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Posted on Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor's Carpenter Elementary School celebrates 175th anniversary

By Erica Hobbs

Editor's note: The name of the director for the Pittsfield Department of Public Safety has been corrected.

It was a high-energy afternoon Friday during the 175th Anniversary Celebration of Ann Arbor’s Carpenter Elementary School.

Amidst sunny skies and mild temperatures, students, teachers, parents and community members gathered at the school at 4250 Central Blvd., in Pittsfield Township, for a short program to recognize one of the oldest schools in Michigan. The program included a parade around the school with the Huron High School drumline as well as a presentation of music and history inside the school’s multi-purpose room.

“This is a joyous celebration of a heritage that has created the kind of young people and sense of community that Carpenter represents today and in the future,” said Dr. Patricia Green, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools. “It’s a wonderful occasion.”

Green was one of four dignitaries to make remarks at the event, the others included Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, Pittsfield Township Deputy Supervisor Trish Reilly and Matthew Harshberger, director of the Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety, who each thanked members of the school and community for their partnership in supporting Carpenter Elementary School.

“It’s a great overall community,” Hieftje said. “Schools do well when the community cares, and the people of Ann Arbor and Pittsfield care about their schools.”


Carpenter Elementary school students perform a song during a 175th birthday celebration on Friday, April 26, 2013.

Melanie Maxwell I

In addition to student musical performances and speeches, the program included a video presentation on the school’s history created by teacher Bethany Tabaka and local historians Edward and Mary Ellen Wall. The Walls have been working on a book about the history of Pittsfield Township and said there were three chapters dedicated to Carpenter Elementary School alone.

Edward Wall said the program was a celebration of the 175th anniversary of the school’s name, but the school actually is 188 years old considering the years before it was named Carpenter Elementary School — making it one of the oldest schools in the state.

“[For nearly 200 years this school] has provided continuous service, uninterrupted service to the same level of students K-6, K-8 in the same geographic are,” he said. “It is a remarkable accomplishment.”

Though the name has lasted nearly 200 years, the buildings that have housed the school haven’t. Carpenter Elementary School originally opened in 1825 as a one-room log cabin on the corner of Carpenter and Packard streets, though it wasn’t named Carpenter Elementary School until 1837. In 1854, the school moved to the west side of Carpenter Road and eventually was destroyed by fire.

The school moved to its third location at 3360 Carpenter Road in 1914, and became the first building to have electricity. The school moved to its present location on the southeast corner of Central and Dayton in 1952 and has grown to include a population of nearly 400 students.

Parents attending the event said they were excited to be part of the celebration.

Michael Johnson has one son and two nieces at Carpenter and also is principal of Ann Arbor’s Lakewood Elementary School. He said the celebration was a great day for the kids and the community.

“175 years is unprecedented,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see how the school started from a one-room schoolhouse and now has grown to the size of almost 400 kids — this is phenomenal.”

Parent Vicky Cotitsas has two kids in the school and said the event was monumental.

“It’s history to be a part of that community and to be a part of this school,” she said. “I think it was important, I think they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives.”



Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 5:42 p.m.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!175Years is a long time.

Momma G

Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

I'd like to know why former students (class of 1965) whose Kindergarten class was the first in the present building weren't invited!


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

The reason being is they would have to do a class check to see who is still in the area and then go from there. I hate to say it, this is like getting a class reunion together on short notice. It would be nice and they probably tried, but 50 years is a long time and most records are shredded by now. I know my K school has been closed for over 30 years and I think they tore it down.


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

You can always throw your own party, or better yet, get your classmates together and do some type of beautification project for the school


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 2:59 a.m.

If the school was first named Carpenter in 1837, shouldn't the 175th party been held last year?


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

I am getting around 188 if the school started around 1825 or so. So yes, I agree, they are way off the mark for celebrating this anniversary.

