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Posted on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Brick house on Division Street demolished as U-M moves forward with ISR building expansion

By Ryan J. Stanton


Mary Ellen Paulson was among a handful of onlookers who used their cellphone cameras on Monday to capture the moment as a house at 417 S. Division St. was demolished.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Mary Ellen Paulson was among a handful of onlookers who used their cellphone cameras on Monday to capture the moment as a house at 417 S. Division St. was demolished.

The brick house — just south of downtown Ann Arbor — stood in the way of the University of Michigan's $29 million expansion of the Institute for Social Research building.

"It's kind of cool to watch," Paulson said as the house crumbled to the ground. She works in the ISR building as facilities and special projects coordinator and is excited about the expansion.


The brick house — just south of downtown Ann Arbor — stood in the way of the University of Michigan's $29 million expansion of the Institute for Social Research building.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"I don't think it's a sad day for this house," she added. "You could see in the inside of it as they were taking it down. It was not well kept inside."

U-M's Board of Regents approved the $698,364 purchase of the rental house, which dates back to the 1890s and sits on a 0.09-acre parcel just north of the ISR building, in July 2011.

Tenants were supposed to have moved out last summer.

With no one stepping forward to purchase and relocate the house, U-M officials decided to go forward with its demolition as planned as part of the ISR building expansion.

While there appeared to be no one mourning the loss of the house on Monday, there's sure to be a fight to save another house that stands immediately south of the ISR building.

The 3,210-square-foot wooden house at 439 S. Division St. is where famous playwright Arthur Miller first lived when he attended the University of Michigan in the 1930s.

Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, penned more than two dozen plays during his career, including "Death of a Salesman." He married Marilyn Monroe in 1956.

Miller died in February 2005 at the age of 89. The 280-seat Arthur Miller Theatre on U-M's North Campus remains named in his honor.

Jim Kosteva, U-M's director of community relations, said last month the Arthur Miller house — which some residents have expressed an interest in saving — likely will be offered up for public bidding, with the stipulation that it must be moved to a new site, following completion of the ISR expansion.


The house at 417 S. Division as it looked last month before being demolished.

Ryan J. Stanton |

He said the university's common practice is to go through an open bid process and publish a notice to let people know that the home is available to be purchased and moved.

If it's determined there no longer is an institutional or mission-related use for the home, and no one buys it, the house could be demolished. But as of now, no decisions have been made, Kosteva said.

"The university has no intention of demolishing the house and has made no decision on its future use or potential offer for sale," he said. "Any decisions are many months away."

The Arthur Miller house is being used as a construction management office during the course of the ISR expansion project, which is expected to last through January 2014.

U-M began work last month on the 56,700-square-foot addition, which expands the ISR building's footprint closer to Division Street, replacing a pocket park on the northwest corner of the site. The addition doesn't expand the building's footprint south to where the Arthur Miller house stands.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

What the U wants the U gets

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

While I value historic houses very much, perhaps the bigger story here is the senseless loss of decent housing, close to campus, where students, staff or faculty could have continued living and walking to class or work. If you look at the site plans and renderings, the ISR addition is shown with the three houses remaining in place. They did not interfere with the footprint of the new construction at all. No, this is all about creating some room for the contractor and but more importantly, to add surface parking lots later. I don't recall the exact figures, but I believe more than $2,000,000 was spent just to acquire these houses and tear them down. Remember this the next time you hear UM administrators patting themselves on the back for their sustainability efforts.

Seasoned Cit

Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

So far the comments show how little some understand the article. The house being demolished was NOT the one that Miller lived in !! Reread the story before crying over a lost house. Re: the house that Miller stayed in: Why should it be saved? Will there be annual pilgramages to visit, or could it be set up so that aspiring authors could rent the room where he lived and come and try and connect with Miller? Shouldn't we find out where other famous students lived and make sure they are preserved?


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

Another one bites the dust. Ann Arbor is so full of progress it does not see the good thru the history. So glad the person who loved that house is no longer here to see its demise.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

I'm sure they'll put in a plaque saying "Former site of Arthur Miller's house..." or similar. History won't be lost, just... changed a bit.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

I have seen some cities do that. At least some history isn't lost to time.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

U of M alumni can pony up $4million to send the Band to Dallas for a Football game but nobody will come up with the money for this house? What do they learn at U of M?


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

Tax free property my dear. Tax free property.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

"...Tenants were supposed to have moved out last summer..." Hopefully they aren't stuck under the rubble in the basement.

Dog Guy

Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

More than a 56,700-square-foot addition is needed for the U of M Department of Counting Stuff to plan heaven on earth. Perhaps the house where famous playwright Arthur Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, slept and used the bathroom could be spared and the tin shed at 301 East Huron Street be bought and torn down instead. The substitution would cost the city no lost taxes.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

..nice...progress.... I hope the spirits of man who build this town will course developers.

Sarah MacDonald

Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

I literally am in tears over this! I cannot believe we are demolishing such history:'( What is wrong with this town???? Do I need to start a petition to save the other house?


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

It was offered for sale to save.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

Please explain to me why demolishing an old house filled with students is bad enough for tears. If the only value it has is "It's old", that's not reason to keep it. Mind you, I hate all the big high-rise franchise-heavy development of the last decade, but let's keep the tears for something actually worth crying for.

Haran Rashes

Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

I just looked it up on, the University's acquisition (and demolition) 417 S. Division costs Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, A2 Schools, the Library, and WCC over $15,000 per year in taxes; the acquisition of the Arthur Miller house was only $7,000 a year.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

Good research and probably accurate from that viewpoint. It's hard to determine how much the activity of the UM in that space aids the county, schools and everyone else around here. It could come from studies the ISR is involved with or from salaries of the people working there or the off and on increases in jobs related to ISR. It seems like difficult math, but it's an easy win in my eyes because I compare Ann Arbor to my hometown Flint, the difference is the U of M. I thank them.