Centennial is significant in many ways, not the least as an example of the role women have played in local history.

A tour of the house and grounds, with particular emphasis on the changes to the structure since it was built in 1843, is planned. If you are interested, please contact Daneen Zureich at 734 483 1453 or zureichd@comcast.net. The date and time will be arranged later.

(Peg Porter is a member of the Ladies’ Literary Club Board of Trustees and an Assistant Editor of the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The Ladies Literary Club purchased the house at 218 North Washington Street in December of 1913.

Photo 2: The drawing features women’s fashions from 1914, the year the Ladies Literary Club held it’s first meeting in the “Greek Revival” house.

The Ypsilanti Nomads

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:



Author: Fred Thomas

Harold Foster, a local policeman, started the Ypsilanti Nomads in 1953. They met at a double-bay Shell gas station on the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Denton Road, about six miles east of Ypsilanti. When I joined in the spring of 1957 the Ypsilanti police station at South Washington and Perrin Street served as their meeting place. At the time both the Ypsilanti Police Department and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department sponsored the club. Harold Foster was still the advisor. The Nomads’ ages ranged from 16 to 25.

Some of the members were Dick Albertson, James Arnold, Dewey Barich, Leon Chapman, John Coleman, Pat Cook, Larry Dennis, David Eaton, Orval Forbes, Melvin Foster, Don Gimson, Marvin Hayes, Clyde Hoover, Egbert House, Bill Kessick, James Lambert, David Meldrum, Jack Miller, Ted Mull, Leigh Moore, Thomas Newton, Cecil Rollins, Richard Towler, Jack Washburn, and me. I joined at sixteen and stayed in a little over a year. I enjoyed attending meetings and participating in club sponsored activities. Two events in particular stand out in my memory. One was a Nomad organized reliability run that a friend and I teamed up for, and won. The other was the 1957 City of Ypsilanti Fourth of July Parade.

The Nomads’ club car was a chopped, channeled and stripped Model A. It’s power came from the 312 cubic inch Thunderbird engine. The coupe competed at Detroit Dragway and at the Michigan Hot Rod Association’s drag strip in New Baltimore.

The parade gave the group an opportunity to publicize themselves locally. In addition to the individual volunteer cars, the coupe also traveled the procession route. It was transported on a truck donated by Moorman’s, a local lumber company. Their warehouse parking lot also served as an assembly point for participating cars before they continued to their assigned parade locations. Don Gimson’s ’57 Plymouth and Marvin Hayes’s ’56 Ford escorted the coupe display along the parade route.

It had been mentioned at a mid-June meeting that the club was looking for additional cars to represent the Nomads in the upcoming parade. Larry Dennis, who was about my age and drove a white 1932 Ford, volunteered and invited me to ride along. Boy, I couldn’t wait to roll down the crowded route in his little deuce coupe. A few weeks before the parade Larry decided to channel the car. This was done by lowering the body down over the frame. The floorboards had to be removed and reinstalled.

The Fourth of July arrived and Larry hadn’t been able to get the coupe’s floorboards welded in yet, so he bolted the bench seat directly to the frame. I arrived at his home early, only to find him making final preparations. He soon cranked up the V-8 motor and we took off for the west side of town. As we traveled city streets, pavement raced by beneath the open chassis. Exhaust made its way into the cramped interior. The sound of rumbling mufflers added to the excitement and further pumped our adrenalin as we rolled along, passersby pointing at us, a couple of young guys eager to take part in the festivities. It never dawned on us to think about the dangers of toxic fumes.

Arriving at the parade staging area, we took our assigned place with the other Nomad cars. Jack Miller’s 1957 Rambler Rebel assumed the lead position in the Nomad contingent. Straight from the dealership a Rebel would do 0-60 mph in as little as 7.2 seconds. The 255 horsepower V-8 left many non-believers at the line. It didn’t look like a hot rod, but it was.

In second position was Don Gimson in his 1957 Plymouth convertible. Like many youthful members Don was always cleaning his car. The photo shows Don and a friend doing last minute polishing. The coupe on the Moorman truck was next, followed by Marvin Hayes in his ’56 Ford convert. We were last.

Promptly at 10:00 a.m. multiple bands struck up a resounding march and the procession moved forward, following a route to Michigan Avenue and directly east through downtown. Larry’s deuce idled along due to the measured forward progress of the band units. Hot air and exhaust gases continued to invade the car. People awed at the unusual little automobile and Larry grinned ear to ear. He was so proud of the channeled coupe.

We had only gone a couple blocks before things turned ugly. Steam began to rise around the radiator fill cap. The temperature needle inched toward hot. Larry accelerated the hopped up mill, hoping to circulate the coolant more and lower the temperature. This was to no avail. Vapors continued to rise in front of the engine.

It wasn’t long before the parade had an unexpected delay that stopped all forward motion. Larry turned the car off thinking it might cool down during the pause. Without notification the cars in front started going again. Larry hit the starter button, only to be met by a moaning sound as the motor slowly turned over. And, it turned. And, it turned. The starter let out one last protesting groan and the revolving crankshaft came to a dead halt.

