Ann Arbor is a City Rich with History
From the first time I walked down Main Street in Ann Arbor, I was amazed by the beautiful historic shopfronts lining the street. This breathtaking part of Downtown Ann Arbor is characterized by architectural diversity that beautifully reflects the rich history of a town that began as far back as the early 1800s along this very street and has spread outwards over the years. Living, working, and playing in Downtown Ann Arbor is a truly unique mix of modern attractions and entertainment and scenic historic charm.
Naming Ann Arbor: An Ongoing Historical Debate
The origins of Ann Arbor’s name have actually been a topic of much debate throughout the years, as local history buffs tend to disagree on just how the city got it’s name.
The most popular and widely-accepted story states that Ann Arbor was named after the wives of the men who founded Ann Arbor, two settlers from Detroit by the names of John Allen and Elisha Rumsey. According to this legend, the John and Elisha registered their settlement on Feburary 12, 1824 as "AnnArbor" after their wives, both of which were named Ann. The “Arbor” addition was in reference to the area’s grape arbors and lush vegetation.
According to a second legend, the town was named for a young guide by the name of Ann D'Arbeur, who first lead parties from Detroit through the area in the early 1800s.
But either way you tell the story, it's accepted that John Allen established the first gristmill along the Huron River, and thanks to its convenient and strategic location along the Huron River, the Territorial Road, and the Michigan Central Railroad, the area gradually began to grow with new developments that included a tannery, a general store, and more mills. It was made the seat of Washtenaw County in 1827, chartered as a village in 1833, and as a city in 1851, but perhaps its the most significant event of its long history was the relocation of the University of Michigan from Detroit to AnnArbor in 1841.
The town's name "AnnArbor" was later separated to Ann Arbor, and today, it remains the only place in the United State with that name. Interestingly, locals often abbreviate the city’s name as A2, and yes, mail does get delivered using that acronym.
Did You Know?
- In 1860, Ann Arbor had five hotels, one drug store and 10 saloons. But 1872, Ann Arbor had 8 hotels, five drug stores and 49 saloons. (We know where those early residents’ priorities lay!)
- The 1901–1905 University of Michigan football team, coached by Fielding H. Yost, was known as the “point-a-minute” team. It had a record of 55-1-1, and in the first Rose Bowl Game in 1902, U of M defeated Stanford 49-0. (Go Wolverines!)
- In 1929, Ann Arbor had more cars and telephones per capita than any city in the world.
- The “Handel’s Messiah” opera has been performed annually in Ann Arbor since 1880.
- The printed version of the letter Columbus sent to Queen Isabella of Spain in 1493 is part of the collection at the Clements Library on U of M campus.
- Nickels Arcade, built in 1915, is one of only a few glass-roofed shopping arcades in the country.
- Ann Arbor is one of only 11 US cities that can boast of a Presidential library. The papers of President Gerald Ford comprise nearly 15 million pages and cover over a mile of shelving.
Want to Know More About Ann Arbor?
There’s so much more to love about this charming, beautiful, and richly historic community than just its history. Today, it’s a thriving city filled with possibilities for entertainment, arts, events, employment, outdoor recreation, and more. Come explore Ann Arbor. Discover its splendid neighborhoods and surrounding communities. And find your home in one of the best places in all of Michigan!