Monday, April 10, 2006

A History of Ann Arbor

Jonathan Marwil's light history of Tree Town contains this titillating excerpt:

In the autumn of 1928 the university announced plans to build a dormitory for women. This was not to be another Martha Cook or Helen Newberry--unique facilities constructed for specific purposes--but the first of many in a reversal of the long-standing (Tappan) policy of having students be responsible for their lodging. The news was met with anger and alarm, for it endangered the investments of hundreds landlords, the livelihoods of hundreds of domestics, the value of property (and thus tax returns) around the campus, and the trade of merchants along Main Street...

Faculty dismissals and student misbehavior had irked citizens, even outraged their notions of propriety, but the dormitory plan, said Bertha Muehling, a prominent businesswoman, jeopardized "the business interests of Ann Arbor."

I have noted before that college presidents testified before Congress in the 1940s that they needed help building dormitories because cities' private markets were unable to handle the swell of new collegians. They could only justifiably ask because the private market, which had the responsibility to house students, was not up to the task.


Anonymous David F said...

This controversy was covered by Time magazine in an article available from their archive,

Landladies' Ire

December 3, 1928

In Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan, are nearly 10,000 students. For the several thousands who must board in Ann Arbor homes, the Board of Regents planned last September an $800,000 dormitory. At this, there arose bitter and prolonged outcry from some 7,000 landladies who will be left boarderless.

Last week, the landladies, irate, threatened a circuit court injunction against the university, charging it with breach of public faith, profligate waste.

4:06 PM  
Blogger accidentalactivist said...

David, you are a genius.

4:17 PM  

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