Category Archives: Other Points of Interest

Other points of interest include, but are not limited to, buildings, geographical areas or features, organizations, clubs, and symbols, that are organized here in order to better display their characteristics.

Thomas Jefferson’s Greek Names for Michigan

In the five years following the American Revolution in the 1783, the United States was very busy organizing itself as a new nation. One task that it was concerned with was the nationalization of the Northwest Territory, which was claimed by several states ( Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North and South Carolina, and Georgia all had laid claim to the territory south of Canada, north of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River, and west of the Appalachian mountains. Although all the states didn’t cede their claims at first, the Northwest Territory still needed to be divided and named so it could be properly settled and that government could eventually be established. In late 1783, Thomas Jefferson was appointed to head a three man commission in order to deal with this matter ( Jefferson’s 1784 proposal provided names and boundaries for 10 states (see map 2), including the Greek names Chersonesus (peninsula) and Metropotamia (mother of rivers) for parts of Michigan and Polypotamia (many rivers) for an area in what is now southern Illinois ( His plan was approved by congress in the Land Ordinance of 1785, but two years later Jefferson was over ruled and the US government decided to divided the Northwest Territory into no more than five states ( Starting in 1803, with Ohio, the territory’s states gradually were adopted into the Union receiving their current names (see maps 3 and 4).

In 1805 the territory of Michigan (derived from the Native American Indian word “michigama” ( was established and in 1837 Michigan became a state.  Jefferson’s classically derived named were dismissed, but the state names Illinoia and Michigania were in fact kept so we do owe him a great deal. Although his proposal did not last long, it is still important to note, perhaps surprisingly, that Michigan does have Greek origins. Michigan’s Greek connections may not always be easily spotted, but they can be found in many more places than one might think.

“Athens of the Midwest”

The idea of Ann Arbor as the “Athens of the Midwest” emerged at least as early as the 1850s, if not earlier, with the move of the University from Detroit in 1837.

Henry P. Tappan, Professor of Philosophy and first President of the University of Michigan (1852-1863), envisioned a great university that would make Ann Arbor “a new Athens.” He was very important to the University of Michigan in its early years as he was determined to create a university where professors did original research, used lectures to teach, and trained graduate students (Marwil 1991: 28). He was a very authoritative figure and instilled a new purpose into the institution, its faculty, and students. In his inaugural address he stated that “there is no question of the classics” and that a new Athens shall arise with its schools of Philosophy and Art, and its Acropolis crowned with another Parthenon, more glorious than that of old” (

He may have been influenced by descriptions, first of Philadelphia (1790s-1800s) and later of Boston (1820s-40s), as the “Athens of America.” He must have been certainly influenced by the well-known association of the University since its creation (1817) with Greek wisdom and learning.

In 1852, the year President Tappan delivered his inaugural address which concluded with the impassioned call for “a new Athens,” he also published a study which discussed various European countries in a search for the ideal city. His view of Athens further explains why he wanted to model Ann Arbor on the ancient city: “If we are to gather ideas from any, let us rather go back to democratic Athens, where the spirit of a free people breathed through forms of art so cheerful and beautiful that even now, when we gaze upon the ruins, we gain inspirations that make our free hearts leap within us” (Tappan A 1852a: 59). Tappan believed in the value of an classical education and sought to re-create an educational environment similar to Classical Athens, where many great intellectuals lived and spread their teachings to those who would listen. Additionally, by creating a new and improved Parthenon he wanted to make the University of Michigan a school that was the best of the best and model for others to follow:

“The city of Athens—the city itself was the home of every Athenian. The city was his pride and glory. And why was it? Because, there was the Acropolis with its temples, and the whole city was adorned by the hands of its artists. There was the grove of Academus. There was its theatre—not like our theatres, places for the exhibition of buffooneries and farces, but a vast place, open to the heavens, where the whole population assembled to hear the compositions of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles. There was the Areopagus. There were the assemblies of the people where Aeschines and Demosthenes reasoned and thundered—in no barbaric vulgar style—but in pure classic Greek, with cultivated oratory, before a people who were competent judges of eloquence and grace. Athens had commerce and arms, merchants and heroes; but it was philosophy, poetry, eloquence and art which so polished and enriched it, and invested it with such splendid attractions and dear associations, that it was the only home in the wide world that an Athenian could find” (Tappan A 1852a: 209).

