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Posted on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Video: 1987 show-stopping move of 2 historic downtown Ann Arbor houses preserved for all time

By Janet Miller

One of Ann Arbor’s best-remembered events from recent history has been preserved for the ages.

Crowds of people lined Main Street, Stadium Boulevard and Washtenaw Avenue on a Sunday in June 1987 to witness the impossible: The relocation of two behemoth late 19th century Queen Anne houses from downtown Ann Arbor nearly five miles east. It became a public spectacle as the two Victorian beauties with turrets and gingerbread trim inched like mammoth turtles down cordoned off streets.


Two late 19th century Queen Anne houses were moved from downtown Ann Arbor nearly five miles east in June 1987.

Courtesy of Dr. Lev Linkner via Priceless Photo Preservation

Now, a VHS home video of the move has been digitized and made public, creating a six-minute trip down memory lane: The two houses fill the roads as crowds gather to snap pictures. There’s a humbler University of Michigan football stadium surrounded by a frayed chain link fence, gas signs that read 93-cents a gallon and the now-shuttered neighborhood gathering spot, the Food and Drug Mart.

Linker paid to have power lines moved.

Courtesy of Dr. Lev Linkner via Priceless Photo Preservation

And there is a dramatic shot of the houses moving across the Stadium bridge, taken from below, with the cameraman stationed on State Street.

“It gets me every time, watching these two mammoth houses going over the Stadium Bridge knowing now that the bridge was not safe,” said Rob Hoffman, co-owner of Priceless Photo Preservation, which archives, organizes and digitizes photos, slides and home movies. Priceless Photo recently moved to its first brick-and-mortar location inside the Goodyear Building at 122 S. Main.

When Dr. Edward “Lev” Linkner decided to rescue two historic downtown Ann Arbor houses and move them east of town, people thought he was crazy. While the two Queen Annes that sat on South Main Street for more than a century were free - they were going to be razed to make way for development - the work and cost it took to move them five miles was tremendous.

That didn’t stop the Ann Arbor physician.

He hired an architect, secured countless permits, paid to have power lines moved and trees trimmed, hired police for crowd control, purchased $1 million liability insurance from Lloyd’s of London, bought a parcel of land on Huron Parkway. On one sunny-turned stormy Sunday, Linkner watched from the seat of his bicycle as the houses moved down Main Street, east onto East Stadium Boulevard past the busy intersection of Packard and onto the new foundation at 2345 S. Huron Parkway.

While Linkner had never been inside the houses, they carried special meaning. He had lived nearby and found himself passing the houses in the wee hours of the night. “My first child was a crappy sleeper and I’d walk by those two houses and thought they were so beautiful,” Linkner said.

In 1986, when a patient who worked in one of the houses told him they were scheduled for demolition, Linkner decided to save them. “I was naïve. I didn’t know what I would do with them,” he said. “I didn’t have any land.” Fellow physician Dennis Chernin joined the effort and the two decided to move the houses and create The Parkway Center, which today hosts about 30 medical practitioners.


The two homes today serve as The Parkway Center, which hosts about 30 medical practitioners, in its location on Huron Parkway.

Melanie Maxwell |

Linkner had brought his home videos to Priceless Photo Preservation to have them digitized, Hoffman said Anything that used magnetic tape, such as camcorders, has a relatively short shelf-life, Hoffman said.

In addition to movies of his family, Linkner wanted to preserve the 30-minute movie of the house move. As a bonus, Hoffman edited a six-minute version of the move and posted it online. “It was a huge event in Ann Arbor, Hoffman said. “There was never anything like it. If you lived in Ann Arbor then, you probably remember it.”

In addition to some good luck of a smooth move, there was some magic at work. Once the houses were set on their new foundations late in the day of June 21, 1987, a rainbow appeared, Linkner said. “On the 25th anniversary of the move, a double rainbow appeared,” Linkner said. “I hadn’t seen one in 25 years. It makes you wonder.”

Janet Miller is a freelance reporter. Contact the news desk at



Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 4 p.m.