But, we weren’t finished yet. We sprang out and began to push the powerless vehicle. As the coupe picked up speed, Larry jumped in and put the car in gear. The engine sputtered, but failed to ignite as the car slowed to an involuntary stop. Not giving up, we repeated the entire process again. And again! And, again! After the fourth attempt failed, we were directed to push our ride off to the side so as not to hinder the parade’s progress. Wanting to give it one more try we reluctantly followed orders and pushed it out of the way at the next corner.

Meanwhile, the remaining Nomad representatives continued without us. The powerless hot rod found a resting place at the curb. We left it there and ran on ahead, wanting to see the club cars pass along the route. After they passed Larry and I walked back to his car discussing how great the Nomads looked, as we made our way through the dispersing crowd.

Returning to the lifeless coupe, Larry inserted the key and hit the starter. Without hesitation the engine purred. I immediately opened the door and hopped in. Away we went, making our way on side streets to avoid again being stopped unnecessarily. Reaching his house Larry slowed down, with no intention of coming to a complete standstill. He throttled the accelerator and depressed the clutch in an attempt to not stall. I jumped out as he rolled past my Ford which was parked in front of his house. Then he hit the gas for one last blast of fuel to carry the albino deuce up the inclined driveway and into the family garage. Luckily we had left the door open as we departed for the parade.

The Nomads disbanded in 1962 as the once intense interest in the organization dwindled.

(Fred Thomas grew up and lived in the Ypsilanti area from 1948 to 1998 and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: An embroidery of the Ypsilanti Nomads car club.

Photo 2: The Nomads’ club car was this chopped, channeled and stripped Model A.

Photo 3: Don Gimson’s ’57 Plymouth and Marvin Hayes’s ’56 Ford prepare to escort the Ypsilanti Nomad’s coupe display along the parade route.

Photo 4: The Volunteers in this picture are: (standing - l to r) Dewey Barich, Marvin Hayes, James Lambert, and Leigh Moore. (kneeling - l to r) unidentified, Bill Kessick, unidentified, Don Gimson, and Mel Foster.

Photo 5: Larry Dennis, drove a white 1932 Ford similar to the one in this photo.

Photo 6: Jack Miller’s 1957 Rambler Rebel assumed the lead position in the Nomad contingent.

Photo 7: In second position was Don Gimson in his 1957 Plymouth convertible. Like many youthful members Don was always cleaning his car. Here he and a friend are doing last minute polishing.

Terror in the Streets

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Fred Thomas

The roots of hot rodding were in California. As previously noted, fast-action drag racing became popular nationally and interest in it spread like wildfire. Still in its infancy in the early 1950s, “no rules” was the order of the day. B rated movies like “Hot Rod Gang” visually demonstrated lawless driving behaviors which were quickly emulated by the young.

Author John Bartlow Martin was in Ypsilanti in 1952 doing book research. He recounted the following observation:

“The stop-light at Huron and Michigan turns red. Six cars line up at the red light, three cars abreast facing each way, and the occupants of all the cars are kids. The girls are fresh-faced in babushkas. The boy driver of one car heading east strives to appear uninterested in what is going on, but if you look closely you can see that covertly he is watching the traffic signal. Now the car beside him, a roadster painted fire-engine red, races its motor. He races his, and shoots a glance at the red car’s driver; his hands tighten on the wheel and now he looks unabashed at the traffic signal; it flashes green and they are off, the two of them leaping ahead of the car beside them, racing side by side two abreast – here on the main street- exhausts roaring………they hit the bottom of the hill and clatter across the bridge still in second gear, their pounding engines reverberating as taillights’ grow dim in the distance; while back up at the intersection the light has turned red again and six more cars have lined up and are waiting to do it again. ‘Drag-racing’, the kids call it.”

Such scenarios were not limited to Ypsi streets. Similar misbehaviors were taking place in towns and villages across America. This blatant disregard for public safety brought howls of protest from local citizenry. Police departments had their hands full trying to quell the pandemonium. Potentially hazardous competitions caused terror in the streets, and solutions to the problem were sought! Fortunately groups of California car clubs joined together with law enforcement in order to counter the negative public image created by unchecked, rebellious youth. Begun in 1951, the National Hot Rod Association made a concerted effort to unify car enthusiasts throughout the United States and upgrade the public opinion of “hot rodders.” The NHRA philosophy caught on quickly and youthful disciples scurried to join.

Member prospects were offered a free booklet entitled, How to Form a Club, plus suggested by-laws and other helpful materials. A joiner received a membership card, NHRA decal and a membership manual explaining the aims and purposes of the Association. This booklet provided suggestions for upgrading the sport, and included a section on club organization and activities. Promoting safe drag racing nationally by standardizing the rules was no mean achievement. However, a milestone was attained when the first NHRA Nationals Drag Competition was held in Great Bend, Kansas, September 29-October 2, 1955. Entrants from many states raced under uniform rules, claimed the respective class trophies, and saw the first national champion crowned! The word was out, and the NHRA had led the way. During the fifties and sixties their information and organization campaigns resulted in innumerable improvements in driver conduct and safety. With NHRA leadership, several thousand car clubs sprang up in large and small communities. Their “Dedicated To Safety” program brought order out of the chaos on the streets.

