Building Washtenaw circa 1868

The Ann Arbor City Directory from 1868 can provide us a good sense of what general construction trades, contractors and companies looked like in the (then) city of 10,500 and surrounding areas. Pretty much it boils down to Architects, Builders and Carpenters.

Architects & Builders.JPG

There are 10 Architect & Builder firms listed. Zera Pulcipher wins the award for the best name. He’s also listed in this directory as a carpenter so things we’re a bit looser in terms of distinction between trades. There are approximately 90 other Carpenters listed in the directory.

Zera Pulcipher

Sam Gregory calls himself a builder in the directory (as do 14 other people)

Sam Gregory

W.H. Mallory has also taken out a 1/4 page ad.

WH Mallory.JPG

They were also Lumber Dealers! A bit of a one stop shop for construction. They also owned a planing mill (image not included) Conrad Krapf also provided lumber in addition to Architecture and Building services.

Lumber Dealers

Of the other building trades:

Approximately 30 Masons are listed individually in the Directory

No Civil Engineers have taken out ads. Their profession is not present in the directory at all except for William Donovan and the Department of Civil Engineering at UofM (which graduated 6 people in 1868)

William Donovan

I think this is a fascinating document to begin to grasp how things were done in the County in the 1860s. Either due to the size of the city (e.g the market size) or the flexibility of professions, or the frontier sense of doing things for yourself (the city was only 31 years old at his point), we don’t see the professional specialization that we see today in terms of the clear distinction between architects, engineers and contractors. There was probably minimal (if any) regulations of these professions. Why not deal in the lumber, design and then build the house? Ann Arbor may have also been a small enough city to not be able to sustain a professional, technical base the way Detroit could have at the time. That holds true today for many rural areas.

Many of these City directories are on-line and I look forward to going through them to chart how things changed in the county.

As a final note- it’s good to know that Ann Arbor had it’s own “State Prison Wagon” Builder!

State Prison Wagons



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