Many of the well-known buildings that lined Ann Arbor’s streets in the 19th century are no longer standing. Soon, however, Concordia University Ann Arbor will resurrect the city scene of the past.
Beginning on Oct. 23, the university will display 33 paintings created by American artist Daniel K. Gregory, each one a depiction of an iconic home, school structure, city scape, or commercial building that once defined Michigan’s sixth largest city.
From Oct. 23-28, the paintings will be showcased in Concordia’s Kreft Center Gallery, located at 4090 Geddes Road, as part of the “Ann Arbor Historical Landmarks by Daniel K. Gregory/James Irwin Collection”. An opening reception and gallery talk will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26. Following the completion of building renovations for Concordia’s new physician’s assistant program, the collection will be permanently installed at CUAA’s North Building, 3475 Plymouth Road.
Up until now, the paintings have not been accessible to the public. Jim Irwin, a longtime Ann Arbor resident, Ann Arbor Rotary Club member, and owner of Wolverine Technical Staffing, commissioned the collection, which took Gregory from 2000 to 2004 working full time to complete.
Gregory relied upon primary and secondary research collected over the span of seven years by Irwin himself to inform the work. The research included interviews with descendants of some of the original homeowners, as well as images archived at the public library to help Gregory capture the likeness of the structures.
“Those buildings were hand-picked,” said Irwin. “Each one tells its own unique story and the collection as a whole tells an aggregate story.”
The stories include that of Ann Arbor’s original post office, located near the Washtenaw County offices and the courthouse, which served as a reprieve from the cold and an informal gathering place for neighbors and friends; the home and work space of Ann Arbor’s piano and organ maker, David Almendinger, who, by 1915, was forced out of business by large mail-order firms like Sears and Roebuck; and the printing company of Dr. Alvin Wood Chase, whose book, “Dr. Chase’s Recipes: or Information for Everybody,” was at one time the second best-selling book in America, next to the Bible.
For years, Irwin hung the private collection in his 19th-century office building located on Research Drive, which he recently sold to a group of investors. With his “gallery space” no longer in his ownership, Irwin decided to gift the collection to Concordia.
Irwin said he chose CUAA as a recipient—even though there was plenty of interest from other area universities—because he believes in Concordia’s mission of preparing students in “mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and world.” His hope is that the collection, rich with Ann Arbor history, will further solidify the Lutheran campus as an integral part of the Ann Arbor community.
“I think the mission of Concordia is as good as it comes within higher education,” Irwin said. “If you want to get your heart warm, just walk through campus and talk to a Concordian. All of a sudden, you start to realize that the world’s a pretty good place.”
Learn more about upcoming gallery exhibits here.
— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-2149.
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