Randolph Rogers

Randolph Rogers (1825-1892) was born in Seneca, New York and was eight years old when his family moved to Michigan (his family’s home still stands at the corner of N. Division and E. Ann), where he spent 10 years working various jobs ( He worked at a bakery, flour mill, and made several advertisements for the Ann Arbor newspaper called the Argus ( Later, he was hired at a dry goods store in New York where he worked from 1842 to 1848. During his years there his incredible talent was noticed by the store owners and to his good, they fortune funded his expenses to go to Florence ( After studying at the fine arts academy there, he went on to work in Rome where he became a very successful sculptor ( He remained in Rome for the rest of his adult life except when he visited the U.S. for business ( He was commissioned in several different states, including work on the doors of the capital building in D.C ( After his stroke in 1882 he donated all of his papers and casts from his studio in Rome to the University of Michigan . Currently, Nydia, the blind girl is on display at the University of Michigan Art Museum (four other works are in storage). The rest of his donated worked were lost due the high humidity in basement storages beneath university hall (see the First University Library) (

Since he was an eminent 19th century artist, he made many copies of his sculptures and for example, on the first floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, near other 19th century American works if note, there is a Randolph Rogers Nydia like the one at the UMMA.

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Mongolian Grill

From high to low examples of Greek architecture Greek designs can manifest themselves in many ways. They can also appear in unsuspecting places, such as at the common restaurant chain, Mongolian Grill. Upon closer examination of the building’s exterior there are two orders of yellow Greek meanders. The Greek meander is an art and architectural pattern that appeared in Greece in the Geometric period (900-700 BCE). When patterns and symbols are ingrained in everyday life such as in the designs of public spaces, logos, brand names, and elsewhere it is easy to forget their origins and significance, as well as prevalence.

Thano’s Lamplighter Restaurant


Thano’s Lamplighter Restaurant. Source:

Opened in 1967, Thano’s Lamplighter, owned and run by Thanos Masters, served Greek food, pizza, sandwiches, salads, and, soups to a consistent customer base of local businessmen, University of Michigan athletes, Ann Arbor police officers, local Greeks and few film stars ( Even the Philadelphia Orchestra, when in town would always make a visit to the restaurant ( Some of the most notable customers were ABC news anchor Ted Koppel, actor Jimmy Stewart and the University of Michigan’s basketball coach Steve Fischer (

Closed in 2006, the loss of the Lamplighter was felt by many in Ann Arbor and was recorded by the Ann Arbor News and the Ann Arbor Observer. In fact, when I was very young I remember eating there myself and felt as if I was experiencing authentic Greek cuisine in a very Greek atmosphere. I will always remember the flaming saganaki I had that day. Even after the closing and auctioning off of memorabilia from the restaurant Masters still persists that he will not retire ( and plans to opening a catering business in the future.

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Greek Named Cities in Michigan

Athens – Named after Athens, NY where many of the early settlers came from. The township was established in 1835 ( In the 2010 census, the village had a population of 1,024 inhabitants. It is located in Athens Township in the city of Battle Creek. Athens is the capital of Greece and has been since 1834 when it was chosen following its declaration of independence (from Ottoman rule) in 1832.

Attica – N. Genesis, the co-founder of the village, along with Wiliam Williams, whose land the main town was built on, were both from New York. The post office was named Mill station in 1867, Elk Lake in 1870 and finally Attica in 1871 in order to match the township (Romig 1973: 33). It seems that many of Michigan’s town’s names in the 19th century were closely tied to their post offices. Attica is the most populated region in Greece and contains the capital city, Athens, and Greece’s largest port, Pireaus.

Atlas – About 10 miles N-E of the city of Flint, Atlas was established in 1836 as a part of Lapeer County, but seven years later it was added to Genesee County. The first settlers in Atlas also came from New York ( In Greek mythology, Atlas is known as the Titan whose punishment for fighting against the gods was to hold up the weight of the heavens on his shoulders for all eternity.

Arcadia – The township was organized in 1870 by W. H. Cotton under the name Arcadia. When the village was founded in 1880 by Henry Starke he changed the name to Starkeville (Romig 1973: 27). However by 1883, the name was reversed when the new post office was established ( Arcadia is a mountainous region in southern Greece (Peloponnesus) named after the mythological Arcas.

Clio – Is another small town in Genesee County and was established as a village in 1873, but has an earlier settlements. Clio was first named Varney after the first grain buyer in the village (which is unconfirmable) and changed in 1864 to Clio. Colonel Hill, who fought with the confederacy, convinced the community in his hotel one night appealing to the Greek name ( Clio, one of the nine muses of Greek mythology, was the muse of history and poetry and a daughter of Zeus.

