Settlement (1802-1845)

1802: Addison Joseph Comstock, son of Darius Comstock, is born in Palmyra, Niagara County, New York.

Lewis Cass, photograph by Mathew Brady, c. 1860 (Library of Congress). Cass was the Territorial Governor of the Michigan Territories from 1813 to 1831 who created Lenawee County in 1822, naming it after a Shawnee word meaning “the People.” He then divided the county into two townships, which he named after well-known native Americans: Tecumseh and Logan.

1805: Michigan Territory is established by an act of the United States Congress on January 11, 1805, effective June 30 of that year.

1820: Darius Comstock moves his family to Lockport, New York, and becomes a contractor on the Erie Canal.

1821: The Greek War for Independence begins, creating a “Greek Fever” in America.

1822: Lenawee County is laid out and attached to Monroe, Michigan. It is named by Lewis Cass, territorial governor, for a Shawnee word meaning “the People.”

1825: On September 7, Addison J. Comstock purchases four hundred and eighty acres of land, on which the city of Adrian now stands, and returns to New York. The Erie Canal opens. One of the first Greek Revival homes is built in Northampton, Massachusetts.

1826: Addison J. Comstock marries Miss Sarah Swift Deane on February 14, and returns to Lenawee County to erect two log houses: one for himself and one for his hired man, Mr. Gifford, whose wife was the first female resident of the village that later will be named "Adrian." Comstock and Gifford then build a saw-mill. On December 20, Lenawee County is officially detached from Monroe and divided into two townships, Tecumseh in the north and Logan in the south, and given a civil jurisdiction. Joseph W. Brown is appointed Chief Justice. On December 26, Adeline and Elias Dennis purchase 80 acres of land south of Addison Comstock's land, the area known today as the Dennis Street/State Street Historic District.

1827: The following persons are elected for Township officers of Logan on May 28: Elias Dennis, Moderator; Addison J. Comstock, Town Clerk; Darius Comstock, Supervisor; Noah Norton, Warner Elsworth, and Cornelius A. Stout, Commissioners of Highways; Patrick Hamilton and Abram West, Overseers of the Poor. On August 9, 1827, the first child born in the village is Leander Comstock, son of Addison and Sarah Comstock. Two months later he is dead. In October, James Whitney purchases four hundred acres of land west of the river from Comstock's property. Later, his sons Abel and William Whitney will develop the land.

1828: On March 31, Comstock records the original plat of the village of “Adrian,” containing forty-nine village lots, commencing near the river and running east 34 lots. As later told by Sarah Comstock's son Charles, the village was named by her for the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who was, like her husband Addison a builder.  Brick is manufactured in Adrian for the first time, by Noah Norton. Adeline Dennis dies.

1829: Comstock's father-in-law, Isaac Deane, builds the “Red Mill.” Prior to this, settlers had to go to Tecumseh, Saline, or Monroe to get their grain ground. Deane also builds the Exchange Hotel, which opens with great celebration on July 4. A post-office is established this year, with Addison Comstock as postmaster. Hillsdale County is laid out and attached to Lenawee. The Greek War for Independence comes to an end.

1830: The population of the State of Michigan is less than 30,000, with Lenawee County counting 1,491. 500 people live in Logan Township. Asher Benjamin helps to popularize the Greek Revival-style when he publishes the first edition of his carpenter's guide. The Methodists form the first religious body in Adrian, followed by the Baptists in 1831.

1831: Stetson Turner opens Adrian's second hotel, the St. Charles House (later called the Gibson) on West Maumee Street, where the Armory now stands. In June, Adrian Quakers hold their first meeting in the Raisin Township home of Darius Comstock.

1832: The Presbyterian Society, which is the third religious body organized in Adrian, builds the first church (purchased by the Episcopalians in 1841, now lost), on Church Street. Charles McKenzie arrives in the city and begins making brick from clay on the west side of the River Raisin.




Early Rail Village (1833-1852)

Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad Bank note featuring a portrait of the founder of the city of Adrian, Addison Joseph Comstock.

1833: Addison Comstock initiates an act to construct a railroad from Toledo to Lake Michigan through Adrian, the first railroad in the Old Northwest Territory. When Michigan applies for statehood, the dispute over the Toledo strip surfaces. Minard Lafever publishes the first edition of his popular Greek Revival carpenter's guide. Augustine Taylor invented, perhaps, the balloon-frame method of construction for a church near Chicago this year. This building method would become widely used after the middle of the century, when industrialization would reduce the cost of wire nails.

