Old West Side home tour in Ann Arbor

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

The 43rd annual Old West Side Homes Tour in Ann Arbor kicks off at noon Sunday, with seven properties on view throughout the city’s oldest neighborhood.

Mostly built between 1875 and 1925, the Old West Side — just west of Main Street — is a pleasingly leafy district that could have been the backdrop for “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Our Town.”

While there are some large, grand homes here, they’re a distinct minority. Mostly this is a surprisingly handsome neighborhood of modest houses.

This year’s tour hits several homes ranging from Federal Revival brick to gabled clapboards, a couple condominiums and an 1870 Second Empire brick house that’s been lavishly renovated into high-tech offices (the one-time Moveable Feast restaurant, for those who know old Ann Arbor).

And in a fun departure from many home tours, two modern condominiums are on the list — one in a striking complex of new(ish) rowhouses, perched on a steep hill off Main Street.

Many of the properties have undergone extensive renovations. Tour chairwoman Susan Kaufmann notes that a modest mid-century modern house on Hutchins Street has been retrofitted with lots of cool built-ins to maximize space and efficiency.

“The owners used a lot of the principles from the ‘Not So Big House’ series of books (by architect Sarah Susanka),” she says. “They took really seriously the idea that bigger isn’t always better.”

For those who like husbanding the good earth, the house on First Street is said to have a particularly striking garden.

A few tour rules: No children younger than 12, no photography and no backpacks. And be prepared to take your shoes off at each location.

The tour runs from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets — at $12 for people 12 and older, $8 for seniors 65 and older —and and maps will be available at the Ann Arbor Community of Christ Church on Jefferson Street. Proceeds will fund a local children’s festival and a concert at a senior-citizen facility.

With good weather, the tour usually attracts 350-400 visitors, Kaufmann says.

“Part of the appeal is walking the neighborhood on a crisp fall day,” says Kaufmann. As an extra incentive, she adds, “We have cider and donuts, too!”


Ann Arbor Old West Side Homes Tour

Noon - 5 p.m. Sunday

Community of Christ Church, 520 W. Jefferson, Ann Arbor for tickets & maps

$12 adults (12 and up), $8 for seniors 65 and older

oldwestside.org or facebook.com/oldwestside