The 34th annual Ann Arbor Historic District Commission Awards ceremony took place during the June 4, 2018, City Council meeting at Larcom City Hall. The mayor presented each recipient with an award and thanks for their contributions toward the beautification of Ann Arbor. The 16 awards this year include properties ranging in age from a 55-year-old midcentury modern to a 152-year-old downtown farmhouse. Fifteen of the properties are residential, plus one downtown cinema.
The Ann Arbor HDC shares descriptions of each honoree:
PRESERVATION PROJECT OF THE YEAR
State Theatre Renovation. In 2014, when the second-floor cinema was threatened with redevelopment, the Michigan Theater Foundation, led by Executive Director Russ Collins, purchased the cinema portion of the 1942 State Theatre. After a capital campaign to refurbish and restore the theater, it was closed for renovations in 2016. Work included adding two screening rooms, improved seating and accessibility and an elevator. The sound and movie projection systems were updated, and the carpet was replaced to match the original. The marquee, with its signature neon, enameled steel panels and chasing lights was meticulously refurbished and restored. The owner of the first-floor condominium, State Theatre, LLC, worked cooperatively and contributed financially to the marquee restoration.
PRESERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR
The Ann Arbor HDC commends Ann Arbor native Russ Collins for his decades of work and leadership on the restoration and rehabilitation of the Michigan Theater, a 1928 movie palace, and the State Theatre, a 1942 art deco cinema. He has served as executive director of the Michigan Theater Foundation for 35 years, and has received accolades for his work in cinema, film studies and the arts.
415 N. Fourth Ave. – Kerrytown Concert House. Deanna Relyea and her board have maintained this 1866 former house that she transformed into a performance space in 1984. She has hosted jazz, classical, theater and opera performances since then and music lessons are given on the second floor.
3087 Overridge – Dorothy Engel House. This mid-century modern home, designed by local architect Edward Olencki and built in 1963, has been meticulously preserved by owners Sally and Tom Klein since 1989. They allowed A2Modern to use it for an open house fundraiser in 2017.
837 W. Huron – Grover and Olga Koch House. This beautiful brick house was built for Grover C. and Olga Koch in 1927 and replaced an older house from the 1860s. Koch was president of KYS Sales Company at 208-210 W. Washington. It specialized in Willys-Knight and Whippet autos. In 1937, Koch is listed as a mechanic at the Pratt and Stribley Garage (113 N. Ashley). Since 1971, it has been the home of Richard and Susan Isaacs Nisbett, and they have maintained it in meticulous condition in their nearly-50-year stewardship.
2998 Geddes – The Carlos Lopez House was designed in 1950 by George Brigham. Donald and Barbara Sugerman have owned the house since 2001 and have taken immaculate care of it. Carlos Lopez was one of the most recognized modern Latino painters in the U.S. and received many awards during his lifetime. He was born in Cuba and studied at the University of Michigan with painter Leon Makielski. Lopez became a professor of art at U-M in 1945 and worked there until his untimely death in 1953 at the age of 44. In typical Brigham style, this house is one long and low story nestled among the trees along Geddes.
427-433 Spring St. – Samuel Burchfield Row House. This four-unit townhouse was built in 1911 and is unique in the city. It is an odd mix of architectural styles and combines Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Craftsman features. Burchfield was a tailor and lived around the corner. His family owned the townhouse (which were rentals) until 1961. Since 2007, Barbara Poag of the Spring Street Townhomes Inc. has carefully maintained the building.
15 Harvard – William and Miriam Baum House. Another Brigham, built in 1952 and owned since 1999 by Peter and Lois Eckstein, is being recognized with a 2018 award. They have maintained its historic character both inside and out. The original owner was a physician at University Hospital and a professor of medicine at U-M. The one-story midcentury modern home is a classic example of Brigham’s design aesthetic.
1601 Broadway – Carl Rehberg House. Mary Ellen and Leslie Guinn have owned this property since 1987 and have taken fastidious care of it. It’s in the Colonial style, with the long side of the house facing the street and a beautiful fanlight (in the Federal style) above the door. It was built in 1936 for Carl Rehberg, the manager of Arbor Springs Water Company, and his wife Elsa.
715 S. Forest – Forest Plaza Apartments. Campus Management Inc., incorporated in 1966, has managed Forest Plaza since its purchase by Dwaine Lighthammer and Gordon Schott Sr. in 1972. Now a third generation of family members oversee the management of the property. Their care and concern for the historic qualities of their buildings is best exemplified by their preservation of Forest Plaza. Constructed in 1928 in a Spanish Revival style, it is a red-brick building that has Spanish style roof tiles, terra cotta decorations and fancy plasterwork inside. It also has some interesting diaper brickwork and unusual touches above some of the windows. The most outstanding feature is the deep setback, which allows a grove of trees to greet the tenants as they cross a small bridge over a former creek. One famous resident was U-M football coach Harry Kipke. Campus management also restored the old elevator by sending it to the Detroit Elevator company in Ferndale, which left many original features intact.
830 Avon – H. Richard and Florence Crane House (pictured, top right). This was the first house architect Bob Metcalf designed after he finished his own home. It was constructed in 1954, and the Cranes lived the rest of their lives there. It has been regarded among the appreciators of midcentury modern as one of the premier examples of the style. Those features are still present today and were lovingly restored by current owners Linda and Jim Elert. It’s been featured on tours by A2Modern and in books about midcentury architecture of Michigan.
505 Burson – William and Mary Bandemer House. James Livingston, a prolific local architect whose buildings most people would recognize (including Lurie Terrace and Maynard House) designed this house for the Bandemers in 1956. In the typical one-story, flat roofed style of the period, the doorway is hidden from public view. The current owners, John and Renate Mirsky, have restored both the exterior and interior, even preserving the kitchen cabinets. They have also beautifully landscaped the grounds. The Mirskys have held open houses for A2Modern and have become active in the group and experts on Livingston’s work.
509 Detroit St. This stately Queen Anne, with its square tower, fish-scale siding and front gabled roof with a sunburst motif, first appears on the 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. Its occupants changed often and by the end of the last century, it was a run-down student rental. Current owners David Santacroce (a UM Professor of Law) and Holly Parker have restored the exterior, built an addition, and landscaped the property making for a great visual improvement.
812 W. Washington – Herman D. Allmendinger. This house was built in 1900 and occupied by successive German families in the Allmendinger, Hoch, and Stoll families. Nadine Hubbs, who had previously rehabilitated three other historic homes in Ann Arbor, purchased the home in 2013. Dean removed asbestos shingle siding and fire escapes, repaired the underlying wood lap siding, restored the front porch, and converted the duplex back to single-family. During demolition work, several items were found in the walls, including a silver clutch-box containing a 1905 stage coach receipt, issues of the Ann Arbor Daily News from 1902 and 1914, and a 1897 letter on Ann Arbor Organ Company stationery from Herman Allmendinger to his then fiancé, Minnie Luckhardt of Manchester.
826 W. Huron – Edward Bycraft House. Built by a retired farmer in 1914, this Arts and Crafts house was recently converted from a six-person rental to an owner-occupied home. The new owner, Patricia Wilinski, received approvals from the HDC for her conversion. It is so seamless that one can hardly tell it’s been touched.
1418 Broadway – Traver-Tuttle House. This circa 1830s/40s home, formerly belonging to Councilperson Sabra Briere, has been completely restored by owners Patrick McCauley and Andrea Kinney. They had to shore up a failing rear porch, even out foundations, restore storm windows and upgrade electrical and plumbing. They’ve built a fence in front for their dogs to romp behind and have painted it a dark ruby hue, giving it a totally new look on the block.