Becoming a car club member required prospects to pledge to follow rules. Good driving behaviors were expected and violating them was not tolerated. The following is an example of an oath taken upon joining: “I pledge myself to know and to obey all of the laws of the road and also the laws which the members of the club have drawn up”.

Displayed on an individual’s car, the club plaque was a badge of proud membership. Belonging to the NHRA and a local car club made members feel part the national movement based on an interest in hot rods, customized cars, and drag racing. In addition, clubs offered participants the chance to make new friends with whom they could “talk the talk”, and learn along the way. Two early clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads. There is conjecture as to which one started first. Suffice it to say that the two of them existed in the early 1950s and remained active until the mid 1960s. Both will be discussed at length in future articles.

(Fred Thomas grew up and lived in the Ypsilanti area from 1948 to 1998 and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Courtesy of Petersen Publishing of Los Angeles.

Photo 2: The National Hot Rod Association was started in 1952 (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 3: Decal of the National Hot Rod Association (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 4: Two early NHRA clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads

Terror in the Streets

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Fred Thomas

The roots of hot rodding were in California. As previously noted, fast-action drag racing became popular nationally and interest in it spread like wildfire. Still in its infancy in the early 1950s, “no rules” was the order of the day. B rated movies like “Hot Rod Gang” visually demonstrated lawless driving behaviors which were quickly emulated by the young.

Author John Bartlow Martin was in Ypsilanti in 1952 doing book research. He recounted the following observation: “The stop-light at Huron and Michigan turns red. Six cars line up at the red light, three cars abreast facing each way, and the occupants of all the cars are kids. The girls are fresh-faced in babushkas. The boy driver of one car heading east strives to appear uninterested in what is going on, but if you look closely you can see that covertly he is watching the traffic signal. Now the car beside him, a roadster painted fire-engine red, races its motor. He races his, and shoots a glance at the red car’s driver; his hands tighten on the wheel and now he looks unabashed at the traffic signal; it flashes green and they are off, the two of them leaping ahead of the car beside them, racing side by side two abreast – here on the main street- exhausts roaring………they hit the bottom of the hill and clatter across the bridge still in second gear, their pounding engines reverberating as taillights’ grow dim in the distance; while back up at the intersection the light has turned red again and six more cars have lined up and are waiting to do it again. ‘Drag-racing’, the kids call it.”

Such scenarios were not limited to Ypsi streets. Similar misbehaviors were taking place in towns and villages across America. This blatant disregard for public safety brought howls of protest from local citizenry. Police departments had their hands full trying to quell the pandemonium. Potentially hazardous competitions caused terror in the streets, and solutions to the problem were sought! Fortunately groups of California car clubs joined together with law enforcement in order to counter the negative public image created by unchecked, rebellious youth. Begun in 1951, the National Hot Rod Association made a concerted effort to unify car enthusiasts throughout the United States and upgrade the public opinion of “hot rodders.” The NHRA philosophy caught on quickly and youthful disciples scurried to join.

Member prospects were offered a free booklet entitled, How to Form a Club, plus suggested by-laws and other helpful materials. A joiner received a membership card, NHRA decal and a membership manual explaining the aims and purposes of the Association. This booklet provided suggestions for upgrading the sport, and included a section on club organization and activities. Promoting safe drag racing nationally by standardizing the rules was no mean achievement. However, a milestone was attained when the first NHRA Nationals Drag Competition was held in Great Bend, Kansas, September 29-October 2, 1955. Entrants from many states raced under uniform rules, claimed the respective class trophies, and saw the first national champion crowned! The word was out, and the NHRA had led the way. During the fifties and sixties their information and organization campaigns resulted in innumerable improvements in driver conduct and safety. With NHRA leadership, several thousand car clubs sprang up in large and small communities. Their “Dedicated To Safety” program brought order out of the chaos on the streets.

Becoming a car club member required prospects to pledge to follow rules. Good driving behaviors were expected and violating them was not tolerated. The following is an example of an oath taken upon joining: “I pledge myself to know and to obey all of the laws of the road and also the laws which the members of the club have drawn up”

Displayed on an individual’s car, the club plaque was a badge of proud membership.
Belonging to the NHRA and a local car club made members feel part the national movement based on an interest in hot rods, customized cars, and drag racing. In addition, clubs offered participants the chance to make new friends with whom they could “talk the talk”, and learn along the way. Two early clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads. There is conjecture as to which one started first. Suffice it to say that the two of them existed in the early 1950s and remained active until the mid 1960s. Both will be discussed at length in future articles.

(Fred Thomas grew up and lived in the Ypsilanti area from 1948 to 1998 and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Courtesy of Petersen Publishing of Los Angeles.

