Faculty image George Lutz, Sr. Painter-Foreman
Biography/Memoir

 

He’s Known Eight Michigan Presidents

 

(George Lutz, Unpretentious and Sincere, is the Campus Compendium of Information – He has watched and has had His Share in the Growth of the University)

Do you remember way back when the "ole swim-
min' hole'' was located just behind the present
 Dental Clinic Building; when three other houses 
like the President's home skirted the Campus, one adjacent to Dr. Ruthven's residence on South University and two others in similar positions on North University; when the only fire protection that Ann Arbor 
had was a bunch of buckets with hand pumps and hose
 attachments; when Felch Park (just northeast of the 
Michigan League Building) was a city cemetery; when
 the news of Lincoln's assassination came over the
 wires; when all University deliveries
 were made in a little hand-operated
 wheel cart; when the first office build
ing was constructed on State Street?


If you can't remember these and a
 lot more of the facts of early Univer
sity and Ann Arbor history harkens 
to the man who does, George J. Lutz, 
 Sr., Painter-Foreman of the Univer
sity since he was hired in 1888 by 
President Angell, Treasurer Harrison Soule and Secretary James Hen
ry Wade.


In the days when Lutz first was
 hired to do the University painting
 he had so little to do that he was 
pressed into janitor service and a
 thousand and one odd 'jobs. In the 
summer of 1931 he found it neces
sary to keep moving at top speed 
in his direction of a painting crew of thirty-nine men. 
                                                                                          

The situation has not developed suddenly. There
 has been a gradual increase of responsibility from the
 time that local newspapers hailed a University enrollment of 1,000, as the limit beyond which no institu
tion could travel, to the present when enrollments of 
more than 10,000 are not infrequent on the Campus. 
 

With the passing of time has come a change in the
 physical features of the town and of the University, a 
spiritual change in the shift from agrarianism to indus
trialism. And mentally George Lutz has recorded all
 of these developments. Today he treasures them al
most as much as his personal memories of every pres
ident of the University except Dr. Tappan, who in
habited the Executive Mansion even before Lutz was
 born.


He is a man of civic interests as well. The Ann Ar
bor Rotary Club, of which he was an active member, 
 recognized this distinction in presenting him with a
 watch in 1923 in appreciation of fifteen years of serv
ice on the City Council where his son, a member of the 
local school board, has been maintaining the family tradition for the past six years. 


But let's give George Lutz himself a chance to tell
 some of the story. 


"I was born in Ann Arbor on Ashley Street in 1858.  
My father and mother were among the early German 
settlers in Washtenaw County, coming here on the
 Michigan Central in 1854. I remember well the story 
of how they crossed over in a sailboat. It took them 
thirty-seven days. I, myself, can remember quite clear
ly as far back as 1864. 


"People often wonder how I came to know President
 Haven personally. Well, it wasn't my fault. You see 
Dr. Haven at one time owned a block 
of stores on Huron Street which he 
had built and in which he was unable 
to rent the third floor space. He 
donated the third floor for a Mission
 Sunday School and he himself used 
to talk to the students. I, by family
 command, had to go to the Sunday 
School. And that is how I became
 personally acquainted with Dr. Hav
en. I've known personally every 
President of the University since that 
time. One of my treasures is an au
tographed copy of Dr. Angell's biog
raphy. I don't know anyone that I
 liked better than President Burton. 


"I used to know most of the students when the University was smaller. They weren't the bad bunch people say they were. It's true that on 
Halloween night the entire University working crew 
did sentry duty over the wooden Campus walks. And 
it's true that the crew couldn't stop the students from 
tearing up some of the walks. But it was about time 
for those old things to be torn up anyway. And the
 students just had fun.  They never damaged any of the 
buildings. I remember one morning when a rooster
 was found tied to the lightning rod on the dome of 
University Hall. But there was no harm done—the 
rooster just crowed.

