Ypsilanti Citizen Opinions Lincoln Schools

Thank you Ypsilanti
By Dan DuChene & Christine Laughren
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   5:07 p.m.

Christine Laughren and Dan DuChene, co-owners of the Ypsilanti Citizen, pose in front of their company's banner at Frenchie's during the Citizen's one-year anniversary party.

The Ypsilanti Citizen was launched in November 2008 to inform the Ypsilanti community about the news and events that were happening in their area.

Since our launch,...read more

Crossroads Summer Festival; rockin’ ladies night
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   4:37 p.m.

Barbara Payton and the Big Boss Trio rock Washington Street.

A special Ladies Night was held Friday at the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Just...read more

Crossroads to hold Ladies Night for Relay for Life
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   9:13 a.m.

On June 11, the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival featured a rousing opening set from roots and blue grass band Dragon Wagon.

Dragon Wagon was joined on...read more

Electric rail pollution leads to dirty laundry
By Laura Bien
Jun. 15, 2010   ·   11:42 a.m.

From the approximate vantage point of the present-day Materials Unlimited, the interurban car barn and powerhouse on Michigan Avenue loomed large.

Maggie Smith was not looking forward to a forenoon of sewing pleats.

She put down her newest customer’s summer dress. Downstairs, she offered to get potatoes...read more

EMU students in wartime
By Laura Bien
Jun. 1, 2010   ·   10:32 a.m.

The 1942 Aurora yearbook, the 50th
anniversary edition, included images that contrasted modern and
old-time students.

Leroy Grindle was an Ypsilantian soldier who lost his life in WWII. He was a member of the Michigan Normal (EMU) class of ’41, and is memorialized with a black...read more

Mix Boutique inherits colorful history

This late-1920s view of the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street shows the original third-floor Hewitt Hall. Photo by Ypsilanti Archives

This late-1920s view of the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street shows the original third-floor Hewitt Hall.

To the Archives

By Laura Bien
Dec. 22, 2009    ·    9:26 a.m.

Step into the cheerful, eclectic new boutique Mix at 128 Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti and you’re just a few yards—and a few years—away from Frederick Douglass, General Tom Thumb, and Ypsilanti Civil War soldiers.

Housed in the historic Hewitt Block, which spans 126, 128, and 130 W. Michigan Ave., Mix is an apt name considering the building’s colorful history.

The Hewitt Block is thought to have been built in 1851, after a fire that year destroyed almost all of the buildings in the entire Michigan Avenue-Washington-Pearl-Huron streets block. In addition to the two stories visible today, the building was crowned with a large third-story public hall above 128 and 130 Michigan Avenue.

The city’s first arts auditorium, Hewitt Hall hosted meetings and musical and theatre productions. One of the first was an 1853 production of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Three years later, the “Continental Vocalists,” dressed in what their elaborate poster called “the old continental costume of 1776,” performed a program that included the chant “Poe’s Raven,” the “locomotive chorus” “The Rhyme of the Rail,” and the humorous quartet “Steamboat Chorus.”

Visitors to the concert arrived at the hall by traveling the wooden plank road that then covered Michigan Avenue. Out-of-towners could stay at the Hawkins Hotel that stood just across Washington Street.

On July 19 in 1862, a mass soldier recruitment meeting was held in the hall. The city had voted to pay young men $10 if they signed up to serve in the Civil War. Many did and soon thereafter left on the Michigan Central--some never to return.

In 1864, the hall was closed for remodeling and reopened in 1865 with a dedication concert by Normal College music professor Frederick Pease. Two events, one joyous and one somber, marked this year. The first was a speech by Normal College professor Joseph Estabrook upon news that the war was over.

“We well remember at the close of the rebellion when the fight was done and all Ypsilanti and the whole country went crazy with joy,” recalled Samuel Estabrook in his book “Professor Estabrook: Educator, Preacher and Lecturer,” dedicated to his brother.

Samuel continued, “To report the speech he made on that occasion would be to gather up the sunbeams. But we see him as he stood on the [outdoor] balcony of Hewitt Hall with ‘Old Glory’ draped over his head in folds of artistic beauty—himself the very impersonation of Apollo.”

Watched by an immense crowd on Michigan Avenue, Estabrook pointed to the flag and shouted, “Forever wave that standard sheet—where lives the foe but falls before it.” The lines, slightly misquoted in Samuel’s book, are from Joseph Rodman Drake’s poem “The American Flag.” Estabrook recited the entire poem.