1834: R. W. Ingalls begins publishing the Lenawee Republican and Adrian Gazette (after 1835 known as the Watchtower, an organ of the Democratic Party) and a few days later Beriah Brown begins publishing the Tecumseh Democrat. Lenawee County has a population of 7,911, more than a five-fold increase in just four years.

1835: Addison J. Comstock appeals to the legislature to move the County seat from Tecumseh to Adrian, its geographic center. Hillsdale County is detached from Lenawee. In April, the Toledo War is fought between Ohio and Michigan, with residents of Adrian taking part.

1836: The First Baptist Church is built in the Federalist style on Broad Street (where the current Colonial Revival-style church now stands). The Toledo War is settled by Congress when, as a condition for Michigan statehood, Michigan must give up its claim to the Toledo Strip. As compensation for its loss of of the strip, Congress awards Michigan the central and western part of the Upper Peninsula. On March 28, the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Michigan approve an act incorporating the Village of Adrian. On November 10, the “Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad,” powered by horses, connects Adrian to Toledo (then called Lawrence), causing the village to grow rapidly. The depot's location, where the Lenawee County Courthouse stands today, encourages the village to expand eastward along the track (now East Maple Avenue) and between the track and Maumee Street.

1837: January 26, Michigan is admitted to the Union. Lenawee County has a population of 14,878, nearly a ten-fold increase in less than seven years. Tecumseh has the fourth largest population in the state; Adrian has the sixth largest population in the state. The carpenter Daniel Hicks arrives in Adrian and begins to build in the fashionable Greek Revival Style; he brings with him his twelve year-old nephew Charles Miller Croswell, who will become Governor of Michigan in 1876.

Greek Revival style Governor Croswell House, 228 North Broad Street, c. 1842, built by Croswell's uncle, Daniel Hicks

1838: A spur is built connecting Tecumseh to the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad. The legislature renames Logan Township Adrian on March 6. Adrian becomes the county seat. Adrian lawyer William Greenly, a Democrat, is elected State Senator.

1839: Adrian's first County Courthouse is built in Adrian at the southwest corner of Front and Locust streets, where the Crane House now stands.

1840: The population of Lenawee is 17,889, fourth largest in the state behind Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland. Adrian is served by two railroads when the Michigan Southern Railroad, based in Monroe, connects Monroe to Adrian with a depot constructed where Monument Square is today, in Adrian's "Eastern Addition." The depot is surrounded by land owned by a Monroe land company, which has ties to State Railroad Commissioner Levi Humphrey. Much of the city's growth in the next decade will occur in this region, southeast of the commercial center.

1841: The Presbyterians build a new church in the Greek Revival style on Maumee Street.

1842: The Michigan Southern Railroad, linking Monroe and Adrian, advertises that it "was built by the State of Michigan at an expense of four hundred thousand dollars... Now well furnished with Locomotives, Passenger and Freight Cars, will transport Freight and Passengers safer, cheaper and more expeditiously than any other road competition." Andrew Jackson Downing publishes Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America, which sparks the fashion for suburban living and picturesque Italianate homes.

1843: The Michigan Southern Railroad extends westward through Adrian to Hudson and Hillsdale. The Expositor newspaper is founded as the voice of the Whig Party (later of the Republican Party). According to the Expositor, Adrian has seven brick buildings, including the Greek Revival style home that will come to be known as the Governor Croswell House at 228 North Broad.

1844: On November 23, Langford and Ambrose Berry purchase most of the original 80 acres from Elias and Adeline Dennis's heirs and plat “Berry's Southern Addition,” which is known today as the Dennis Street/State Street Historic District. One of the earliest houses built in the neighborhood is the Greek Revival-style Holloway House at 448 State Street. Adrian's Presbyterian Church hosts the Michigan Antislavery Society's annual meeting.

Greek Revival Marvin M. Thompson House, 416 North Broad Street, 1849

1845: Marvin M. Thompson moves to Adrian from Phelps, Ontario County, New York, and opens a masonry and contracting business with his brother Thomas.

1846: The Michigan Southern Railroad becomes privately owned and, two years later, absorbs the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad. On the west side of town, Budlong Street is platted between Maumee and Railroad (now Maple) streets. Few homes will be built in this part of town until the twentieth century.

