Division Street Historic District

Division Street Historic District

The Kempf House, 312 S. Division Street
Built in 1853 for Henry DeWitt Bennett, an active citizen who served as postmaster and from 1869 to 1886 as secretary and steward for the University of Michigan, Bennett sold his house to A. L. Noble after he retired. Renowned for its graceful simplicity, this temple-style Greek Revival house had been described in books, magazines and news articles. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Mr. Noble rented the house out to first a merchant tailor, then Reuben and Pauline Kempf, who purchased the house from the widow Noble in 1894.
Mr. Kempf, an accomplished pianist, was a member of one of Ann Arbor's earliest families.
He graduated from the Royal Conservatory in Stuttgart, Germany, then returned to Ann Arbor to pursue a long career as a musician and teacher.
Mrs. Kempf, educated at the Cincinnati Conservatory, was an accomplished contralto who trained many students in her home at 312 S. Division.
In the late 1960s, the City of Ann Arbor purchased the home and it now serves as the Center for Local History. The Kempf House provides open houses, tours and special events for the surrounding area.

The DKE Shant, 611 E. William Street
The DKE Shant (Delta Kappa Epsilon) was constructed in 1878 by the fraternity as a meeting place for its members who lived in rooms scattered around the UM campus. This was the first fraternity building at the University of Michigan.
Designed by William LeBaron Jenney during his tenure as professor of architecture at UM, Jenney later returned to Chicago where he gained fame for engineering the use of a steel skeleton frame in the Home Insurance Building, generally considered to be the world's first skyscraper. Built in what was described by Jenney as thirteenth-century French style, the DKE Shant resembles Grace Episcopal Church in Chicago, also designed by Jenney. The DKE Shant is thought to be Jenney's only surviving work in Ann Arbor.
After the DKE chapter house on Geddes burned in 1968, they ceased to hold regular meetings, and the Shant sat empty and was repeatedly vandalized. In 1971 the late Detroit industrialist Wilfred V. Casgrain and other Omicron chapter alumni renovated the Shant to function as an on-campus club for DKE student members.

The Wells-Babcock House, 208 N. Division Street
This house was built as a two-story structures in 1858 for Dr. Ebenezer Wells and his family. A physician and mayor of Ann Arbor in 1863-64, Wells also became president of the First National Bank, the first bank chartered in Michigan under the National Bank Act of 1863. Dr. Wells died in 1882.
James L. Babcock bought the house in 1890, and reportedly paid $10,000 for the property. Mr. Babcock moved to Ann Arbor to manage his uncle's (Luther James) wool business. Mr. James left his nephew a fortune on the condition that he marry within five years. Mr. Babcock met the deadline and remodeled the house throughout.
After Mr. Babcock died in 1910, a third story was added and the mansion and carriage house were converted to multi-family use.

The Alonzo Palmer House (Laubengayer-Ryan House), 205 N. Division Street
One of finest remaining Gothic Revival houses in the city, this fine brick home was built in stages. Dr. Alonzo Palmer, an early member of UM Medical School faculty, came from New York in early 1850 to teach and practice in Ann Arbor. He and his young wife purchased a small brick house on East Ann Street. When his wife died after only a few years, Dr. Palmer returned east to marry Miss Love Root of Massachusetts. In 1867, Love Root Palmer, a wealthy new bride, added the larger, more elaborate portion of the house that now faces Division Street.
Upon Mrs. Palmer's death in 1901, the house was purchased by Tobias and Sarah Laubengayer to serve as their residence. Their daughter and son-in-law, Wanda and Mack Ryan, lived in this house until Mr. Ryan died in 1970. Since then the ownership has changed several times, and the house and carriage house now serve as a multi-unit dwelling space.

The Wilson-Wahr House, 126 N. Division Street
This is possibly Ann Arbor's most famous house and is often described and pictured in books on architectural history. Probate Judge Robert S. Wilson built the famous temple-front portion of the house in 1843. His career took him to Chicago in 1850, so he sold the grand estate to John A. Welles, a newcomer to Ann Arbor. Welle's son, Henry, moved into the house with his four daughters after the death of his wife in 1955. Henry was the city recorder in 1851-52 and treasurer of the University of Michigan from 1858 until his death in 1860.
In 1892, the house and small garden were auctioned off in a tax sale with publisher George Wahr making the high bid. He and his wife, Emma, moved into the home and soon excavated in the garden a few feet south to begin building a new house at 120 N. Division. The Wahrs moved into the new house next door and leased the mansion to sororities and fraternities. After twenty years they moved back to the mansion and Emma Wahr displayed her large collection of antiques there.