When he finished, “the effect was grand . . . a shout went up from the balcony to the [Michigan Avenue] iron bridge that echoed and re-echoed on the ear of night. It was the shout of a mighty people who had broken the chain of slavery by the strain of brave men climbing a nation's height. It may be that Ypsilanti never heard such a shout before nor since—the fit ending of a day that will never be forgotten.”

The exhilaration was all too soon tempered by news of Lincoln’s death. Thick black borders of mourning appeared around the news columns of the Ypsilanti Commercial. Ypsilanti poet William Lambie noted in his diary, “Sober overflow crowds at Presbyterian Church and Hewitt Hall at time of Lincoln's funeral.”

In 1866, 1867, and 1888 Frederick Douglass, who had met with Lincoln to discuss slavery, spoke at Hewitt Hall.

The hall also hosted homegrown talent. In 1869, Frederick Pease’s operetta “Enoch Arden” was produced. The U-M’s University Chronicle magazine gave it a stellar review.

The review read, “[T]he neighboring city of Ypsilanti is much more fortunate than Ann Arbor, not only in having what Burns calls ‘bonnie, sweet, sonsie [bosomy] lasses,’ but also in possessing much musical talent and culture, if not genius. In this respect the little city is becoming quite well-known. . . Professor Pease may well flatter himself for the success that attends him, and he can feel assured that, should he bring his ‘Enoch Arden’ to Ann Arbor, an audience of a thousand would gladly receive him.”

Above the street-level shop where W. B. Hewitt sold boots and shoes, other performers in the hall included then-famous poet Will Carleton in 1871 and General Tom Thumb and his wife two years later.

The Ypsilanti Light Guard, similar to the National Guard, rented the hall for events, and several city fireman’s balls were held there. In 1893, as the Opera House became the favored site for cultural events, Hewitt Hall became the Guard’s official Armory. In 1899 a banquet was held there in honor of members of the Guard home from the Spanish-American War. The Hall remained the Armory until at least 1916, over the Comstock and Becker dry goods store below at 128 and 130 Michigan Avenue.

In 1914, the Armory was also used as a roller skating rink. A fire broke out that November, and firetruck water damaged almost all of Comstock’s goods. In 1916 Burkheiser & Fletcher opened their men’s clothing store at 130 Michigan Ave., which changed its name to Fletcher & Fletcher in 1920, remaining there until 1932. Comstock remained at the 128 store.

In 1930, the 128 location changed to Max Wiesenbacher’s “women’s furnishings,” offering ready-to-wear women’s clothing and accessories. In 1934, it changed again to the Paristyle boutique, but was vacant next year. Next door, at 130, stood an early and tiny A&P. Around 1937, the third-floor Hewitt hall was removed. City historian James Mann speculates that this was done because of structural weakness.

In 1936, the 128 location changed to Cunningham’s Drugs, which moved next door to 130 in a few years. In 1938, the Sally Sheer dress shop opened at 128 Michigan Avenue. Remembered by long-time city residents, both stores would remain in business until 1965 and 1960 respectively. Around 1965 the 128 location became another clothing store, the Doll House.

When Cunningham’s departed, Radio Tronics occupied the 130 spot. Between 1975 and the late 80s, the 128 location housed the Fashion Boutique, the Upstairs 'n Downstairs Boutique, the Design on You Boutique, and the Finesse Hair Design Beauty Salon. In 2001, Henrietta Fahrenheit moved in next door at 126.

Mix joins a long history of stores as varied as the merchandise it currently offers, which includes top quality vintage clothing and home goods and unique gift items.

Leslie Leland and Ed and Bonnie Penet are partners in the venture. The store’s history isn’t lost on Mrs. Penet, who points out the immense safe in the wall as her favorite historic feature.

“Some of the tin crown molding still exists,” she said in an email, adding, “[Longtime resident and community volunteer] Nat Edmunds remembers shopping here when it was the Sally Sheer Dress Shop.”

Penet acquired the space on Nov. 23 and had her shop open on Dec. 1.

“Leslie and I are treasure hunters so our stock was lined up and ready to go. I’ve been selling on the internet for quite a few years and had a nice collection I was able to move right into the store,” she said.

Treasure is the right word, both for the lovely items inside and for the rich history of the building. Visit Mix to enjoy both.

Laura Bien is the author of “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives,” to be published this winter. She also writes the historical blog "Dusty Diary" and may be contacted at ypsidixit@gmail.com.


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