The Backstory: Ann Arbor's Bloody Corners

Ah, early Ann Arbor. The burr oaks all around the town! The arbors full of ripe grapes! The gentle tinkle of the creek flowing past First and Huron! That bright red house called "Bloody Corners," the—

Wait, what? Indeed, old Ann Arbor had a bright red home, and it was on a corner, so….

Our early settlers had to live somewhere. For them, however, "somewhere" did not exist until they built it. Two of our own founders, Elisha and Mary "Ann" Rumsey, used heavy logs to build their abode on Huron, near First Street. The little block house greeted many newcomers to our town. At various times, the home was used as a tavern, hotel, and coffeehouse, as well as the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Rumsey. Eventually, it became known as the Washtenaw Coffee House and was the must see spot for all those passing through or moving in. Think of it as the old timey version of Zingerman's, and just as likely inspired newcomers, chucking along in horse and buggy, to stop locals and inquire as to its location.

John Allen, our other town founder, took a little more time to build his homestead. His wife was not with him, so he slept in the overturned carriage for a bit, maybe even made his own tent at some point. But eventually, the Mrs. was a'comin' and he had to get to building. Mr. Allen nestled into the northwest corner of what is now Main and Huron. For reasons one can only imagine, he thought it would be awesome to paint his two story log block house a bright shade of red. Then as now, Ann Arborites were nothing if not clever, so the home was quickly dubbed "Bloody Corners."

Eventually, Mrs. Allen showed up into town. Her reaction to her new home is lost to the ages. Nonetheless, she and other members of the Allen family hunkered down in the place known as Bloody Corners. At various time the building would go on to house a tavern, a store and even the first local Masonic Lodge.

In 1850, Mr. Allen took off to find gold in the western United States. After he left, Mrs. Allen hightailed it out of town as well. In the latter part of the 1850s, the little red house was replaced by the Franklin House, a multi-story hotel. The space then became the Gregory Block in 1862. This block hosted banks, bars, offices, and other necessities of life in the late 1800s. The taverns that existed at the location include The Orient, Dot’s Bar, and the Star Bar. In 1982, Joe Tiboni opened the Star Lounge at the spot. The large building that is there now is called One North Main, and houses high end condominiums and offices.

Ann Arbor still has its trees, its grape vines, its (buried) creeks. It also has a variety of brightly colored houses all around town. There is no longer a bright red house at the corner of Main and Huron, but business carries on in the little city that the Allens and the Rumseys began.

Do you know?
Interestingly, there is a red pillar at the corner of the One North Main building. This led your intrepid reporter to wonder if it was, perhaps, an homage to our town founder and his red paint. Research did not yield much on this subject, except for a 2010 mention by an artist known as "electricjonny". The artist took a shot of the building and called it "Bloody Corners" because of the bright red pillar. If you know more about this, please comment below!