1848: The Expositor reports that Adrian now has 22 brick buildings, an increase of fifteen in just five years, including a three-story commercial building at the northeast corner of Main and Maumee. The Adrian and Bean Creek Road corporation is organized, creating a planked-wood toll road that connects Adrian to the Chicago Road (now U.S. 12) near Addison. Stockholders include Addison Comstock, Abel Whitney and Elihu Clark. Oakwood Cemetery is organized as a strolling park in the tradition of Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, replacing the too-small cemetery on South Main Street, where the Harriet Kimball Fee Park is located today. Orson Squire Fowler publishes the first edition of A Home for All, or the Gravel Wall and Octagonal Mode of Building, creating a craze for octagonal homes with modern conveniences. The French Second Empire begins as Napoleon III takes power through a military coup.

1849: Protestant Germans, having formed St. John's Lutheran Church and School in 1847, build a small church on the northeast corner of Church and Locust streets. Marvin M. Thompson, who is a mason and contractor, builds a brick Greek Revival home for himself at 416 North Broad Street. The Michigan Southern Railroad purchases a shipping line that links Toledo to Buffalo, New York.

1850: The population of Lenawee County is 26,372. Andrew Jackson Downing publishes The Architecture of Country Houses, which helps to popularize Gothic Revival architecture. As evidence of the enormous growth that takes place at this time, twenty six additional properties are platted and added to the city of Adrian over the next ten years.




Railroad Car City (1851-1886)

1851: The Michigan Southern Railroad is completed through to Chicago and relocates its headquarters and repair facilities from Monroe to Adrian. A new depot is built at the intersection of Michigan and Center streets. The three-story Bidwell Block is built of brick on the north side of West Maumee, between Main and Winter streets.

1852: The need for a fire company in Adrian becomes apparent when the Lenawee County Courthouse at Front and Locust streets is destroyed by fire. The Union School, a three-story brick Italianate building is built between Church and Maumee streets, just east of Broad Street. Adrian activists help revive the Michigan Antislavery Society.

1853: Adrian becomes a city. Henry Angell comes to Adrian and opens the Adrian Car Company, which first manufactures train wheels and later boxcars, passenger cars, etc. William Sheldon builds a brick Greek Revival-style home with a square plan and pyramidal, hipped roof on the northwest corner of Berry's Southern Addition and sells it the following year to Nathan and Louise Choate, farmers from Rome Township, whose descendants continue to occupy the home for nearly seventy years. George L. Bidwell purchases a large building lot near the northeast corner of Berry's Southern Addition intending to erect his private home; construction wouldn't begin in 1861.

Octagon Form, J. H. Champion House, 523 South Winter Street, 1856

1854: Adrian's first four-story brick building (the Watchtower Building, later known as the Expositor Building, now gone) opens on East Maumee Street. The need for fireproof brick architecture downtown becomes obvious when a fire nearly destroys half the Adrian's downtown, including many wooden structures on the west side of Main Street south of Maumee Street. Addison J. Comstock is elected Mayor of the city of Adrian. The Michigan Southern Railroad runs twelve passenger trains through Adrian per day, carrying 10,000 passengers per week. The Michigan Farmer describes Adrian as "the second city in the State for wealth, enterprise and business." The price of iron nails continues to drop this decade: the Michigan Expositor, printed in Adrian, announces that William Fitzpatrick and Joseph Iler of Troy, New York patent a self-feeding machine for making cut nails that allows one man and a boy to create 3,000 to 3,500 nails per minute.

1855: The city builds two fire engine houses, one on Church Street, the other on North Main. The Michigan Southern Railroad merges with the Northern Indiana Railroad to form the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad. The International Exposition of Art and Industry in Paris introduces Americans to, among other things, Mansard roofs and Second Empire architecture, which will become popular in America after the Civil War.

Italian Villa, Hart-Cavallero House, 430 Dennis Street, 1856

1856: Among Adrian's new brick homes built this year are those of the editor of the (Democrat) Adrian Watchtower J. H. Champion's Octagon Cottage at 523 South Winter Street and the druggist Samuel E. Hart's Italian Villa at 430 Dennis Street. The Adrian Gas Company begins manufacturing gas for illumination and fuel, servicing many of the businesses downtown. The Republican Party begins to dominate local politics following pivotal November elections.

1857: The financial "panic" of this year barely touches the city. Adrian now has 1,200 houses including five new brick buildings downtown, including the Wilcox & Chapell Hardware Store at 113 West Maumee (damaged by fire in 2000, façade still standing). The Railroad's manufacturing and repair facilities include twenty-two buildings sitting on seventeen acres of land.