Homer – The township was named Homer due to the influence of James Hopkins and many other settlers that came from Homer, NY in the mid 1830s. The name Homer refers to the ancient Greek author of the 9th century BCE (this date is not agreed upon). Homer wrote the epic poems, the Illiad and the Odyssey, which have been immensely influential literary works since their creation and are still read and taught today in high schools and universities alike. There is also still debate on the nature of his authorship because not much is known about Homer’s life.

Omer – Founders George Gorie and George Carscallen intended to the city to be called “Homer” but Carscallen had found another post office with the same name so he dropped the H. The city’s first name was not Omer but was named Rifle River River Mills after the Rifle River on which the settlement was first established in the mid 1860s ( Omer is located near Saginaw Bay about 35 miles North of Bay City.

Orion (Lake Orion and Orion Township) – In 1835 the village’s name was changed from Canandaigua (Native American origin) to Orion and so was lake’s name. Orion, the son of Poseidon, was a great hunter in Greek mythology and was transformed into the Constellation Orion after his death by the hands of Apollo and Artemis.

Sparta – Sparta was formally organized in 1846 and its first settler Jonathan Nash named it Nashville, but because there was already a Nashville Tennessee the state government suggested the name Sparta instead ( Sparta is a city southern Greece (Peloponnesus) and in antiquity was a prominent city-state.

Troy – Similar to Athens, Attica, and Homer, Troy was named after its first settlers, which came from Troy, NY. The village was originally named Hastings in 1838, but it was renamed after Troy Corners, which was another name for Eurotas Hasting’s Michigan Bank and took its name from New York as well (Romig 1973: 562). The site of ancient Troy, now called Hisarlik, is located in now what is NW Turkey.

Ypsilanti – The city was originally named Woodruff’s Grove after Major Thomas Woodruff. It was a trading post from 1809 ( In 1829 though, its named was changed to Ypsilanti to honor Demetrius Ypsilantis who was a hero of the Greek War of Independence (1821-32).

This is also true of many other states across the U.S. There are just 16 cities named Athens, 26 cities with the name Troy in their name, and in total, more than 100 cities have Greek names ( Additionally there seems to a strong connection of settlers from New York that name their cities with Greek names.


Ypsilanti was named by Judge Woodrow of Detroit in 1829 who was very impressed by Dimitri Ypsilantis, a hero in the Greek War of Independence (1821-32). The city’s name reflected the national sentiment during the early 19th century which aligned with Greece’s democratic values and spirit of freedom. When entering the from the West one can see the water tower, which is built on the highest point in Ypsilanti, where Greek and American flags fly in unison. Ypsilantis’ bust was dedicated by the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association (AHEPA) in 1928 (Mann 2003:17).

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The New St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

The new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church was built in order to accommodate the growing congregation and was completed in 2004. This imposing building was designed by architect Constantine Pappas and constructed in the Byzantine style with a central dome, domed bell tower, and semi-circular arches and windows. The stained glasses windows, light fixtures, lecterns, and several icons and adornments came from the old church. The new location, although no longer centrally located in Ann Arbor, provides the parish with much needed space in terms of the interior plan of the church, classrooms, and dining hall but also allows for exterior functions such as a large parking lot (where the Ya’ssoo Festival is held), playground, and a sports area. Presently, the church is undergoing iconography installations to beautify the nave in line with Greek Orthodox religious tradition.

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The Old St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was built in 1935 on North Main Street and was the first Greek Orthodox church in Ann Arbor. Church services, elementary and adult Greek language instruction, and the city’s annual Greek Festival were held there until 2002 ( church was demolished in 2012 for the construction of an apartment building. The new church was completed in 2004 and is located on Scio Church road.

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M Den at the Briarwood Mall


M Den storefront in Briarwood Mall

The M Den at the Briarwood Mall sells University of Michigan themed apparel, accessories, and other goods. Intriguingly, the store also has a Greek temple styled facade that is complete with a simple pediment, thin entablature, and fluted Doric columns. In this architectural setting, it is interesting to note that a store would choose to display itself using Greek architectural forms. In public architecture these forms are more commonly associated with banks, museums, courthouses, and university buildings where it is important that their buildings reflect simple boldness, solidity, security and permanence. However, one can also ask why wouldn’t any store owner want that?

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