Photo 2: The National Hot Rod Association was started in 1952 (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 3: Decal of the National Hot Rod Association (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 4: Two early NHRA clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads

The Ladies Buy a House - A Centennial Celebration

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:



Author: Peg Porter

In 1913, members of the Ladies Literary Club decided to buy property for use as their clubhouse. The Club had been meeting since its founding in 1878 when Sarah Smith Putnam noted that Ypsilanti needed a literary society similar to one she belonged to in Kalamazoo. Mrs. Putnam agreed to be the first president while Mrs. John Watling served as the vice president. The club functioned as a learning society. For most women education ended with eighth grade or high school. Others may have had a few years of college. Learning opportunities for women remained few. The Ladies Literary clubwomen developed courses of study on the French Revolution, the English Tudor system and its aftermath, then on to study the societies of early Greece and Rome.

Early meetings were held in members’ homes and as the club grew it became clear that a larger meeting space was needed. The Club met in the Library of the Arcade Building and later in the Masonic Temple. Shortly after the turn of the century, more thought was given to having a home of their own.

There were a number of challenges to reaching this goal. First, they needed to find a suitable property whose owner was willing to sell. As it happened, the Grant property on Washington Street was put up for sale. One of the oldest buildings in the city, it was built in 1842 in the Greek revival style. The asking price for the house was $3,000, a considerable sum particularly since the interested purchasers were a small group of women.

Elijah Grant moved from Connecticut to Ypsilanti about 1834. As early as 1835 he secured considerable acreage along the “Detroit to Toledo strip.” He went on to make a great deal of money in real estate. As a result, he had the resources to provide an elegant home for his family. He and his wife Mary had one child, a son they named Edward. After Elijah’s death in 1850, Mary and Edward stayed in their home on Washington Street. According to 1870 Census records, Edward and Mary were living in their home on Washington Street. There were three additional residents; one was a servant.

Edward never married. Some said it was because his inheritance was threatened should he marry while his mother was still alive. Mary died in 1883 when Edward was 45. Still single, he spent his fortune unwisely and was forced to sell his belongings one by one to meet his increasing debts. Finally, his house was his remaining asset and with more debts to pay, he put it on the market.

Here, the ladies saw a lovely home, though in disrepair, that had the makings of an elegant clubhouse. In 1913 women’s rights were limited. Women could not vote nor were they considered favorably by banks in granting mortgages. Some way had to be found to execute the purchase. Clearly Edward Grant wanted to sell quickly.

In 1896, Anne Bassett had urged Club members to establish a fund for use in purchasing property. She established a legacy of $200 towards that end. That amount was the seed money used to purchase the house. Mr. Thomas McAndrew loaned $2,000. On December 10, 1913 the Ladies Literary Club approved the purchase of the house. The vote was not unanimous as four women voted against the purchase. The Club incorporated in early 1914 and they held their first meeting in the new Clubhouse in October, 1914.

Once the Club took possession they realized that additional funds were needed for repairs. The Club members became active fundraisers, a skill that has persisted through the years. They conducted rummage sales, bake sales, held luncheons and dinners. Some members went directly to individuals who seemed likely contributors. Helen (Mrs. P. J) Cleary used her considerable charm and contacts to solicit funds. She reported that M.S.N.C. President Lewis Jones delivered a $50.00 dollar check to her residence on Christmas morning. It took 14 years to pay off the mortgage. In 1928 the Club celebrated its 50th anniversary and used the occasion to burn the mortgage with appropriate ceremony. The timing was perfect as the nation soon plunged into the Depression.

During the 1930s Emil Lorch, then head of the University of Michigan Architecture program took a great interest in the Clubhouse. He called it one of the best examples of Greek Revival Architecture in the entire country. In 1934 – 1935 Lorch assembled a group of architects who proceeded to survey and catalogue the home’s features. As a result, the Clubhouse was recognized by the Advisory Committee of the American Building Survey. It was judged as “worthy of the most careful preservation for future generations.”The survey document and commentary were placed In the Library of Congress. During this Centennial Year Steven Stuckey, graduate student in EMU’s Historic Preservation Program is conducting an update of the earlier survey which will likely serve as an addendum and added to the document now in the Library of Congress.

In the mid 1930’s the original metal ceilings were removed and partitions came down. Now the house was more open, better suited for gatherings, with the many windows providing natural light. The interiors were repainted and new window coverings added. Updating the house is ongoing.

In January of 1955, a new kitchen was added. Fourteen years later the members began a major renovation and addition to the Clubhouse. This building committee was in the capable hands of Mildred Harris. A preservation architect, Richard Frank, was asked to prepare plans for an addition to include a new caretaker’s apartment, a larger kitchen, additional restrooms and space for workshop activities and storage. The total price for this remodeling was $58,000. This time the ladies had no trouble securing mortgages; two local banks loaned a total of $38,000. The Club had an additional $20,000 to fund the remodeling. In April, 1972, the first regular meeting was held in the remodeled clubhouse.

The purchase of the Grant property by the Ladies Literary Club benefited the entire community. It ensured that the house would be maintained. In addition the Club made provisions for rental of the clubhouse by individuals and organizations. The money from the rentals goes directly toward upkeep and repairs of this elegant home. The Clubhouse has been the scene of numerous weddings and wedding receptions, birthday celebrations and memorial services. Eastern Michigan University has used the property for Departmental meetings and receptions. Of course, its primary function is to provide a gathering place for the Club meetings.

