Ann Arbor’s Early Business Leaders

Ann Arbor’s earliest businesses supplied the settlers’ basic needs: bricks and lumber to build new buildings, foundries to produce farm implements. The county’s farms produced raw materials for the town’s flour and woolen mills, tanneries, and breweries.

By the 1870s three-story brick business buildings lined Main Street north and south of the courthouse. Caterer Jacob Hangsterfer built one of the first at Main and Washington with a third-floor hall that was very popular for parties, lectures, and travel­ing entertainments.

In 1863 Philip Bach moved his dry goods store down the block to his new building at Main and Washington. Christian Mack’s building on the corner of Main and Liberty housed his dry goods business, which later grew into downtown’s largest department store. Both merchants were also mayors and bankers and served on the school board. Each has an elementary school named for him.

Dr. Alvin Chase collected recipes for household remedies and published them as Dr. Chase’s Recipes; or, Information for Everybody. His hugely popular books, which sold all over the world, were printed in his large steam printing house at Main and Miller along with a newspaper, the Peninsular Courier. Wealthy and successful by 1869, he became worried about his own health, so he sold everything—business, patents, even his horse and buggy—to publisher Rice Beal, a fellow Republican and Methodist. Finding himself still healthy but poor, Chase then tried to continue publishing his books, but Beal successfully sued to prevent him from doing so.

That's a Fact! In 1863, Ann Arbor's First National Bank was the first in Michigan to be chartered under Federal Law.

Caption 1: Hangsterfer’s Hall, on the southwest corner of Main and Washington, was torn down in 1926 for a new Kresge Dollar Store building. Mongolian Barbecue is there today.

Caption 2: In 1886, an elderly Philip Bach (far right) posed for this photograph with his staff in front of his dry goods shop.

Caption 3: Dr. Chase's Steam Printing House, later a Montgomery Ward warehouse, was renovated first in 1969 by landscape architects JJ&R and again in 1994 by the Dobson-McOmber Agency.

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