You know Ann Arbor really started on the North
 side of the river in what later was called 'lower 
town' and which is now the north side or the fifth ward. 
  As the town grew, University men played a big part 
in civic affairs. Dean Emeritus Mortimer Cooley was
 once President of the City Council. Bradley Thompson, former Professor of Law, was Mayor. Many 
other faculty men held city positions. 


"I remember when the first Chinese students came 
to the Campus in about '71. They were real curiosities 
then and everyone used to stop and stare at them. But 
that was before the days of Chinese laundries.

"Just about where Natural Science Building and the
 Chemistry Building now stand were the two houses 
like the President's home. Later those buildings were 
used as offices for the two long wooden hospital build
ings built behind them. And still later when the University delivery service became important enough to
 merit a horse-cart, the University bought a horse and 
horse barns were constructed between the hospitals on 
North University Avenue. Yes, the handcart delivery 
went out of style and was replaced by a two-wheel
 horse-drawn delivery wagon, which was sufficient for 
the needs of the entire school. That is all changed now.  
Even the old chapel on the 
ground floor of Univer
sity Hall has disappeared. 
  Thirty or forty years ago 
I used to ring the tower 
bell every day but Satur
day at twenty minutes of 
nine for chapel services 
for the whole student 
body. Either the Presi
dent or Dr. Frieze (later 
acting President) or Professor D'Ooge (Rev. Mar
tin Luther D'Ooge, Late
 Professor Emeritus of 
Greek) usually conducted 
the brief services.


"
I used to keep my 
paints in the basement
 of the Library where I was 
also janitor. I got my first 
real paint shop about 1895
 when I was given the 
brick out-house adjoining 
the old boiler room on the
 site of the present faculty 
parking space. The picture
 I have here shows the paint crew of the summer of 
about '09 standing in front of that paint shop. (See 
picture on this page). 



"You know," the 73-year-old walking compendium 
of University history confessed, "it's a funny thing. 
  Here I am going to be 74 next January and I've always
 enjoyed good health and I don't know why it is except
 perhaps that I was careful because people always told
 me that I was sick. I had to leave school (Union
 School, burned down on site of present Ann Arbor 
High School) when I was twelve and went to work in 
a furniture shop. That's where I first learned to handle 
a brush. Then I sold shoes in a Main Street store from
 72 to 76. Had to stop that because the doctors told
 me I had consumption and had to be out in the air. So
 I quit and went to work as a blacksmith. It's funny
 about that sickness business. All of the others have
 gone but I'm still in perfect health. Oh yes, I know 
I'm getting older. You can't fool me about that. But 
I'm still active and able to handle my growing job
 without any trouble.


"You know sometimes I feel that I’m the only one left.  I knew so many people and they’re all gone.  I was born on the West side and used to know everyone there but now when I walk around there no one knows me. "


We could have listened for hours to stories about
 students, about professors, about the University 
and about its Presidents but our time was limited and 
George Lutz had to get back to his desk where he super
vises maintenance work for all University buildings
 except the Hospital. Sign work, cabinet repair, glass
 setting, shade repair and
 placement are some of the 
tasks within his department.


He is a conscientious
 worker. Anxious to see 
that the equipment for 
which he was responsible 
in the new Legal Re
search Library was fin
ished satisfactorily he
 made two personal trips 
recently, one to a north
ern manufacturing center 
and the other to the East
 coast, for the sole pur
pose of staining doors and 
other fittings himself to
 insure their perfection. 


Whether or not George
 Lutz is still remembered
 on the "West side," he is 
a familiar figure on the
 Campus. Everyone knows
 and most people
 claim that he knows more 
about more things concerning the University 
than any other one person. He has a son, George, Jr., 
 who has been connected with Dr. Novy's department in 
the University Hospital for almost thirty years. And 
if you want to see his chest swell with pride just ask 
him about his two grandchildren, especially three-year-
old Jackie, son of his married daughter, Henrietta Lutz 
Halberg. 


 

The Michigan Alumnus

October 24, 1931, Page 65

 


 

 

 

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