1858: In March, the Watchtower newspaper reports that "Geo. L. Bidwell Esq. is adorning his splendid place, opposite Plymouth Church, on Church St. with beautiful shade trees.  His place [at 204 East Church Street] is destined to be one of the most beautiful places to be found in this or any other City." Former Michigan Governor (Democrat) William Greenly is elected Mayor of Adrian.

1859: James Brackett builds the four-story, 100-room, brick Italianate style Bracket House hotel for $20,000 at the northeast corner of Maumee and Winter streets. Downtown streets are paved for the first time with cobblestone. A Methodist college founded in Leoni, Michigan, relocates to Adrian and becomes known as Adrian College.

1860: The population of Lenawee is 38,112. Adrian's population of 6,213 is the third largest in Michigan. Approximately 600 Adrian residents work for the railroad industry. The American Civil War begins. Out of the 751 men from Lenawee County who serve in 110 regiments, 120 will die in the war.

1861: Adrian College builds a chapel, now called Downs Hall, which today is the only original building left on campus. Clothing merchant George W. Bidwell begins construction of his Italianate mansion, now known as the Burnham Building, at 204 E. Church Street. Construction will take three years and $8,500 to complete.

1862: St. John's Lutheran Church is built in the Gothic Revival style on the corner of Church and Locust streets. Former Whig and participant in the foundation of the Republican Party, Charles Croswell becomes Mayor of Adrian. A paper shortage during the Civil War threatens the economic viability of the Watchtower.

1864: The famous inventor Thomas Edison, at seventeen-years-old, works for a few months as the night telegraph operator in Adrian, where he meets the engineer Ezra Gilliland for the first time. Edison boards at the Chittenden House at 322 State Street, where the Queen Anne-style Metcalf-Shierson house stands today. In 1887, Gilliland will become the general sales agent for the Edison Phonograph Company and send manufacturing business to the James F. Gilliland Electric Company in Adrian. Charles Croswell becomes State Senator.

1865: President Lincoln is assassinated. With the end of the Civil War, railroads expand nationwide, making the distribution of industrial home building products widely available. The Greek Revival style fades from popularity.

1866: Adrian's Croswell Opera House opens on East Maumee Street. The Democrat Adrian Watchtower newspaper is sold to the Republican Expositor, which changes its own newspaper’s name to the Adrian Times and Expositor. Adrian Union School is destroyed by fire, taking with it the city's public library. 

1867: On January 20, Addison J. Comstock, the city's founder, dies suddenly after attending service in the Methodist Episcopal Church.  The Masonic Temple is built in the Second Empire Style on the northwest corner of Winter and Maumee streets.

1869: The Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad merges with the Lake Shore Railroad and becomes known as the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. Elihu L. Clark rebuilds his home on the north east corner of Locust and Maumee streets in the Second Empire style.

1869: Construction of the Romanesque Revival-style Saint Mary's Catholic Church, at Division and Erie streets, begins. Ulysses S. Grant becomes President.

1870: The population of Adrian reaches 8,438, while Lenawee County numbers 45,595. The population of Michigan is 1,185,000, with 97 organized counties.  Lenawee County consists mainly of citizens born in the State of Michigan; a large preponderance of the remainder comes from New York and Ohio. Of foreigners, the German element predominates (1,657), with about equal numbers of English (1,272) and Irish (1,344). Nearly 800 county residents claim nativity in the British possessions, 48 in Switzerland, 43 in France, 27 in Holland, 10 in Bohemia, 11 from Sweden and Denmark. Real estate in the county is valued at $32,961,867, with 248,751 acres of improved land. Lenawee ranks second only to Oakland County in corn and butter production, and to St. Clair County only in cheese, while it stands third in the State in hay and wool. There are now seventy-eight church-organizations in the County: Methodist, 28; Baptist, 12; Presbyterian, 8; Congregational, 6; Episcopal, 6; Friends, 6; Christian, 3; Roman Catholic, 3; Universalist, 2; Lutheran, 2; and Advent, 2. There are two hundred and thirty-one public schools in the County besides the incorporated schools of Hudson and Adrian City (of which fifty-three have brick and eight have stone edifices). There are only two log school-houses in the County. The City of Adrian has "a high school of such character and reputation as to prepare students for the state university in scientific and classical courses. Many of the rooms are hung with paintings." Adrian is home to the Times and Expositor (circulation of 700 daily and 1700 weekly); Adrian Press (800 daily and 800 weekly) and the Adrian Journal (circulation of 1000 weekly).