The Second Century: Expectations: Many of the activities will continue as always. Each meeting is concluded with a formal tea prepared by the members. The tea provides an opportunity to be “ladies,” although the hats and gloves are long gone. Fundraising is ongoing first, to support three scholarships to local young women, and second, to maintain this very special clubhouse. As we begin the second century in our “home,” the Board of Trustees will place renewed emphasis on building the reserves, those funds separate from ongoing operating expenses. If major repairs are needed, the reserve funds could reduce the necessity of borrowing or placing a special assessment on the members.

Interestingly, there is a group of members planning a series of “seminars.” This undertaking will provide an opportunity for club members to return to our “roots,” that is, members can gather to learn, discuss and share insights much as Sarah Putman, Sarah George, Rocena Norris and their peers began to do so many years ago.

(Peg Porter is a member of the Ladies Literary Club Board of Trustees and assistant editor of Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Sarah Smith Putnam, founder of the Ladies Literary Club.

Photo 2: Sarah George – A scholarship is named for her.

Photo 3: Helen Cleary raised funds for the original purchase of the Clubhouse property.

Photo 4: The Ladies Literary Clubhouse at 218 N. Washington Street in Ypsilanti.

Photo 5: Emile Lorch Dean, School of Architecture, University of Michigan. He led the 1930s survey of the Clubhouse.

Photo 6: The Ladies Literary Club gathered in observance of the Michigan Centennial which was in 1935.

The G. A. R. Hall

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Standing at 110 Pearl Street is the building known as the G. A. R. Hall. These letters were, for many years, visible above the entrance. The letters stand for Grand Army of the Republic. This was the association of men, who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Here, beginning in 1913, was the headquarters of the local chapter, called Carpenter Post 180.

The national Grand Army of the Republic was formed in 1866 to perpetuate friendships, revive memories and provide mutual support and assistance.

The local chapter was formed at a meeting held September 13, 1883, at Light Guard Hall, on the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. The Hall was on the third floor, which has since been removed. At this meeting the chapter was formed and the name Carpenter Post was chosen. It was the practice of the chapters to name the post after a solder or sailor who had died while in service during the war. They chose the name Carpenter, after two brothers who had lost their lives in the service of their country.

Two years after the formation of the Post, the members were presented with a Memorial Record Book. This book is now in the care of the Archives of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum.
A local chapter of the Woman’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary to the G. A. R., was formed on November 11, 1885. “I well remember our first effort at relief work,” wrote Mrs. Seth Mereness for The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Tuesday, May 12, 1914. “We rented a booth on the fairgrounds and sold lunches during the week of the Eastern Michigan Fair. To our surprise at the close of the week, we were able to turn over to the Post about sixty dollars.”

They held their meetings at Light Guard Hall for years after, paying rent for the use of the space. Still, the G. A. R. and the W. R. C. wanted a home of their own, and so saved money for this purpose. The amount saved did not seem enough to secure a place of their own. Then in1912, two women, Mrs. Lois Leetch and Mrs. Katherine Sherman, gave a donation of $1,000 each. This money was used to purchase the Stein building on Pearl, then the site of the Dillon Manufacturing Company. This building was built in the 1880’s and appears on the 1890 bird’s eye view map of Ypsilanti.

“The first floor will be remodeled to meet the needs of the post and corps. There will be a lodge room and a kitchen and the quarters when completed will be well adapted to the needs of the orders. The second floor will be rented and thus secure a regular income to the owners of the building. Later it is possible that the good basement under the building will be turned into a dining room and kitchen, but this time of expansion probably will not arrive during the present season,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Thursday, January 2, 1913.

The dedication of the Hall was held on November 25, 1913, the 50th anniversary of the charge up Missionary Ridge, ending the Siege of Chattanooga. The dedication was held in the Masonic Temple on North Huron Street, now the Riverside Arts Center. “A pleasing feature of the dedication is that, owing to the hard work of the G. A. R. Veterans and women of the Relief Corps and the personal solicitation by H. C. Rankin, the hall was practically dedicated out of debt. There still remains a small sum to be raised but Mr. Rankin states that he will have that within a few days,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Wednesday, November 26, 1913.

“Exercises in the temple commenced shortly before eight o’clock and the entire program was exceedingly well carried out,” continued the account. There was patriotic music.

“Glenn Hiser, a Cleary College student, recited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with a feeling that aroused the enthusiasm of the audience and “Sheridan’s Ride,” pictured by H. C. Rankin, followed after a solo by Mrs. Crawford. The speaker was at his best and the thrilling story was well presented. The speaker of the evening, Commander-in-chief Gardner was introduced by Col. O. A. Janes of Detroit. The address was not only well suited to the occasion but it was masterfully delivered and distinguished by an individuality exceedingly well suited to the occasion. With the advantage of experience, he reviewed the battle scenes and the storming of Missionary Ridge, the fiftieth anniversary of which this dedication was arranged to commemorate.”

