Back in the late 1960's there was a coffeehouse on William Street in Ann Arbor between State Street and Maynard Street that served the best mix of Vernors fountain soft drinks ever. It was also a major hangout for students to sit and play chess late into the night. Back in those days it was one of the only places (other than the donut place) that was open late at night. Ann Arbor was always really such a small town.
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Ann Arbor had couches on porches long before students made it fashionable. Long ago, Ann Arbor had a real beatnik coffee shop named Marks. It was where NY Pizza is on William. Mark’s had real bohemians who wore black turtlenecks, read poetry and played chess. There was a community run theater named the Matrix Theater upstairs where the pinball joint is aboive NYPizza. I saw John Waters movie “Pink Flamingo’s” there. A neighbor of mine dated the Unabomber when he was a student at the UM. A2 had at least three head shops. There were free concerts at Gallup Park and a renowned Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival played it’s concerts in the vacant field next to Huron High School. 1510 and 1520 Hill Street were homes of pot smoking, rock n roll radicals, the home of John Sinclair and The MC5. Simple possession of pot was a 5$ fine. The Human Rights Party (a real 3rd political party) elected at least 3 people to city council. There were several large scale political demonstrations (riots) from 1968-1970.
[Michael Erlewine] These days when I visit Ann Arbor it takes twenty minutes just to drive across town. If I have one phrase to describe the difference between Ann Arbor back then and now, it is “overly caffeinated.” Today there seems to be a coffee shop on almost every corner and it makes a difference. Back then there was just one coffee house and that was Mark’s Coffee House at 605 East William Street, and for those of you who are as old as I am, you might remember the actual first bohemian “coffee house” in Ann Arbor, “The Promethean” on the other side of William Street from Mark’s and about a block west, just down from where the Cottage Inn pizza place is today. It did not last long.
[Michael Erlewine] The Promethean Coffee House served Viennese-style brewed (non-espresso) coffee, mulled cider (with cinnamon sticks!), and played jazz albums, not to mention the Shelly Berman comedy albums. Once in a while local folksingers like Al Young (today poet laureate of California) would play there. This must have been in the late 1950s. I was still in high school and I went there as often as I could just to sit around, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, look serious, and (most of all) hope that I would meet the love of my life. Nothing much really happened there aside from all of us sitting around sneaking glances at one another. And after a while it closed. It was not really much of a hangout. It was somehow too sanitized and stiff, too formal. It was a business, not a place to hang, and few of us hung there. It was uncool, not "down" or real enough.
[RanWiz] The address of Marks would have been approx 601 Williams. We lived upstairs during the spring of 1968. Marks was for folk music - a 'beatnik' place. Cool enough, but I was more of a rocker. My band "House of Josef" came to meet over a radio advertisement - the guys met me at Marks, and we went up to my pad to play. An our of jamming in our apartment - with open windows soon drew 100 to the street below. We moved down to the coffee house - but the crowd was too large. Someone in authority at the Canterbury House (a Christian Meeting House & weekend venue across the street) opened their doors, and we played till dawn for a crowd of 200 or so. My wife and I did visit Marks many times when they had live music - usually just a single folk singer - usually just weekends. Live music on every corner in those days - before 'piped in' Musak became the norm.