Broadway Park: Renewing Ann Arbor's Public Riverfront
[] Timeline: Eras of Change1826-18701860-19101900-19401940-today

Crossing Between Two Parts of Town

The Broadway Park vicinity began as a nexus of travel and trade. The land originated as a trading post on the road to Detroit for the Potowatomi and Huron tribes. Its strategic location soon became a central railroad stop between the eastern United States and the burgeoning west and in this role, remained active with people, ideas and commerce.

An early crucial development was the connection established by a wooden bridge built across the Huron River in 1828. Known as the Detroit Street Bridge, it provided an over water route north from Ann Arbor into the community called Lower Town.


River industry and the workers living in Lower Town found dry access to markets and recreation in the Ann Arbor commercial district uphill, and residents of the Old Fourth Ward could make an easy trip to work along the river. The bridge was later renamed Broadway Bridge, as it led to Broadway, Lower Town's main road.

In 1830, one of the developers of Lower Town, Anson Brown bought a piece of land and built a general store, which still stands today.

Brown had great hopes for Lower Town. He laid out streets and named them after those in New York City, such as Broadway, Maiden Lane, Wall Street, and Canal Street.

He envisioned Lower Town becoming the main commercial district of Ann Arbor, yet he knew that he had to compete with the settlement that John Allen and Elisha Rumsey had been developing uphill from the river since 1824. But Brown died suddenly in 1834, and without his leadership, Lower Town could not compete. Three years later, in 1837, Allen and Rumsey enticed the state university, which was looking for a home, to locate in Ann Arbor by offering a large amount of their land. The university was built on the hill, forever solidifying the uphill settlement as the center of Ann Arbor.

Arts of Citizenship - University of Michigan
Arts of Citizenship - University of Michigan