The last Civil War veteran residing in Ypsilanti was Oscar L. Austin, who died December 15, 1937. The W. R C. continued to use the building for years after. In 1948 G. Mennen Williams announced his first run for Governor of Michigan in front of the G. A. R. Building.

The building was renovated in 1988 and is still in use today. At this time the 1st Step Referral Services occupy the building.

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: G.A.R. Hall at 110 Pearl Street.

Photo 2: 1st Step Referral Services currently occupies the building at 110 Pearl Street.

Gilbert House Boys Club. Memories from the 1970s

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Robert and Eric Anscheutz

When twins Robert and Eric Anschuetz were in the 4th or 5th grade in the mid-1970’s, their mother went back to work. Since she could no longer be home when the boys returned from school, it was decided they should go directly from school to the Ypsilanti Boys Club, where they could join with other boys in wholesome, supervised activities.

The Boys Club was located in what was once the family residence of businessman John Gilbert, Jr., and was only a short walk from the Adams Elementary School at Prospect and Forest, which the boys attended. The building, now an apartment house, has since been restored to the original beauty of the Gilbert House, but in the 1970’s it was in need of repair and tarnished by peeling white paint and rotting trim. If it hadn’t been used by the Boys Club, it might well have been at risk of condemnation. But, being three stories tall with an attic and a basement, it was plenty large enough to host a variety of activities for Ypsilanti boys.

There were certainly great things to do for pre-teen boys like Robert and Eric. In the basement was a large wood shop. It offered an abundance of free wood for building things, and power tools were available to use under adult supervision. To this day, the twins remember vividly the smell of sawdust that greeted them on opening the door to the basement. They recall getting involved in many projects, but not specifically what they entailed or whether any of the pieces they created were ever displayed in their own house. The only item they distinctly remember building was a wooden boat that had a paddle that spun around on a rubber band.

The attic of the Boys Club held a world-class slot car track that was only made available on the weekend for races. The track was large and had many overpasses and underpasses. The slot cars themselves were also untypically large. Robert and Eric would watch mesmerized as the cars raced around the track lap after lap. Their enthusiasm for slot cars soon became evident to their parents, and on one Christmas or birthday they received their own set of cars and tracks. After plenty of practice at home to master their racing skills, they decided to take the cars from the set and race them on the big track at the Boys Club. Unfortunately, the cars in their own set were smaller than the ones normally used on the Boys Club track. In competition, they were both hard to control and easily overpowered by the larger cars.

The main activity at the Boys Club was pool, which was played on the numerous billiard and bumper-pool tables found in almost every room of the spacious Gilbert House. By much practice in their frequent visits to the Boys Club, and by carefully observing the techniques of other boys, the Anschuetz twins eventually became quite skilled at pool. One of their opponents with whom they played a lot was a young pool hustler named Stewart - a legend at bumper pool. Once Robert and Eric watched him “run the table” to win a game. He sank five straight balls right at the start by banking them all off of the wall and into the pocket at the other end of the table. With that kind of inspiration, the twins would spend hours playing bumper pool, 8-ball, 9-ball, and “rotation.” Staying refreshed for this frantic activity wasn’t an issue. Each room in the Gilbert House also had an accompanying pop machine! It was at the Boys Club, in fact, that Robert and Eric fell in love with Fanta pop.

One year, the twins joined a basketball league at the Boys Club. Eric was on the Trail Blazers and Robert was on the Warriors. All they can recall now about playing in the league was that their uniform shirts were so long on their short bodies that they looked almost as if they were wearing dresses. Nevertheless, they regularly wore the shirts to school so they wouldn’t have to change into their uniforms at home and could get into games that began at the Boys Club right after school. Despite that dedication, however, the twins remember painfully that they virtually never scored a basket over their taller opponents. It was a different story, though, with another activity. Robert and Eric learned how to shoot BB guns in the basement of the Boys Club, in events known as “Turkey Shoots.” They got pretty good at shooting and may even have won some contests.

On weekends, when the twins would stay at the Boys Club literally all day long, they were given lunch money to go to the nearby Burger Chef on Michigan Avenue for hamburgers and fries. During one of the lunches, the boys heard a loud crash. It turned out that a train had hit a car on Grove Road. Some boys from the club ran to the scene and helped rescue the driver, who fortunately was not killed. Several weeks later, the man came to the Boys Club and thanked the boys who had helped him out. Memories like that can shape a young life, and the Anschuetz twins, along with many other Ypsilanti boys who grew up in the 1970s, can certainly attest that they learned important life lessons through their activities in and around the Ypsilanti Boys Club.

Robert and Eric stopped going to the Boys Club around the time the new Boys Club complex was built next to the Gilbert House. The new building was a green, box-shaped building with no windows. In the twins’ opinion, it had no charm or character at all. Half of the fun of the old building was to discover previously unexplored rooms in the house. Kids could almost always find one more room to look around in or play pool. The new building completely lost that mystique of mystery.