1871: The Mineral Springs Hotel opens on West Maumee, near the bridge. The Chittenden House is built at 239 Division Street in the Italian Villa style. The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad (LS&MS) employs about 500 in Adrian and moves toward greater specialization by transferring its Laporte, Indiana car shops to Adrian and moving its Adrian machine shops to Elkhart, Indiana. The Second Empire government in France comes to an end with the Prussian defeat of Napoleon III.

1872: The Central Hotel opens on South Main Street. LS&MS contracts with Henry Angell's Adrian Car Works to build 500 cars. Adrian Car Works suffers a $50,000 to $80,000 loss in December, when the paint room catches fire. The fire prompts the creation of a special city committee on water supply. Sarah Deane Comstock dies.

Second Empire, Sears-Perry House, 225 East Front Street, 1873

1873: W. S. Sears builds a Second Empire-style home at the northwest corner of Clinton and Front streets. Samuel Hart moves into his new Italianate home at 417 State Street. Archimedes Stevenson & Sons opens its wood and coal yard on Division Street. Charles A. Chaloner opens a shoe store before adding a news-stand in 1875. A financial panic in September tears apart the railroad industry and causes a nation-wide depression that discourages building for half a decade and helps push older architectural styles out of fashion.

1874: The population of Adrian is 8,859. LS&MS cuts wages 15%. The Adrian chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union forms. C. F. Smith's addition to the city plat this year will be the last new plat added to the city until 1890.

1875: Adrian Car Works closes.

1876: LS&MS employs 330 in Adrian. Charles Croswell becomes Governor of Michigan. The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition introduces many Americans to Richard Norman Shaw's half-timbered architecture, which evolves first into the Queen Anne style and, after the turn of the century, into the Tudor Revival style. The centennial celebrations also prompt architects such as McKim, Mead and White, to become interested in American colonial architecture.

1877: LS&MS rebounds, employing 400 men for 10-hour shifts. The banker W. H. Waldby purchases George Bidwell's residence at Church and State streets for $18,000.

1878: Construction of Saint Joseph's Catholic Church is complete. The exterior is designed by Detroit architect Peter Dederichs for Father Casimir Rohowski to resemble St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. 

1879: The Adrian Cannery moves into the Adrian Paper Company building on Michigan Avenue near the river. The bandstand at the Lenawee County Fairground collapses killing fifteen to twenty people and injuring hundreds. The city decrees that cows can no longer be kept in the city.

1880: The population of Adrian is 7,849, a drop of 7% since 1870, the first significant decline since the founding of the village. The banker Elihu L. Clark dies, leaving $10,000 in his will to Adrian's International Order of the Odd Fellows, which will use the funds to erect the Clark Memorial Odd Fellows Hall, designed and built by Leonard Beck and Andrew Vogt. 

Lenawee County Courthouse, 309 North Main Street, 1885, Edward O. Fallis architect

1881: Isabella Cocker remodels 312 Dennis Street in the Second Empire style—the style associated with her recently deceased father Elihu L. Clark, whose estate is valued at three quarters of a million dollars. The Detroit-Butler Railroad is completed in June after Adrian investors raise $50,000 for the project, including $10,000 from Clark. Charles Croswell buys controlling interest in the Opera House, which his son manages between 1883-86.

1882: Robert Gilliland of Indiana and his sons Ezra and James establish the James F. Gilliland Electric Company on Dean Street to produce telegraph pegs. County voters approve $50,000 for the construction of a new county courthouse in Adrian, with the city contributing another $16,000.

1883: The New State Industrial Home for girls has 99 inmates at its new campus on the north edge of town. (E. L. Clark, among others, donated $5,000 to this project.) Adrian's waterworks, a private business, begins operating. Adrian Brick and Tile Company begins, building a massive, 300-foot long factory on the west side of the river. Former Governor William Greenly dies.

1884: Adrian City Council votes to build a City Hall for $15,000; it is designed and built the following year in the Queen Anne style by Adrian architect/builders Beck & Vogt. A new three-story brick building is erected at the corner of South Main Street and Maiden Lane. Sisters of Saint Dominic arrive in Adrian at the invitation of Father Casimir Rohowski to start a hospital and home for the aged.

1885: The Sisters of Saint Dominic build a new hospital. Adrian's oldest Queen Anne-style homes are built at this time. Most of them are constructed by Beck & Vogt or by C. Frederick Matthes.

1886: Lenawee County Courthouse (135 feet tall) at 301 North Main Street is completed in an eclectic Romanesque Revival style, replacing on this site the Greek Revival County Offices, which had been built on this site in 1852. Jarvis and Foote begin producing electricity at their Pearl Street plant, which they will later sell to Jerome H. Fee.




