89.1 WEMU

creative:impact - A Literary Look At Ann Arbor's Changing Nature

Jul 9, 2019

Patti Smith
Credit 89.1 WEMU

Special education teacher and author Patti Smith is one of the most passionate Ann Arbor residents you'll ever meet.  She sees her hometown as an ongoing project, especially when it comes to preserving its history.  Smith talks about her latest book, "Vanishing Ann Arbor," with WEMU's David Fair and Arts Alliance CEO Deb Polich in this week's "creative:impact."


Deb Polich, President and CEO of The Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

Vanishing Ann ArborArcadia Publishing and The History Press

"Vanishing Ann Arbor" by Patti F. Smith and Britain Woodman
Credit Arcadia Publishing / arcadiapublishing.com

Ann Arbor has seen many cherished landmarks and institutions come and go—some fondly remembered and others lost to time.  When the city was little more than a village in the wilderness, its first school stood on the now busy corner of Main and Ann.  Stores like Bach & Abel’s and Dean & Co. served local needs as the village grew into a small town.  As the town became a thriving city, Drake’s and Maude’s fed generations of hungry diners, and Fiegel’s clothed father and son alike.  Residents passed their time seeing movies at the Majestic or watching parades go down Main Street.  Join authors Patti F. Smith and Britain Woodman on a tour of the city’s past.

About Patti Smith 

Current special education teacher and former legal aid lawyer Patti F. Smith is the author of four books: Images of America–Downtown Ann Arbor (Arcadia/History Press), A History of the People’s Food Co-op Ann Arbor, Head Over Feet In Love (Soul Mate Publishing) and the forthcoming Vanishing Ann Arbor (Arcadia/History Press).  She has written for CraftBeer.com, West Suburban Living magazine, Concentrate, Mittenbrew, The Ann, AADL’s Pulp blog, and the Ann Arbor Observer.

Patti is a frequent public speaker around town, curating HERsay (an all-woman variety show) and GROWN FOLKS READING (story time for grownups) and telling stories at Ignite, Nerd Nite, Tellabration and Telling Tales Out of School.  Patti serves as a commissioner for the Washtenaw County Historic Commission and the Recreation Advisory Commission, as a teacher of history for Rec & Ed, as a storyteller in the Ann Arbor Storytellers’ Guild, and volunteers for the Ann Arbor Film Festival and as a DJ for WCBN.  She leads multiple tours around town including History & Hops (beer and history), By the Sidewalk Tours (food and history), and tours through Rec & Ed featuring lovely downtown Ann Arbor!

Vanishing Ann ArborIn Patti’s words

Ann Arbor has always been on the move, with things changing at various speeds throughout its decades of existence.  When Rumsey & Allen founded this town in 1824, they placed newspaper ads looking for butchers, tanners, coopers, blacksmiths.  We had entire businesses built around making and fixing wagon wheels.  If your horse threw a shoe, the smithy was there to fix it.  People used cisterns and wells for drinking water.

Then those things vanished.  Folks began driving cars, started using tires made of rubber, and we created public works systems that provided water to homes.

It’s not for me to say whether the “vanished” things were for good or ill (although personally, I like my water cold and coming out of a faucet).  It is for me to record some of those long gone businesses and places.  You can read all about them in my and Britain’s book, VANISHING ANN ARBOR!  The book talks of old pastimes (people really liked bowling back in the day), bookstores from 1888 through 2018, restaurants enjoyed by locals and visitors from afar, retail businesses from Mack & Co to Fiegel’s to Fingerle.

We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and as we say in the introduction, if we didn’t mention your favorite place well, we’ll just have to do a sequel!

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu