To research, collect, preserve and exhibit cultural and historical materials about the life and work of African Americans in Washtenaw County. Click on the Timeline and read about the past programs, tours, exhibits and collaborations the AACHM has been part of over the years
The only Museum dedicated to the preservation of Black history in Washtenaw County
Founded in 1993 as a museum without walls, the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County (AACHM) has presented over one hundred programs and events, curated exhibits at a variety of locations throughout the county, collaborated and partnered with several institutions and organizations to present local Black history and created and conducted historic Underground Railroad programs and bus tours of Washtenaw County.
This history will now be accessible at 1528 Pontiac Trail to educate and inspire visitors within walls. The building provides a place for the museum store community donations, family artifacts and treasures that tell the stories and impact of their local, regional, state, and national presence. The museum that now has walls will further its mission of preserving and sharing the legacy of the local African American experience from African roots to the present day.
The museum’s location at 1528 Pontiac Trail is less than 1 mile northwest of the Broadway Historic District, which contains over 100 historic homes dating back to 1838. The AACHMWC is surrounded by more than eight Underground Railroad sites. These sites are included in “Journey to Freedom” – Underground Railroad Bus and Walking Tours of Washtenaw County, including three on Pontiac Trail. The museum is minutes away from several other historical houses, parks and buildings including the Fourth and Ann Street Black Business District, Kerrytown, Lower Town and Wheeler Park. The museum is also within walking distance of Ann Arbor’s Northside School (grades K-8) which houses the District’s STEAM Program. We hope this will be a great curriculum enhancement for all Northside students.
About the Historic Albert Polhemus House
The museum is housed in a mid 19th century brick residence originally built by Albert Polhemus as his home in the 400 block of East Washington street in downtown Ann Arbor. The house was moved from its 411 E Washington street address to 1528 Pontiac Trail in 2006. THE MOSAIC FOUNDATION of R. & P. Heydon acquired the structure nearly a decade and a half ago, to rehabilitate it for the AACHM to tell the stories of the history and culture of African Americans in Washtenaw County; and also for the Foundation's own offices.
Built an 1848, it initially housed Albert and Leah Polhemus and their six children. The family had come to Ann Arbor from New York State. In 1861 the family of Reverend Maltby Gelston, Jr. came to occupy the house. Maltby Gelston and his brother, Mills B. Gelston, were “supply ministers” for small churches in lower Michigan. Maltby's son, Joseph Mills Maltby (the acorn not falling far from the tree) became the pastor of Ann Arbor's First Presbyterian Church from 1888 to 1909. The Anti Slavery Society was founded in 1836 at First Presbyterian, then located at the southwest corner of east Huron and Division streets. A commemorative plaque now marks the spot which is also one of the stops on the AACHM's Underground Railroad Bus Tour, “Journey to Freedom”
In more recent history, in the late 20th century the Albert Polhemus house served as the first corporate headquarters for Borders Books; and later notable Ann Arborite Phillip H. Power acquired the house for the corporate management of his “Observer Newspapers” chain originally operating in Oakland County.