The University Record, November 12, 2001

Detroit marker proclaims: Hail to Michigan’s past, future

By Lesley Harding,
and Emily Hebert, News and Information Services

Before the Big House and the Bell Tower, the University of Michigan was the “University of Michigania” and occupied 1,920 acres in Detroit. Established in 1817 by the Reverend John Montieth, Father Gabriel Richard and Judge Augustus Woodward, the school moved to Ann Arbor in 1837.

As part of the Detroit 300 celebration, those maize and blue roots were recognized during a Nov. 8 ceremony in downtown Detroit.

“All that flourishes in Ann Arbor started here in Detroit 184 years ago,” said Francis Blouin, chair of the U-M History and Traditions Committee.

University President Lee C. Bollinger said this link to the city and community is special because many universities have a tendency to move inward, but the U-M is drawn outward because of its link with the city.

During the celebration, the state of Michigan unveiled a historic plaque. That commemorative marker is mounted on a parking structure wall adjacent to the Comerica Tower, near the intersection of Bates and Congress. The original U-M building was dismantled in 1858, and the parking structure, which is about 100 feet from the original site, is the closest physical facility.

University and state officials hope the plaque will draw plenty of attention to the city and school. “This takes our history and puts it on the street,” says Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan Historical Center.

Hard to imagine how the University has grown in nearly two centuries, Bollinger hopes the plaque will give people a sense of where the University’s been and what it’s become. “It really makes you think about what the U-M will be like in 200 years, it’s quite fascinating to think about.” Bollinger furthered by joking, “the one thing I know for certain is that tuition will go up.”

For more information on the University’s original home in Detroit, visit the Bentley Historical Library’s Web site, www.umich.edu/~bhl.