Shortly after the Anschuetz boys ended regular visits to the Boys Club, it made the national news by a tragic twist in a bus trip the staff had organized to Disney World in April, 1978. As the bus entered a rest stop in Georgia on its way down to Florida, the brakes failed and it ran off the road, killing three young boys. The event was publicized in national newspapers and even on network television. In fact, the Ypsilanti Press published a rare second edition to fully cover the tragedy. The Anschuetz twins knew some of the boys on the bus but fortunately, none of the boys they knew were among the seriously injured.

Eric and Robert have many fond memories of the Boys Club - even of its removal from the Gilbert House in 1974. With that development, the Gilbert House was sold by vote of the city taxpayers for $1 and, with a large investment and much work, divided into stylish apartments and restored to its former glory. Robert and Eric are glad that, even today, people are able to explore the old mansion as they did when they were kids. Who knows, some of them might even be playing pool in a room where they themselves took on the legendary bumper-pool hustler!

(Robert and Eric Anschuetz wrote a story about the Camperdown Elm in the Winter 2012 issue of the Gleanings. Kurt, the youngest of the Anschuetz family has published an “Ypsilanti Timeline” on the website of the Prospect Park Neighborhood Association.)


Photo Captions:

1. The refurbished Gilbert House, which once hosted the Boys Club that Robert and Eric frequented, now serves as a stylish apartment house.

2. The new Boys Club facility, built next to the Gilbert House in the late 1970s.

Whooping Cough Prerequisite for Party

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2011,
Summer 2011
Original Images:

Author: Submitted by George Ridenour

The following is a reprint from the Ypsilanti Daily Press, January 14, 1939.

“To be eligible for the party which Gerald Hawks gave Thursday for William Grannis on his seventh birthday, it was necessary to have had whooping cough, since the youthful host was a victim of the ailment. The guests were all chosen to meet this qualification and a merry time was enjoyed with games and refreshments. Many nice gifts were brought William.

The guests at William’s other birthday party given by his grandmother, Mrs. Edward Grannis, on Friday were not picked on this basis. They were Darrel Jensen, Darrel and Howard T GrotterJr., Robert and Richard Ramsey and Edmond Gooding, Jr. Games with prizes for all the guests were played and refreshments featured by a big birthday cake were served and William was brought birthday gifts. The party lasted from 3:30 to 5:30.”

Enlightened Ypsilanti

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2010,
Spring 2010
Original Images:


Author: Derek Spinei

The social phenomenon of Chautauquas came about in the late 19th Century as a way to bring knowledge and culture to isolated communities across the United States. Regional circuits were established to deliver travelling enlightenment to all parts of the country in the form of theater, music, art and lectures. Prior to radio and television, communities were excited and grateful to be able to experience mass culture and entertainment which was otherwise unavailable to them locally. While the circus and vaudeville acts may have passed through town, these could not offer the sophistication and educational quality of Chautauqua. So important did these cultural revivals become that President Theodore Roosevelt asserted Chautauqua was “the most American thing in America.”

The Chautauqua idea was founded on the belief that “everyone has a right to be all that he can be - to know all that he can know.” The name comes from Lake Chautauqua, New York where the concept was first realized by Methodist minister Lewis Miller in 1874. To appeal to the most people, Chautauqua was populist but not political, religious but nondenominational. Usually held in large tents, Chautauqua audiences were exposed to social reformers and humorists, Shakespeare plays and John Phillip Sousa marches.

Chautauqua first appeared in Ypsilanti in 1884. Travelling performers were hosted by local study groups like the Chautauqua Literary Scientific Club and the Prospect Street study club. In 1886, Ypsilanti mayor Watson Snyder started his own Chautauqua called Bayview Colony in Petoskey, Michigan to which many Ypsilantians would travel. Rail service to Ypsilanti allowed consistent visits by Chautauqua groups for the next half century. They would typically lodge at the Hawkins House on Michigan Avenue and performed in Ainsworth Park.

De Luxe Redpath Chautauqua which visited Ypsilanti in the summer of 1927 offered performances of novelty, Eastern European folk and classical music. Theatrical plays included the comedy The Goose Hangs High, and a most informative lecture was given by Myra T. Brooks entitled “Girls of Today.” Even the daughter of famed political force William Jennings Bryan, Ruth Bryan Owen, gave a speech on “Modern Arabian Knights.” Each event had an admission price of 25¢ to $1.00, or $3.00 for the entire season.

Another year’s Chautauqua provided a chance to hear the sounds of the mandolin wielding Ramos Mexican Orchestra. A brochure informs us that “The charm of Old Mexico, the land of the gay caballero, breathes through their enchanting melodies. The senoritas sing as well as play.” Lecturers orated on such topics as “Re-creation Through Recreation” (T. Dinsmore Upton) and “What Does Europe Think of Us?” (Anna Dickie Olesen). A rendition of the Broadway comedy Tommy was also staged; though it shouldn’t be confused with The Who’s rock opera Tommy which itself became a Broadway hit in the 1970s. Not to be left out, children were entertained by magician The Great Reno’s “A Trip to Magic Land” and Anton Chekhov’s farce “A Marriage Proposal” as presented by The Tatterman Puppets - a curiously sophisticated choice of programming for a children’s puppet show.