Wire Fence Capital (1888-1929)

1888: Page Wire Fence, in business since 1884 in Rollin and Hudson, leases factory space in Adrian. James Gilliland expands his family's company to manufacture, among other things, woodworking for Thomas Edison's latest invention, the phonograph. Beck & Vogt finish building the Odd Fellows' Clark Memorial Hall at 124 South Winter Street. Adrian is the first city in Michigan to approve an electric railway. Mariana van Rensselaer's book about the life and work of recently deceased architect Henry Hobson Richardson helps to popularize the Richardsonian Romanesque style nationwide.

1889: Electric street railway service begins in Adrian with over 40,000 passengers in 1890. The world's first Juke Box is manufactured in Adrian by the James F. Gilliland Electric Company and installed in arcades in many big cities across America. The Juke Box is designed by Albert K. Keller using Edison's mechanisms and manufactured for the Automatic Phonograph Exhibition Company in New York in collaboration with Ezra T. Gilliland of the Gilliland Sales Company in Boston.

1890: Adrian 's population is 8,756.

1891: The city builds a fountain and pavilion in South Park, the former burial ground on South Main Street.

1892: Page Fence employs 100. Adrian Land Purchasing and Improvement Company is established, led by David Metcalf, Seymour Howell, E. L. Baker and Mayor Len Hoch. The Improvement Company creates an industrial park and 1000 50 x 125 foot residential “boom lots” on 215 acres, with streets named, among others, Metcalf, Howell, Baker, and Hoch. The Daily Telegram begins publication.  The Times and Expositor lists twenty-six new buildings in town many of which resulted from the "boom," including expensive new homes for E. L. Baker and Byron Shaw on Dennis Street, Rial Clay on Division Street, and Lafayette Ladd on State Street.

1893: The Columbian Exposition in Chicago helps to popularize the Classical Revival style of architecture. Another economic depression hits America, but barely impacts Adrian's booming economy. Fire destroys the Masonic Temple's Mansard roof.

1894: Page fence creates “Deer Park,” a zoo on forty acres of land between Budlong and Scott streets north of Maple Avenue, to demonstrate the ability of their "bounce-back" fence to contain deer. Page also sponsors the first African-American baseball team, Page Fence Giants, until 1899.

Queen Anne style Presbyterian Manse, 435 Dennis Street, 1895, C. F. Matthes architect and builder

1895: In the last two years, four new buildings have gone up on North Main Street between Main and Toledo streets. Page Fence is the largest employer in Adrian.  Architect and builder C. F. Matthes finishes building the “Presbyterian Manse” for Adrian druggist and business owner, Samuel Hart, who intended to give the home to his son Charles as a wedding gift.  Following Samuel’s death, however, the Hart family donated the home in his name to Adrian’s Presbyterian Church, which would use it as their parsonage until 1950.

1896: The Lima Northern Railroad reaches Adrian from Lima, Ohio, after the citizens of Adrian provide the right of way along the river and $30,000. A century later, these tracks would be torn up and replaced by Adrian's Kiwanis Trail and “Trestle Park.” Brick pavers replaces the 1859 cobblestones on North Main Street. The Dominican Sisters open a private academy for girls, which they call Saint Joseph Academy.

1897: Hiram and Albert Lamb of Tecumseh move their fence company to Adrian and hire Adrian resident W. H. Burnham as their general manager. Lafayette Ladd, owner of a canning operation near the corner of Michigan and State streets, is murdered in his Queen Anne home at 510 State Street.

1898: The abolitionist Laura Havilland dies; a memorial will be erected to her in front of City Hall in 1909.

1899: Page opens a steel mill in Monessen, Pennsylvania, to produce steel for its fence operations in Adrian.

1900: The population of Adrian has risen approximately ten percent since 1890, to 9,654. In September, LS&MS announces the closure of all of its car shops in Adrian. The Toledo and Western electric railroad takes control of the electric street railway in Adrian and, in 1905, builds a new depot at West Maumee, near Pearl Street. Concrete block rapidly becomes a popular building material nationwide after 1900, when Harmon Palmer patents the first cast-iron hollow block machine. Lenawee is one of the top ten counties in the nation in terms of agricultural output, with more than six million dollars worth of farm products (Lindquist, Lenawee County… , 42).




Early Automobile Era (1901-1929)

1901: Charles Hart purchases the first car in Adrian. Walter Clement, manager of Church Manufacturing Company on Church Street, produces the first automobile in Adrian, which is designed by, and named for, Willis Murray. Voters approve a $50,000 bond to install sewers and pave the street in the industrial district on the east side of town. Gustav Stickley begins to publish The Craftsman magazine.

