The precursor of the modern paint store is shown in this nineteenth century photo of the newly erected commercial building decorated for a German- American celebration in 1886.  This type of Italianate commercial building was extremely popular in the mid to late century and populates most cities and towns in the Midwest.  Its hallmarks are the ornate cornice with brackets, arched windows and glassed street facing display along with an eager staff to help you make your paint and varnish selections. Most locals knew this as the Cracked Crab sea food joint with it’s odd New England style first floor and white paint.

Prime location for a restoration project

The building was prime for an historic restoration. Located just off the cities main street, already known for it’s wide variety of food offerings, the old Cracked Crab closed in the late 1990s. Although the building was in disrepair and located on a rundown block, the new owner saw a grand opportunity to turn around the structure and the street at the same time. The restoration, along with the neighboring Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, brought new life to a neglected commercial block and that success has continued for over 15 years!

Goal & Solution


The building owner, Jon Carlson, decided to take the restoration back to the condition documented in the earlier photo. The first floor was restored to match the historic image as was the cornice.  The white paint was carefully removed revealing a grand orange brick. Detail colors from an 1880s paint catalogue were added as well as colorful awnings.


Detail colors from an 1880s paint catalogue were added as well as colorful awnings. I tried to make this building look as it might have in 1886.  Today it is one of the most known building in the city of Ann Arbor thanks to Jon Carlson’s restoration efforts.