Ypsilanti’s Historic Four-Named Street

April 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Columnists

The 1895 plat map shows "Race or Pierce" Street, the waterworks, and the old mill-race that used to extend across Waterworks Park.

The 1895 plat map shows "Race or Pierce" Street, the waterworks, and the old mill-race that used to extend across Waterworks Park.

South of downtown lies a street whose tiny length of 1.57 miles bears no fewer than four names: Harriet, Spring, Factory, and Maus.

Beginning at First Street, Harriet travels east, intersecting with Hamilton. At Huron, the name Harriet changes to Spring. At the Catherine intersection, Spring changes to Factory. As the road passes Prospect, the name changes to Maus.

The combination of peoples’ names, industries, geographical features, and the passage of time have resulted in this street so weirdly tetranomial.

A midcentury study of Ypsilanti street names written by one Mrs. Teaboldt and a peek at old plat maps explains the concatenation of names.

The story begins with intersecting Catherine Street, which also bore multiple names throughout its history—though only a mere three. Catherine appears on an 1856 plat map of the city. It does not, as today, curve 90 degrees and end on Factory—Factory street did not yet exist. Instead, it takes a 45 degree angle southeast and ends at a woolen mill on the riverbank. The site is today the southernmost tip of Waterworks Park.

On the 1856 map, the Waterworks Park acreage is labeled as owned by H. W. Larzalere, This was Harriet Larzalere, the widow of John Y. Larzalere. Harriet is likely the person for whom Harriet Street is named.

Harriet’s mother, Catherine Tice Larzalere, was the woman for whom Catherine Street was named. Catherine, in turn, was the daughter of Judge Jacob J Larzalere, who moved to Ypsilanti from Seneca, New York, and bought the land in this section of the city then owned by Detroit judge Augustus B. Woodward. “Catherine” and “Harriet” are the oldest of the two streets’ seven names.

“Judge Woodward’s purchase of six hundred and twelve acres lay mostly south of the Chicago Road [Michigan Avenue],” says Harvey Colburn’s “The Story of Ypsilanti,” “and west of the river. He seems to have disposed of it in parcels, Judge Larzelere being one of the purchasers.” Woodward had purchased the land from Godfroy and LaChambre, “the old French claims” at the very beginning of Ypsi history. Though he never lived in Ypsilanti, Woodward gave it its name.

Independence Island, a remnant of which survives today in the river forming the northern boundary of Waterworks Park, appears much larger on the ’56 map. In 1873, it was large enough to host a 4th of July celebration with speeches and festivities.

Factory Street was originally named Hunter, the name of the man who in 1844 platted two additions to the city. One extended between Cross Street and the present-day Water Street parcel, on the east side of the river. The other, south of the first addition, encompassed Factory Street.

In 1862, city council changed the name from Hunter to Factory, perhaps in homage to Cornelius Cornwell, who in 1856 built a paper mill next to the river just south of Factory. On an 1864 plat map, Factory street appears. From Grove, it travels west, bridges the paper mill’s mill-race, bridges the river, and connects with the angled portion of Catherine. This angled portion is, on the 1864 map, now named Race Street for the large mill-race that ran along it (now the west boundary of Waterworks Park).

The 1874 plat map shows Harriet extending from First Street all the way to Race. Here appear the same two bridges, over the river and over the mill-race for Cornwell’s paper mill. Factory Street extends west from Grove and appears to dead-end in a pond just east of the paper mill. The mill-race next to Race Street appears to have been drained and blocked up. It is labeled “Old Race.” The Waterworks property is still labeled “Mrs. H. W. Larzelere.”
Maus was named in 1892 for Lewis J. Maus, who purchased land in this area and sold off lots, says Mrs. Teaboldt.

On the 1895 map (pictured), the Race portion of today’s Catherine is labeled “Race or Pierce St.” No landowners adjacent to the street appear to have the name Pierce. It may have been named in honor of John D. Pierce, the first superintendent of public education in Michigan. Affectionately called “Father Pierce,” he lived in Ypsilanti for thirty years and died in 1882.

Race or Pierce converges with Harriet at the same double-bridges, and on the 1895 map connect once again to Factory Street. The paper mill building is now labeled “Water Works and Electric Light.” Samuel Barnard owns the Waterworks Park property. Barnard ran a dairy, and it’s possible he pastured his cows on the present-day Waterworks Park site.

On the 1915 map, the same configuration of streets appears. Race Street is once again called Race Street, not “Race or Pierce.” The mill-race along its length has been reopened. The owner of the northern 4/5 of Waterworks Park is now Elmer Brown, who ran a creamery and dealt in lumber. Elmer had a herd of 18 cows that generated 225 pounds of milk a day, says one old agricultural report. Brown also owned a large tract of land just south of Harriet St.

A 1912 inspection by state officials said the condition of his cows was good. They were fed on a diet of feed, hay, ensilage, and beanstalks. His stables looked good, said the inspectors, and his cow-yard was clean and dry. His cows drank from a spring on the property.
Spring Street was named, says Teaboldt, for the multiple springs in its area, though she doesn’t say who named it. As it does not appear on the 1915 map, it is the youngest name of all.

One of these historic names was almost lost in 1989 when real estate developer Robert Allison petitioned City Council to change “Factory Street” to “Spring Street,” according to a July 10, 1989 Ypsilanti Press article. The developer of the Riverside Manor complex, Allison thought “Spring” sounded better.

The move was protested by Jearald Dudley, owner of a collision service on Factory Street. “To Jearald Dudley,” said the article, “the name Factory Street is a symbol of Ypsilanti. Beside, it would cost him money to change his stationery and business cards if the street’s name were changed.”

“‘I would like it to see it stay Factory Street,’ said Dudley,” as quoted in he article. “‘I’ve heard about the investment he’s made. I’ve heard about the investment the state’s made. How about the investment Jearald Dudley’s made?’”

Thankfully, City Council showed good old-fashioned Ypsilanti common sense and refused to allow this historic name to be discarded. As it was in the days of the paper mill, Factory still forms part of the name of our city’s historic four-named street.

Laura Bien is a local history writer. On Saturday April 24 from 1-3 she will be giving a free talk about her new book, “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives,” at the Historical Museum.
Have an old-time Ypsi story to share? She can be reached at [email protected]


One Comment on "Ypsilanti’s Historic Four-Named Street"

  1. lenadams on Thu, 29th Jul 2010 1:58 pm 

    Does anyone here know how the street connecting Catherine and Harriet/Spring called “Chidester Street” got its name?

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.