I spent so much time on this corner of Main and William as my great-grandparents, mother and grandparents were next door to one of these houses and Uncle was down the street on William. Unfortunately their two houses were torn down where the Amoco Station and where Anderson Paint was. I am so glad these two houses were saved. I do have a picture looking down William west toward First street with all of these beautiful homes and gardens. There was a Shell station across from the DTE office on the actual corner. Much slower pace. I loved being able to see Quality Bakery from the bedroom window!


Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

A repeat post since my first was deleated for some reason?? I was there when they did this, in fact I was part of the crew that first painted the houses in their new location. Couldn't find myself in the video though, too bad, would like to see the young me, no doubt riding a bike. Remember the hole that was left after the first failed attempt to build on that corner? Then they filled it with the fill from Michigan Stadium when they changed the playing surface and did other expansions to the stadium. That was back when the downtown needed a development authority.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:29 p.m.

Having watched the video (well done!) I have to ask: what would something like that cost in 1987 dollars? I only ask because it would seem 2013 dollar would probably make something like this completely unaffordable. And when I say cost I mean the entire thing, not just one portion.

Jack Gladney

Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

@lleaguebus just won a brand new 2013 Internetz. Well done. Best Comment of the Month contender.


Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 2:33 a.m.

sufficiently trolled. well done.


Tue, Apr 23, 2013 : 12:55 a.m.

VHS tapes were cheap back then. Editing would have been relatively expensive because the editing hardware was expensive. Now, all it takes is a computer with a $300 dollar piece of software to to edit. Of course the VHS tapes need to be digitized first. But once that is done, editing would go fast with the good software. Everything needed to do this is a hundred times better and about 5% of the cost in the 1980's.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

I reject the premise this was 26 years ago. Have I gotten that old?


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

Are there any "before" photos with the houses in their original spots?


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

Yes, there are. They may be in one of the books by local historians Grace Shackman and/or Susan Wineberg. You can find info on the Martin Haller and Jacob Laubengayer House at the AADL or a local book store such as Literati or Nicola's. These were prominent houses in the downtown area, as you can imagine. Also, Dr. Linkner took a few pictures before the houses were moved – but they were in "rough" condition at that point, nowhere near the beauties they were or would become.

Randy M

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

"Is there still furniture inside those things?

Josh Bloom

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

The article did not mention, the guy and company that pulled this historic feat off! Alan Bloom with Bloom General Contracting oversaw this entire move. Incredible to watch this video about it! -Joshua Bloom, Bloom General Contracting, Inc.

Randy M

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 7:30 p.m.

That's what I was going to say, Josh. Next time, leave it to the professionals to do your PR work for you.

Terry Reilly

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

Many of us also recall the hole that remained there after the houses were gone. Seem so long ago now.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:24 p.m.

That video gives a good shot of how the stadium looked back before all the current work.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Yup, I remember them uprooting them and putting them where they are now. Pretty wild to see houses moving on down the street.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

I remember this like it was yesterday. But, I also remember strolling my baby daughter down to the corner of Hoover and Main to watch so I could tell her she was there. However she was born in Aug.1988. I guess it must have been my baby niece Louise born Feb 1987??


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

Thanks for the positive feedback. We really have enjoyed both Janet's story and all the comments about power lines lifted and crackpot dentists. As the story stated, we are now at 122 South Main Street inside the Goodyear Building, where we digitize films, videos, photos, slides and so much more. If you're just interested in looking at local history, I highly recommend you become a fan of our Facebook page at, where we try to post all kinds of amazing historical finds. A few coming up include a 1965 home movie of the U-M campus and some 1953 color movies of drag racing at a local airport, possibly Willow Run.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

And as far as double rainbows go, as a serious Brazilian Bossa Nova fan, I couldn't resist posting one of my all-time favorite songs:

Melanie Maxwell

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

While I didn't grow up in Ann Arbor, I thought it was cool to see a video glimpse into the past, especially of that 1987 fashion! Man am I jealous of those $0.93 gas prices!

Linda Diane Feldt

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

After nearly a decade of procrastinating I had Priceless Photo Preservation transfer some 8 mm movies to digital format. We had a family gathering just yesterday to watch them for the first time. It was sweet, and also sad as so many people in the movies are now dead. I really appreciate having a place in town that helps with this sort of preservation of history. The prices were very reasonable, and the quality was excellent. I wish I had made the transfer earlier. Rob showed me a bit of this video when I met with him. It is a quirky bit of Ann Arbor history I well remember, I was one of the people on Main street watching. Those homes are certainly well used now!

