William Hannan, born in Rochester, New York in 1854, migrated to Dowagiac, Michigan in 1856. He attended a preparatory school in Oberlin, Ohio and then enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1876 and earned an undergraduate degree in classics in 1880. He played on that university’s baseball team and was a member of the first University of Michigan intercollegiate football team in the fall of 1879. He continued his studies in Ann Arbor and earned a law degree in 1883. He began his practice as an attorney in Detroit in that same year.
Hannan quickly became a leading real estate promoter and developer during Detroit’s period of very rapid growth late in the Nineteenth Century when it became a leading industrial metropolis. Several of his accomplishments are now listed on the National Register of Historic sites including the Ford Building at Congress and Griswold designed by the famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, the Pasadena Apartment building—one of the first high rise apartments in Detroit when it opened in 1903—located on East Jefferson and the Mayberry-Grove Lawn residential development in Highland Park. In 1910, he served as the first president of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges, an organization now known as the National Association of Realtors.
William Hannan died in 1918 and left about two-thirds of his estate to the Children’s Aid Society. I believe that some of his funds supported construction of the Hannan YMCA on East Jefferson. He had married Luella Greene Bearman in the 1880s. About seven years after her husband’s death, she established the Luella Hannan Foundation to provide assistance to older persons in the Detroit area. This foundation was established before the era of Social Security, so many elderly, especially widows, had major concerns about their financial security. For about one-half century, the Hannan Foundation gave assistance to senior citizens who remained in their homes. Then, in 1970, the Foundation decided to build the attractive structure now found next to St. Paul Cathedral facing Woodward near Detroit’s Cultural Center. It was designed to provide single-room residences to older Detroit residents.
In 1993, the Hannan Foundation decided that providing residential space for the elderly was not the best use of their building. They converted it into a center that would provide social services for senior citizens and where non-profit organizations such as Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice might rent office space. That is, the building has become a multi-tenant center for local non-profit organizations with an emphasis upon services for older Detroit residents.
One of the programs at Hannan House’s Center for Senior Learning encourages people to capitalize upon their artistic talents and interests. Robert Sestok designed the sculpture pictured above in collaboration with participants in this Hannan House artistic program. The work portrays the interaction of water and sun in an urban environment. It was supported by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation; a Bloomfield Hills based philanthropy that supports endeavors to restore the Great Lakes Basin and promotes environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant communities in metropolitan Detroit.
Artist: Robert Sestok
Date of Installation: September, 2011
Facebook page for the Sculptor: http://www.facebook.com/robert.sestok
Picture: Ren Farley; October 8, 2011
Description prepared: October, 2011
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