The History of the Museum on Main Street
THE MUSEUM ON MAIN STREET (MoMS)
A Museum of County Life
By Susan Wineberg
Our building at 500 N. Main began its life across the Huron River in
Lower Town at 1015 Wall Street. It was built in phases in the 1830s,
with the oldest section (the middle room) dating to 1835 and the front
section to 1839. A small side section was added in the 1840s.
The house was moved by the WCHS in 1990 when demolition threats spurred
it to act and save it. The University of Michigan donated the
house, the City of Ann Arbor donated the land, and our members did the
rest. After years of fund raising, the Museum finally opened to the
public at a gala ceremony in May 1999.
The house is an extremely rare example in Michigan of an unremodeled
1830s house and therefore is an artifact itself. We have highlighted
some of the unusual construction features with see-through examples of
the brick nogging used for stabilization and fire prevention, the
accordion lath (scored wood, not sawn) used in the walls in the rear
room, and the wide board flooring throughout the house. Although often
referred to as a Greek Revival style building, it is closer to the
Federal Style found further east.
The builders of our house, members of the Kellogg and Warden families,
were typical of the settlers coming to Michigan in this time period.
They were millers, statesmen and merchants from Cayuga County, New York
and probably came to Michigan via the Erie Canal. Land speculation was
rampant at this time and the Kelloggs bought and sold many parcels of
land. The first member to arrive, Dwight Kellogg, had been a partner
with Anson Brown and Edward Fuller in businesses and mills at Broadway
and Pontiac. More members of the Kellogg family—brothers and
sisters of Dwight (Ethan Warden was married to Dwight’s
sister) --- built homes on Wall Street and opened business on Broadway.
The Kelloggs also ran a grist mill on the Huron River. In
1839, the patriarch of the family, Charles Kellogg, arrived with his
wife and lived here until his death in 1843. A large
collection of letters from the Kelloggs to family and friends in New
York resides at the Bentley Library on the UM’s North Campus
and is a rich trove of information on this emigrant time period.
Ann Arbor’s Wall Street didn’t live up the
financial reputation of its counterpart and the Kelloggs did not
prosper as they had dreamed. Many died here and are buried at Fair View
Cemetery. Only one member, Dorr Kellogg (treasurer of our society in
1877), remained in Ann Arbor—the rest returned to New York
State. The house stood empty after Charles’ death in 1843
until it was purchased in 1853 by Samuel Ruthruff, a pioneer who had
arrived in Washtenaw County in 1837 from Seneca County, New
York. He and his family lived in our house from 1853 until
1877, despite almost losing it in the Panic of 1857. His son-in-law,
Freeman P. Galpin, saved the day and the Galpins maintained ownership
until 1889, 12 years after Samuel died. These families have close
associations with Superior Township and Dixboro.
In 1890, the house was purchased by Charles Greiner, a gardener who
worked in the nearby greenhouses. His descendants occupied the house
for the next 100 years. Greiner had only girls—look for their
names in pencil on the door to the attic. A descendant of the
family later presented us with a turn of the century photograph showing
Mrs. Greiner and her daughters in front of what looks like a farmhouse
(and shows the original six over six windows). This was the
state of Lower Town in the early 20th century.
After being moved, we built a new basement with state of the art
equipment and storage facilities. A new wood shingle roof was
put on, sidewalks and a parking lot were added and fire suppression
equipment was installed. Outdoor lighting, a Victorian garden
scheme (using lilacs and roses from the original Wall Street site), and
re-plumbing and re-wiring occupied our talents and money for years.
We had our first exhibit in the summer of 2000 entitled “In
the Good Old Summertime.” Since then
we’ve mounted about four exhibits a year, ranging from
Delivery Days to Wedding Dresses, Politics of Washtenaw County and
Women’s Suffrage movement, One-Room Schools, the Bridges of
Washtenaw County, Northfield and Pittsfield Townships, 100 Years of
Psychiatry at UM and The Sewing Arts. In addition, we have
special Christmas exhibits and Open Houses every year.
In 2002, we were willed a generous donation by Doris Anna Bach, the
last surviving member of this important Ann Arbor family.
With the interest income from this account, we have been able to hire a
part-time staff person and make many necessary repairs to our
building... In our 150th year, we are proud of our past and
look forward to our future.