The Moses Rogers House, 121 N. Division Street
This house was built about 1861 for Moses and Letitia Rogers and their daughters. Moses was a talented artist but had little time to devote to his painting. He owned the Ann Arbor Agricultural Works, which grew from a downtown store to a sprawling factory on Broadway. Moses also held a number of political offices and was a trustee of the First Unitarian Society of Ann Arbor.
The Moses Rogers House is one of the few nineteenth-century homes in the Division Street Historic District that has been modernized and maintained as a single-family home. The simple lines of this Italianate house with its finely detailed brackets have long been admired. The original porch has been removed and a dormer added on the third floor, but the house has otherwise changed little in its exterior appearance.

The George Corselius House, 317 E. Ann Street
This may be the oldest remaining home in Ann Arbor; an early deed indicates it was occupied by a Dr. Randall in 1834, but it may have been built earlier by Sylvester or Willard Mills in 1829-30.
Originally a typical "I-house" (side gables, one room deep and two rooms long, two stories in height), the residence long ago became a square with an ell. The pilastered casing of the entrance dates to 1838 when the house was remodeled.
It was the home of pioneer journalist George Corselius and family, who arrived in Ann Arbor in 1829 to edit the Western Emigrant, the first newspaper in Washtenaw County. The newspaper was owned by John Allen and Samuel Dexter, key figures in the early development of Washtenaw County and the Michigan Territory.

The John Adam Volz House (Tice House), 716 N. Fifth Avenue
This Italianate, symmetrical and handsome, was built for John Adam Volz in 1873. It has distinctive bracketed eaves, segmental arched windows, and brick detailing. The intricate carving of the wood entry porch is still in fine condition.
Volz had been a proprietor of the Ann Arbor Central Brewery next door at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Summit Street, since its opening in 1858. Water for the brewing was obtained from a spring behind the house. Volz sold the brewery the same year he built his house, and a few years later he sold the house to Jacob F. Beck, one of the brewery's new owners.
In 1885, another young German immigrant, Frederick Walther, a miller, purchased the home. His family and their descendants occupied it for 80 years.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 306 N. Division Street
St. Andrew's Church was organized in Ann Arbor in 1828. The congregation first worshipped in a small building built in 1839, and then an enlarged building built in 1856. As the congregation grew, they needed a new church building to hold the worshippers. They decided to start with the nave, and accept plans and specifications of Detroit architect Gordon W. Lloyd. The cornerstone for the present building was laid in June of 1868, and the building was finished in November of 1869.
The style is English Gothic, after the style of parish churches of Lloyd's native land. The granite boulders used to construct the church were split and laid in courses, each course varying from ten to fourteen inches wide. A Greek cross surmounts the gable, and the roof is inlaid in diamonds of different colored slate, finished with an ornamental cresting of cast iron at the ridge.
The stained glass used in the windows was furnished by Friedrichs of Brooklyn, New York. The tower, topped by battlements and conical pinnacles, is over eighty feet tall. An enclosed cloister to the north of the sanctuary was finished in the 1960s.

The Michigan Central Depot (The Gandy Dancer), 401 Depot Street
Considered to be the finest station on the Michigan Central line, this elegant structure was built in 1886. Detroit-based architects Spier and Rohns designed the building in the popular Richardsonian Romanesque style that reflected the solidity, strength, and prestige of the railroad, then at its zenith. The contractors took special care in the choice and fitting of the stone, which was quarried just a short distance away at Foster's Station on Maple Road.
Since the late 1960s, the defunct depot has served as the Gandy Dancer restaurant, a place of distinctive dining and one of Ann Arbor's most interesting restaurant buildings.

Back to Ann Arbor
Kempf House, 312 S.Division Wilson-Wahr House, 126 N. Division Alonzo Palmer House, 205 N. Division St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 300 N. Division Michigan Central Depot, 401 Depot St.