History Holds the keys to Discovery, Exploration and Connection

Established in 1857, the mission of the Washtenaw County Historical Society is to educate and inspire our community to engage in the preservation and presentation of area history. Collecting, preserving and sharing local history has the capacity to make everyone feel a part of the communities we live and work in.

Ed Thompson is sitting on the running board of a 1910 Reo automobile with Mrs. Ed (Henrietta) Thompson in the front seat and Mrs. Atherton (Blanche) Marrs with another unidentified person in the back seat.Thompson was born in Ypsilanti in1863. He was the son of Oliver and Elizabeth Thompson, the family that the “Thompson Block” in Ypsilanti is named after. (Photo from the Ypsilanti Historical Society)

When we learn history in school, it’s often the "big picture" of events that have affected the United States or the world on a large scale. But these major events were made up of individuals, families, and local communities, that all played their part in shaping and being shaped by history. The Washtenaw County Historical Society focuses on telling the local story of our county throughout the major events. What was life like for the early pioneers and those who came after them? Where and how did they live? What were their hopes and dreams?  History matters because it has this power to make the past come alive and connect us to it. You can discover the power of the history of the place where you now stand.

Discover...

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Explore...

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Connect...

Construction of Laminated Gothic Arch Barn, 1937

First Methodist Church,

Ypsilanti Michigan, 1859

Farmer James W. Finnell with the tallest corn in the County, 1935

Construction of Laminated

Gothic Arch Barn, 1937

 Pioneer Planks  Connect the Past to the Present

This story map was created by Taylor Vacca, a student of Nancy EV Bryk, Associate Professorand Director, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Eastern Michigan University Scroll on the right hand sideto view the story map

or click here.

"The Rock" at Washtenaw and Hill, 1932

 

Al Gallup narrates footage from 1932, the year his father, former Ann Arbor Park Superintendant  Eli Gallup, moved The Rock to its present location at Washtenaw and Hill with help from WPA workers.

Driving Tours

Download the tour on your smartphone and follow the map to each destination. Or you can download the PDF from the website when you click on the photo or link.

A Step Back in Time - 
A Walking Tour of Historic Ann Arbor

A downloadable MP3 podcast walking tour of the historical locations and people who have lived in Ann Arbor. The route starts at the Museum on Main Street and takes w alkers to Kerrytown, UM Central Campus, Downtown Ann Arbor, the Old West Side, and Lowertown. This walking tour is rated 1+ due to hilly terrain on city sidewalks (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being easiest). You can download the MP3 or click here for a PDF of the tour route.

The tour is sponsored by the Washtenaw County Historical Society and Washtenaw Wanderers. It was written and designed by Susan Nenadic and Grace Shackman

Greek Revival Architecture Tour

Greek Revival Architecture in Washtenaw County is expressed through a range of building materials (from fired and adobe brick to wood siding to cobblestone) and a variety of forms from the early settlement through the post-Civil War period.

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Esek Pray Trail Tour

The Esek Pray Trail travels through Superior Township and features a variety of exceptional nineteenth century residences, one-room schoolhouses, and other resources tied to the family of Esek Pray, a founding leader of the State of Michigan, and his contemporaries.

Over 1,300 pages of local history from 1881

Click the cover to download his book packed with County history. The History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages and Townships...and Biographies of Representative Citizens : History of Michigan, Volume 1 was published by Chas. C. Chapman & Company in 1881     READ ONLINE

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The Ann Arbor District Library has a local history page that has several links to explore. Tour the permanent sidewalk exhibits at sixteen landmark sites throughout downtown Ann Arbor. Includes full-text and keyword access to an image database of hundreds of images from each location of the "Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit Program. Check out the Ann Arbor Observer's "Then and Now" online collection of over 130 articles from the Ann Arbor Observer covering a wide variety of local history topics, fully searchable and browsable by subject. Also has an image gallery of historic Ann Arbor photos. The ann Arbor Film Festival collection includes the history of North America's longest running festival for independent and experimental film is told through programs, posters, flyers, photographs, newspaper articles and original interviews.

County Directories

Look through and download Washtenaw County Historical Directories from the 1860s to 1917.

Native American History

An expanded online version of the physical exhibit "American Encounters", formerly on display at the William L. Clements Library. It highlights the great range and depth of the Clements Library’s collections related to Native American history

John & William Geddes Letters

The Geddes Letter Web Site is a collection of over 100 letters written between early Washtenaw County settler John Geddes and his brother William in Pennsylvania. The letters begin in 1825 and end in 1844 when William moved to a farm in Pittsfield Township. The letters were found in abandoned house in Groton, Massachusetts in the late 1990s. This was a cooperative project between the Ann Arbor District Library, The Bentley Historical Library, and the Washtenaw County Historical Society.

Research Michigan Archives

The Historical Society of Michigan has several links to online resources and archives.

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Ann Arbor Photos:  1915-1922

Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, created pastoral and picturesque scenery believed to cure stress caused by urban living. The Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm, did some work in Ann Arbor over a century ago. Roughly 100 historical photos of Ann Arbor from 1915 to 1922 have been digitized and made available courtesy of the National Park Service’s Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.

South Adams Street @ 1900 - an historic Ypsilanti African-American neighborhood

In the year 1900, Ypsilanti, Michigan’s South Adams Street was a place where the generations that knew of slavery and the struggle for freedom, of Canadian exile and of the Civil War, of the promise of Reconstruction, its defeat and the resulting birth of Jim Crow, were still alive. This neighborhood, in which many of their descendants still live, was built in conditions of institutionalized racism and poverty by persons who actively participated in the crucibles of the nineteenth century.

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Wystan Stevens was the godfather of Ann Arbor historians. A larger-than-life figure, he seemingly knew everything about the city, its residents, its history, its university and its businesses.an historian of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was a member of the panel of local historians behind the Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit Program. He was a lecturer on local history subjects. Wystan was a ollector of Ann Arbor photographs, post cards and memorabilia. Leader of guided walking tours and bus tours of historic Ann Arbor. He was well-known for annual series of walking tours of beautiful Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor.

Taken in the barn at Rentschler Farm in Saline (H. Douglass)

Washtenaw County Historical Consortium

 

Over 25 historical organizations and agencies throughout the county form the "Washtenaw County Historical Consortium" to promote local area history. The member organizations represent historic homes, farms, depots, mills, churches, schoolhouses, the Detroit Observatory, museums with historical collections, and two libraries for historical or genealogical research. Some attractions do not have regular visiting hours, but most are available by special appointment for individual or group tours. Those facilities that are wheelchair accessible are so only on the main floor. Visitors are urged to contact a site beforehand to confirm all information and learn about special exhibits and events.

SDS protest: University of Michigan students sit-in at Administration Building, November 5, 1968. SDS had called for a national student strike to protest the war in Vietnam.