Let's say you are in Florida over the holidays. Let's say you spend Christmas Eve in an outdoor bar, watching people frolic on a swath of sandy beach. Let's say the words "Ann Arbor has everything you could possibly need!" have come out of your mouth a time or 12. Let's say you now realize that Ann Arbor doesn't have this—a public beach upon which to while away a sunny day. It never has.
Or has it?
In the early part of the 20th century, the city of Ann Arbor had a municipal beach at what is now the Argo Canoe launch. Argo Dam was purchased by Detroit Edison in 1905. Twelve years later, the company offered to build a beach if the city would agree to maintain it. After they reached an agreement with the city, Detroit Edison brought in the sand necessary for a beach and even built a pier and docks. For two decades, the city paid $1 a year to rent the property; they bought it in 1938.
The beach was not the only attraction. Paul Tessmer owned a boathouse on the North Main Street side of Argo Pond, west of the pond. Tessmer built over 100 canoes, renting them along with rowboats to patrons. At some point, the facility was moved across the pond near the beach. By that time, William Saunders owned and operated the boathouse, selling snacks to hungry swimmers from the canoe livery.
This bygone era did not have the same environmental regulations that we have today. Nevertheless, the city did make improvements to the beach in 1936. In the early 1940s, city council questioned the water quality, and the beach closed in 1948.
The boathouses and the beach are gone. There are several beaches within an easy driving distance, and we have pools, the Cascades, even some water slides. But something about spending a day on that sandy beach, with snacks and a grassy island…Ann Arbor has almost everything you could possibly need.