Linda Peck

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Thanks so much for this article. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I love going into these two old buildings. Thank you to Dr Linkner for preserving them for the great benefit of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti communities.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

it is about time they start preserving history in this town instead of demolishing it!!!


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Hooray to Ed and Dr. C. for making this happen! Thank you for preserving local history.

Elijah Shalis

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

I was 7 when I watched this with my parents. Now I visit a doctor that works in one of the houses.

uh oh, bommerts

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

Did you say a double rainbow appeared?


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

Oh hey that's pretty cool, I know those houses. Always wondered where they moved from. Story time.....That's my old dentist office, Dr. Zagar. I used to love going to those big ole purple houses. Had to have 7 healthy teeth pulled in one sitting once. I know I know...sounds like a house of horrors....but it was 3 baby teeth and 4 permanents. Had to make room in my mouth or something. There's no gaps where they were, and my teeth interlock well, so he did a good job. Had the absolute BEST bedside manner I've ever experienced in a medical professional. How many dentists do you know that had a problem with making you laugh while they did their work? I always figured you naturally opened your mouth better when you smile, and he knew this. Most kids looked FORWARD to dental visits with him. I heard he moved on to a professor position out of state so I hoped that worked well for him. Unfortunately, the lady he sold his practice to turned out to be an absolute charlatan...we had to leave after she identified "stains" on my teeth as cavities and then attempted to fill them, and then tried to drill 8 teeth on my grandmother in one sitting...out of the blue. A 2nd opinion resulted in not one single cavity diagnosed between the two of us...I really hope that lady isn't in business anymore. The good thing is it directed me over to another dentist that I happened to go to school with the son of (went to school with Dr. Zagar's son too), and he's been as good as Dr. Zagar ever was.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

Thank you, Billy!


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

It's Dr. Wennersten. Had him for a while now...maybe 8-10 years. Really nice, and does good work.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

Would love to know who your new dentist is..... :-)

Linda Peck

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

BIlly, this was a great story. Liked hearing about your experiences in the old house and what happened with the dentists that were there. Thank you!


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

Guess the writer has a crystal ball. Preserved for "all time". Nonsense fluff.

Jack Gladney

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

94 cent/gal gas prices. Sure makes me pine for those good ole days with a Democrat in the White House.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

your comment gave me whiplash. wait....what?

Joe Hood

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

Reagan Democrat


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Like we had in 1987? No need to make something as fun an innocent as this house move into a political debate, dude.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

Very cool!! Thank you for posting this!!


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

Which ugly building(s) did they erect in their place? And how did the HDCs let them get away?


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

@priceless - thanks. Had I watched the video FIRST I would have known that.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

This was the eventual site of the multi-use Ashley Mews development now at William and Main.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.



Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:26 a.m.

Where can one obtain a copy of this video?


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

You would have to obtain one directly from Dr. Linkner. We do not own anything we digitize and preserve. In fact, we only post videos like this after we receive permission from our clients.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.

I was a student at EMU at the time and remember reading about this when it happened. Very cool to see it again in video.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:09 a.m.

I remember watching the houses come over the hill near Platt. Crews were raising and lowering wires so they could pass and then other crews put the wires back afterwards. That was a very memorable day!


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 11:02 a.m.

Thanks for the article. I enjoy seeing these houses each time I pass by on Huron Parkway!

Tex Treeder

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

I always wondered where those house came from. What a cool thing to do.

Paula Gardner

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Same here! I barely paid attention to the move when it happened, but now always think about it when I pass the purple houses.

Leah Gunn

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 10:44 a.m.

WOW! We live on East Stadium, and the houses went right by our house. It was a spectacular event, and I am pleased to see that the video will be preserved for all time. It was a most memorable event. Thanks for showing this.


Mon, Apr 22, 2013 : 10:14 a.m.

I was 12 when I watched the houses move down the road. We had gone to DQ and waited at the Stadium/Packard intersection.