The Great Depression spelled the end for organized Chautauqua circuits, and easy access to mass communication and motorized transit made rural communities less dependant on Chautauqua for cultural enrichment. Teach-ins of the 1960s closely mirrored the atmosphere of Chautauqua though avoided that term. By the 1970s, Chautauquas were being recreated for nostalgic retirees. One held in Ypsilanti in the summer of 1970 was billed as “[bringing] back many pleasant memories for old-time Ypsilantians.” The label “Chautauqua” was revitalized in the mid-1970s based its use in Robert M Pirsig’s popular philosophical novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Today, Chautauqua culture lives on mainly through the Chautauqua Institution’s lake retreat at Chautauqua, NY. It functions somewhere near the crossroads of a summer camp, college campus, artist colony and music festival, supporting its own opera company, symphony orchestra and ballet.

(Derek Spinei is a student in the graduate Historic Preservation program at Eastern Michigan University and is serving an internship in the YHS Archives.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Poster for a 1927 Chautauqua program.

Photo 2: George F. Morse was one of the featured lecturers in one of the early Chautauqua programs.

Photo 3: The Chautauqua program included the Ramos Mexican Orchestra.

Photo 4: The magic of The Great Reno was featured in a Chautauqua program.

The Roosevelt HS Class of 1959

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2009,
Fall 2009
Original Images:

Author: Peg Porter

(The 50th year reunion of the Roosevelt High School class of 1959 was celebrated on September 12, 2009. Peg Porter, a member of that class, provided the following “the way we were” insight into life back then.)

Most of us were born the year the United States entered World War II. A number of us lost loved ones in that conflict. In grade school we learned to “duck and cover,” the mushroom-shaped cloud was very familiar. While we were in high school, the Russians launched Sputnik. Although we were young, we were not innocent.

We graduated in the last year of the 1950’s. The year, 1959, was a time of transition from the conformist and bland 1950’s to the bizarre and hectic 1960’s. Out class reflected that transition, collectively we were often a mystery to our teachers, our parents, and even ourselves. We tended to question the established way of doing things. We never had a Student Council President or a Homecoming Queen. We certainly possessed the qualities of both, but we could not or would not claim those high school “prizes.”

Our class was diverse in so many ways. That was, in part, because we attended a “Lab School.” We embraced this diversity and were stronger for it. We got used to being studied, analyzed and practiced upon. Every semester we had a new batch of student teachers. We tested many of them while others were accepted almost immediately. They learned from us at least as much as we learned from them.

Rock and roll entered the mainstream while we were in junior high. We did the Bunny Hop and the Chicken. During our freshman year a new performer emerged: Elvis Presley. His blending of “black” music with “white” music fit our mood and rhythm. We listened to girl groups, boy groups, rhythm and blues, a little pop and a whole lot of rock and roll. For slow dancing we preferred Sam Cooke, the Platters and early Johnny Mathis. And then there was the idol of one our classmates: Pat Boone.

Typical teenagers, the boys fixated on sports, cars and girls while the girls obsessed over boys, clothes and, well, boys. Despite all the interest in the opposite sex, there was relatively little intra-class dating. The boys tended to date underclassmen or girls from Ypsi High. Some of the girls also dated underclassmen. Why weren't there more romantic entanglements within the class? One potential reason is that many of us had known each other since childhood. We tended to regard each other almost as cousins or siblings. Another reason might be that as one female classmate observed, most of the boys were "vertically challenged." There are always exceptions to any generalization: one high school romance evolved into a long, successful marriage.

The 1950's were not known for fashion. And although the girls were fashion conscious this did not mean we were well-dressed. Petticoats were one fashion fad. They were scratchy and generally uncomfortable. Two girls wearing petticoats could not get through a door at the same time. When we sat down at a desk the petticoats got in the way. Still we wore them with elastic cinch belts to make our waists look even thinner. And then there were cardigans worn backwards, white socks worn straight up, bucket bags and Pop It "pearls."

The guys favored brush cuts or Princetons with only a few growing their hair a little longer to affect a slightly "hoody" effect. In a burst of creative rebellion, a group of guys drove into Detroit and bought velveteen vests in bright colors with taffeta lining. These were worn with dark shirts and narrow ties resulting in a look that was a cross between a blackjack dealer and a young pimp. Since they were otherwise neatly dressed no one could complain.

On June 12, 1959 in the Roosevelt Auditorium the school orchestra played a slightly screechy version of Pomp and Circumstance. As a class we marched in and sat in the front rows. Our parents and other family members watched as we received our diplomas. Eleanor Meston, who was the first grade teacher for many of us, gave the address. It was all a kind of blur as we marched out, now graduates, high school behind us and the world in front of us. It was both a happy and sad occasion. The 1960s were just around the corner. We each would find a place in that new world, no longer defined by the way we were but the way we would become.

(Peg Porter is the Assistant Editor of the Gleanings, Chair of the YHS Membership Committee and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

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