Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Thompson Block Building - Ypsilanti's Depot Town Civil War-Era Treasure Destroyed by Fire

Ypsilanti, Michigan’s Thompson Block building was constructed in 1861 and, in 1862, began serving as army barracks for the 14th and 27th Michigan Infantries during the Civil War. Company E of the 17th Michigan Infantry stayed in the building before going to Detroit to muster in with the rest of the regiment in August of 1862. They were known as The Normal School Company because over half of them were students at what is now Eastern Michigan University. Many Union soldiers called the Thompson building barracks "home" as they awaited transport on the nearby Michigan Central railroad to the battlefields in the south.

The Thompson Block in 1862. Courtesy of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.

The Thompson Block in September 2009.

After the Civil War, the O.E. Thompson & Sons Company purchased the building in 1869 to serve as a paint shop. Over the years, the company manufactured and sold nine lines of products, including wheelbarrow grass spreaders. In 1880, the Thompson Hardware Store was established here which, among other things, became the first place to sell bicycles in the Ypsilanti area. It then became the city's first fire station in 1895 before becoming the first Dodge Brothers car dealership in 1916.

The Thompson Block in 1862. Courtesy of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.

The Thompson Block in September 2009.

In the 1960s, the Thompson Block fell into neglect and became vacant soon after. That is all I remember of the building … a sad, empty, rapidly decaying reminder of its illustrious past.

In 2006, the Beal Group began a $3.5 million restoration project on the property for its use as condominiums and shops. On September 23, 2009, the property was destroyed by fire. Preliminary reports indicate that the cause of the fire has been deemed "suspicious".




The building is located at the northeast corner of River Avenue and East Cross Street in Ypsilanti, Michigan's historic Depot Town district.

Historic photos and historical data courtesy of the Ypsilanti Historical Society and Dave Tennies.

1 comment:

Shankwiler said...

I have new images of the Thompson Block if you would like to add the to your blog! What a tremendous amount of work has gone into the facade of the building. Thanks :)