1902: Page Fence builds a 120,000 square foot warehouse. Lamb Fence buys a section of the Horticulture Building from the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo to use as a warehouse in Adrian.

1903: The Adrian Times and Expositor describes 55 new homes being built in Adrian. Following the lead of Roe Clothing on West Maumee in 1902, the Hart & Shaw Drugstore modernizes its façade at the corner of Main and Maumee by installing an electric sign and large panes of plate glass. W. O. Albig opens Adrian's first department store in the Reynolds block on North Main Street. Adrian Fence is founded.

1904: Page Fence stops growing and announces plans to transfer all of its operations to Monessen, Pennsylvania. Lion Fence is founded, then leaves in 1908. The Church Manufacturing Company stops producing autos after selling 225 Murray Motorcars and about one dozen “Lenawees.”

1905: The Adrian Telegraph describes thirty new homes in Adrian, most within walking distance of either downtown (Ferguson, Clinton, and Dennis) or the electric street car (College Avenue). The Y.M.C.A. building, made possible because of a $10,000 challenge grant from David Metcalf, is dedicated in November. Michigan Wire Fence Company and Lenawee Fence Company are established.The Adrian Dominican Sisters begin construction on the $60,000 Gothic-style Holy Rosary Chapel for use by the 300 young women attending Saint Joseph Academy. Doc Schoolcroft opens one of two short-lived roller-skating rinks this year at 227 North Winter Street. By the end of the decade this building would be known as the Adrian Garage. 

1906: Lamb Wire Fence builds an over-head electric conveyor system similar to the one that will be used at Ford Motor Company. Monarch Fence is founded. Adrian Screen Door (later Prentice Screen Door Company) moves into the former Gilliland Factory on Dean Street. A new $40,000 Federal Post Office opens at the northwest corner of Maumee and Broad streets.

1907: Lenawee County Savings Bank moves into its new Classical Revival building at 135 East Maumee Street, designed by C. Frederick Matthes. Adrian 's first elevator is installed in the Gregg Hotel (formerly the Brackett Hotel). Ideal Fence is founded only to move away from Adrian in 1909. Stuart Perry purchases the Adrian Daily Telegram and soon moves his residence to the Second Empire-style Sears House on East Front Street.  Adrian hosts a "homecoming" event and publishes a booklet with photo-etchings of the city's monuments, homes, businesses and factories.

1908: Lamb Wire Fence changes its name to Peerless Fence when Hiram and Albert Lamb start another fence company in Canada. The Adrian Press (the weekly voice of the Democratic Party) stops publication. Sears & Roebuck (and later, other companies) begin to market kit homes nationwide, and continues doing so until 1940.

1909: After four years of planning, the Adrian Public Library (home to the Lenawee County Historical Museum since 1978) opens on February 6 at a cost of $35,000; $27,000 of the cost is covered by Andrew Carnegie. Stickley republishes plans from his magazine in a popular book titled Craftsman Homes. Gray Furniture produces Craftsman-style furniture in a new factory on Center Street. Henry Bowen, who lives on Dennis Street, raises capital for the Lion Motor Company.

1910: Adrian's population has risen more than eleven percent since the turn of the century to 10,763. About ten percent of the population (1,090) works in the city's forty factories. William K. Bixby, a railroad car manufacturer in Saint Louis donates $25,000 to start the Emma L. Bixby Hospital in the former Elihu Clark home at Locust and Maumee Streets. The Queen Anne style fades from popularity. Although Adrian is known as the “Fence Capital of the World,” the city's “vitality and prosperity” over the next decade will be due to “the extent and the variety of industry” (Lindquist, Adrian… , 146). The “automobile era” begins when Henry Ford opens his first moving assembly-line plant in Highland Park, Michigan. The first Lion automobile, designed by Charles Blomstrom for the Lion Motor Company, is manufactured in the former Lion Fence Company plant in Adrian.

1911: A Second-Empire-style addition is made to the north side of the Emma L. Bixby Hospital. Page Fence stops producing fence in Adrian in June, but begins making windshields for cars in 1913. Madden Hall, designed by Detroit architect Peter Dederichs, is built with a Classical Revival style portico for the Adrian Dominican Sisters and features a five-story tower. It replaced the former hospital building that had been designed on the site by C. Frederick Matthes.

