Today Nickels Arcade, the indoor glass-roofed shopping center between State Street and Maynard Street, stands out as an anomaly in State Street’s sea of sandwich shops.

The 261-foot-long mosaic-tiled corridor, which houses some of Ann Arbor’s more upscale shops, was originally intended to introduce a bit of luxury to the city’s shopping scene.

Today, the high-end men’s clothing store Van Bovens and the specialized gift shop The Caravan give a sense of Nickels Arcade when it first opened in 1918. Established in 1921 and 1927, respectively, these two stores are a reminder of the time when shopping on State Street took a luxurious turn.

It was Tom E. Nickels, an Ann Arbor businessman, who ordered the construction of this steel-and-brick shopping center. Nickels was the son of John H. Nickels, who owned a meat market on State Street. When he inherited the land from his father, Tom decided to demolish the whole building and instead give Ann Arborites a fancier downtown shopping experience. Et voilà, construction for Nickels Arcade began in 1915.

The total cost of Nickels Arcade amounted to roughly $150,000, or approximately $2,000,000 in today’s dollars.

The Arcade is seen as being representative of commercial developments made on State Street in the early 1900s.

The architect Hermann Pipp, who also designed the Barton Hills Country Club and the Marchese Building in Ann Arbor, created blueprints for the Arcade. The type of indoor gallery that inspired Nickels Arcade was fairly common in Europe but less so in the United States.

As a keen observer might note, the facades on State Street and Maynard Street are in the same Beaux-Arts style, but were made from different materials. Whereas the State Street entrance is made from terra cotta, the Maynard Street facade is mainly of yellow brick with terra-cotta decorations.

Today, Nickels Arcade is host to a number of specialty shops. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and went through a renovation the same year. The renovation included resetting mosaic tiles and repointing the terra cotta interior and exterior, according to Ann Arbor District Library archives.

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