Ann Arbor is much more than a college town.

It’s jam-packed with art, music, politics, history, manufacturing and more. So much stuff, that it’s Michigan’s sixth-largest city.

As I was doing a search for some old Ann Arbor photos, pictures of the University kept popping up, over and over again. And it was disheartening, because there is SO much more to Ann Arbor than the college. So I kept digging until I did indeed find some old photographs of downtown Ann Arbor in the early 1900s. Those are the photos that stand out in the gallery below.

When I was in my late teens, I would travel to Ann Arbor with a couple of buddies and check out the record stores. The areas of Liberty and State streets were almost a mecca for music, art, and hangin’ out. It was in a little third floor shop called Middle Earth where I bought the very first Beatle bootleg album, “Get Back”. While my buddy lost his over the years, I still have mine…and I still get offers to buy it. NOPE, sorry.

Middle Earth had black light posters, incense, beads, fringe, underground newspapers, hard-to-find records…and it always smelled good.

Then there was a record shop on the corner. I went in to buy the debut album of the MC5, Kick Out The Jams. I went in and asked the guy behind the counter if they had the album.
“Yup” he said.
“Is it the original?”
“Yup.”
“The uncensored version?”
“Uh, nope. It’s the ‘brothers & sisters’ one.”
“Sorry, I don’t want that one.”
“But it’s just as good as the other.”
“No, it’s not. It loses something. I’ll try the shop down the street.”
“Wait – I’ll call down there before you go (dialdialdial). Hi, do you have the uncensored Kick Out The Jams? Okay, thank you.” (hangs up). Then he turns to me and says, “Sorry, they don’t have it either.”
“Okay then never mind” and I walked out. I went right around the corner and down to that other record shop and asked for the record. They DID have it after all…the first guy was tryin’ to scam me.

Those are just a couple of my recollections of Ann Arbor from my youth.

When John Allen and Elisha Walker Rumsey arrived in 1824, they bought 640 acres of land, becoming Ann Arbor’s ‘founding’.

There doesn’t seem to be any definite proof regarding the name of the city, but the most common explanation is that John and Elisha’s wives were both named ‘Ann’. The ‘Arbor’ part came from all the burr oak that covered the area like an arbor.

1837: UM sets up shop.
1839: Michigan Central Railroad comes through.
1930s-1940s: Willow Run plant manufactures B-24 liberator bombers for the World War II effort.
1960: JFK and Nixon stump their way to town. Kennedy announces his idea for a ‘Peace Corps for the first time.

Plus, Ann Arbor was where all the musicians spent time: Bob Seger, Iggy & The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, Glenn Frey, The Rationals, SRC, Brownsville Station, Ted Nugent…..and more biggies came for a visit that included John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and tons more.

Yeah – Ann Arbor is MUCH more than just the home of UM...which includes the annual Hash Bash.

The gallery below shows some vintage photos of Ann Arbor from 1900-1950s...

Vintage Photos of Ann Arbor

MORE VINTAGE MICHIGAN!

Vintage Photos of Mackinaw City

The Purple Gang

Still More Michigan Main Streets, Part 3