Classical Revival style, Foursquare Form, William Herbert Stevenson House, 311 Dennis Street, 1913

Classical Revival style, Foursquare Form, William Herbert Stevenson House, 311 Dennis Street, 1913

1912: Fire destroys the Lion Motor Company on June 2.

1914: The Adrian Times sells to the Telegram and ceases publication. World War I begins in Europe.

1915: Raymond Ford Garage opens at 215-217 North Main Street.

1916: J. Wallace Page dies in Adrian.

1917: 209 men and women from Lenawee County are called to serve when the United States enters World War One in April. Twenty men and one woman from Adrian die before the conflict ends November 11, 1918.

1918: Ollie E. Mott and his brother J. L. Mott move their Nu-Way Company (stretch suspenders) from Dundee to Adrian, and soon open their factory into the Adrian Garage (previously the Schoolcroft roller skating rink) at 227 North Winter Street. Because of World War I, Adrian Schools stop teaching German. In October, women win the right to vote in Michigan. The Spanish flu epidemic begins in October, and lasts until February 1919, killing 41 people in Adrian.

1919: The Croswell Theater closes briefly before reopening as a movie house. The first block of West Maumee Street becomes the city's dime store block when Morris 5 & 10 opens at 123 West Maumee just four years after Woolworth's opens at 105-107 West Maumee. The Bishop of Detroit grants Mother Camilla of the Adrian Dominican Sisters permission to add a four-year college curriculum to St. Joseph's Academy.

1920: More than twenty percent of Adrian's population of 11,873 works in 71 diverse factories. Adrian's last horse stable, G. O. Gibson's, closes. After the National Board of Fire Underwriters gives Adrian a very poor rating in 1912 (because of the city's inadequate supply of water for fighting fires), the city acquires the Adrian Water Company and provides public water service. Adrian's chapter of the League of Women Voters is organized.

Georgian Colonial, Mott House, 304 State Street, 1925

1921: There are 8,000 registered cars in Lenawee County. Construction begins on Riverside Park. Christian Scientists purchase an Italianate home at the northeast corner of Union and Dennis Street and convert it into a Colonial Revival-style building. S. W. Raymond builds an addition to Raymond Ford on North Main Street to manufacture gasoline pumps for gas stations and Raymond Tractors for small farms.

1922: The Anchor Concrete Machinery Company manufactures equipment in Adrian for producing concrete blocks, bricks and tile. The New York Central Railroad (formerly LS&MS) reopens its car repair shops in Adrian. The Adrian Dominican Sisters complete construction on Saint Joseph College's central academic building (now largely administrative for Siena Heights University): the four-story Sacred Heart Hall, for $300,000. Its design combines Romanesque Revival and Classical Revival elements.  John and Irene Maynard move their family to Adrian to open its first J. C. Penney's department store at 135 South Main Street.

1923: On Saturday shopping days as many as 1,100 cars vie for 700 parking spaces in downtown Adrian.  The first meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, which sought to preserve the social and economic privileges of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, holds their first meeting in July.  The KKK then burns a cross near Page Steel Wire Company, which is known for hiring African-Americans in well-paying positions.  In September, more than 1,000 people attend a Klan rally on the east side of town, near the factories. 

1924: Adrian's electric street car ceases operation. Construction begins on a $150,000 auditorium-gymnasium building (now Sage Union) for Saint Joseph's College.

Tudor Revival Maynard-Campell House, 14 Maumee Court, 1926

1925: Ollie Mott builds his Georgian Colonial Revival style home at the southwest corner of State and Union streets. Reflecting a trend for construction further and further away from the industrial and commercial areas of the city, Maumee Court is platted this year, one of 26 such neighborhoods in the 1920s, compared to just eight neighborhoods in the previous five decades.

1926: Construction begins on Garfield, Lincoln and McKinley public elementary schools, which are designed in a Colonial Revival style.  John and Irene Maynard, who survived the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in 1907, build a large, steel-frame, brick Tudor Revival home on Maumee Court.

1929: Adrian fence is closed. The decline into the Great Depression begins with the October stock market crash on Wall Street.


Much of the information in this chronology is derived from three sources:

Combined Atlases of Lenawee County, Michigan: 1874, 1893, 1916. Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphic, Inc., 1978.

Lindquist, Charles. Lenawee County: A Harvest of Pride and Promise: An Illustrated History. Chatsworth, CA, 1990 (ISBN-13: 978-0897813372).

_____. Adrian: The City that Worked: A History of Adrian, Michigan, 1825-2000. Adrian: Lenawee County Historical Society, 2004.

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