Ann Arbor celebrated its 150th anniversary of incorporation as a city with a ceremony at noon on October 19, 2001 to cut a ribbon wrapped around the Guy C. Larcom Jr. Municipal Building.

Paul Wong

The ceremony featured the unveiling of a new Downtown Historical Street Exhibit, “The Growth of City Services,” 500 cupcakes for participants and the chance to contribute to a time capsule that will be opened on the city’s 200th anniversary in 2051.

Planners hoped the event would involve more than 800 participants, which would break the Guinness World Record for participants at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Prior to 1851, Ann Arbor was just a town. There was no municipal system, sidewalks, firehouses, or police,” event coordinator Nancy Stone said. “We are celebrating what it means to become a city.”

The new section of the street exhibit will profile the history of Ann Arbor’s municipal services, Stone said.

The exhibit is one in a series of transparent frames placed throughout downtown. Future additions to the exhibit will include information about the history of the University.

The University, which began classes in Ann Arbor in 1841, has played an increasingly important role in the development of the city.

“As the largest property owner in Ann Arbor, the University contributes largely to the economic well-being of the city,” said street exhibit program coordinator Ray Detter, the chairman of Ann Arbor’s Citizens Advisory Council.

“The University was formed in the 1840s, and back then students were housed in the University buildings around the Diag until (Henry) Tappan became president and forced them out,” Detter said.

“Every student lived off-campus back then,” he said. “Until the late 19th century, the University was on the outskirts of town, and the area between Main Street and State Street was residential property. Students had to go to Main Street to get their mail and go to the bookstores,” Detter said.

In the late 1800s and into the 1900s, there was conflict between the University and the city, evidenced by riots and student demonstrations, Detter said.

Detter said an emphasis on sports was always a part of University life, beginning with the first athletic contest in the 1840s, a cricket match on State Street.

“Cultural events have always been very significant in their contribution to bringing town and gown together,” Detter said.

Concerts and lectures from famous speakers such as writer Ralph Waldo Emerson and former U.S. President John F. Kennedy held at Union High School, Hill Auditorium, University Hall and the Michigan Union were attended by a large number of both city residents and the University community.

“We hope to see students take part in the birthday celebration because they really are an important part of our city’s heritage,” Stone said.

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