Residents living on the west side in the 1870s drove their buggies or walked across the bridge over Allen Creek, climbing the Liberty Street hill to join the celebration of German American Day. In the distance you can see the rooftops of their homes built after 1845 in what is now the Old West Side. Close by, saw mills, grist mills, tanneries, foundries, and breweries, mainly German-owned, took advantage of the creek as a source of power and water.
From Ann Arbor's founding in 1824 until today, the presence of the waterway has defined the shape of the center of town. The creek provided the site for the city's earliest known bathhouse, an octagonal Victorian structure built over the creek at Liberty and First streets. Early skating parks and swimming areas also were located along the creek. In 1878 the first passengers on James Ashley's new Toledo & Ann Arbor Railroad arrived in town. The railroad followed the valley and spurred increased industrial development along the creek.
By Ann Arbor's centennial in 1924, property owners near the creek, upset by frequent flooding and pollution, demanded that the city put the creek into a storm sewer. Although it was buried in twelve miles of pipe, heavy downpours sometimes exceeded the capacity of the pipe, resulting in flooding along its watershed.