Wystan Stevens

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

I believe Packard Road got its name from Dr. Benjamin Packard, an early settler, who had a farm out that way. The Packard car was not invented until the early 20th century, and it had no connection with this area. Burns Park School's building was erected in 1925, but it was then called Tappan Junior High School. (Later it became an elementary school as well.) In 1952, when the present Tappan school was built, the old building became an elementary school exclusively, with a new name: Burns Park. (I happened to be both a Tappan Elementary and a Burns Park pupil that year.) Ann Arbor founders were not naming streets as far as Stadium and State Street in 1824: the village was not nearly that big back then. State Street wasn't named until 1836, Stadium in 1927. Carpenter Road started out as a section line, platted during the first surveys of Washtenaw County. It took its name from Horace Carpenter, one of Pittsfield Township's first settlers; his settlement was known as Carpenter's Corners. When Michigan became a state in 1836/37, it was decided that at a future date the capital would be moved from Detroit to a more central location (which turned out to be Lansing). This decision had nothing to do with the Detroit River. Anyone wishing to know more about Horace Carpenter, Pittsfield Township settlement, Ann Arbor history, or Washtenaw County in general, will find great enjoyment in perusing the 19th and 20th century county histories, which are now conveniently available at your fingertips, on the Ann Arbor Library's MAKING OF ANN ARBOR website -- every page clearly scanned and word searchable! I took a photo of the old Carpenter School building shortly before it was demolished. It was then occupied by Ozzie's Furniture, and piled high inside with outdated and overstuffed pieces. Photos of Ozzie's also exist in the Ann Arbor News photo files, which are now in custody of the Ann Arbor District Library. The Ozzie's photos have not yet been scanned online.

Paula Gardner

Wed, May 1, 2013 : 1:30 a.m.

I remember Ozzie's - never knew it was a school. Thanks for sharing all of these details.


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

Actually the reason I heard and did find an old book on this at the grad library was that they were concerned that the if they built the state capital in Detroit the British would try to capture it. This is why they were looking at several locations. Ann Arbor was the most sound in the 1830's because Ann Arbor was just budding. Lansing was also on the bid as well as others. But Lansing won because it was the furthest out and there was no way the British could try to get their hands on it. Also, remember this, we were in a land despute on the Toledo border/Ohio area. We lost that one. But won out on the UP. UM came to Ann Arbor as a consolation prize. This is when we named that street State Street. IMO? I think we should have had the capital.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

Thank you for the link to the searchable Making of Ann Arbor website. What a wonderful resource for students, genealogists, and historians!


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

If anyone wants to see the very first public school in Michigan, founded 1828 it isn't too far fron here. I'm proud to say it was on my ancestor's land.

Ann English

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

Makes sense for it to be in a county on the eastern border of Michigan, accessible by boat. Naming the county after a Virginia governor, our fifth President, 3 years after he finished his second term. James Monroe had three years left to live after Bridge School was founded. It would be another 6 years after his death before Michigan became a state.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.

Congrats to Carpenter! Also, nice to see some positive press about this great school.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

CONGRATULATIONS: I had visited Carpenter Elementary School on numerous occasions in the past and have never realized that the building at this present location dates back to 1952. Nice story and nice photos.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

I always thought Burns Park was the oldest school. Interesting that this one is the oldest because in 1824 Rumsey and Allen were naming streets from Main on down to Stadium and to State street. Which by the way, State Street was so named because we were suppose to get the capital that was moving from Detroit to another location because of the Detroit River. Stadium was so named for the football stadium. So, Carpenter road is that old? Interesting. Wonder if was under another assumed name. As for Packard? Must have been something else because I was told i t was named from a car.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

Gosh wouldn't it have been cool if we had picture of some of the old buildings?


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

Carpenter was very new when my mother taught there in the early 50's. Jimmy Osterberg was in the class next door to me. We still see each other every few decades. Says he owes my mom a show, too late now, she checked out in '95.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

That would be Coachville, but I thought he lived in one of the trailer parks in the Holmes Road-ish area in Ypsi...


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Iggy went to carpenter? I heard he lived in the trailer park near Meijers.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

My alma mater.. class of 73?


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

Congratulation Carpenter Elementary! Thanks to all the great teachers and staff who provided my two former Carpenter students with a great elementary school education! Go Cougars!

Hugh Giariola

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

That's impressive. It would be great to see if any old photos exist of any of the former Carpenter Elementary School locations.


Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.

What a nice story and a little history lesson to boot! Congratulations!

J. Sorensen

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 : 10:17 a.m.

My mom taught 2nd grade here late 70's early 80's until her retirement. I have photo albums of her classes. If you had Mrs. Sorensen as your teacher I may have pictures for you!