The legendary ‘Cat Hole’

(Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

Those who drive up Washtenaw Avenue toward the sharp bend into Huron Street are passing the site of a long-lost Ann Arbor landmark known to generations of Michigan students and staff as the Cat Hole. Some say the Cat Hole — a marshy pond and brush-crammed ravine sloping down to the river — got its name from the stealthy practice of medical students who needed a place to dump the remains of the cats they dissected for anatomical study. Another theory is that the early settlers of southern Michigan used the term for any shallow depression where water collected from rain, snow-melt and nearby water-courses, often with cattails growing along their edges. In winter, students flocked to the Cat Hole for sledding and skating. But it became popular chiefly as a place for people to throw things. Years later, after landscape changes due to construction, snowmelt and rainwater still run down the human-altered slopes on either side of Washtenaw, heading toward the lower stories of the parking structure behind the Power Center, right where the Cat Hole collected runoff long ago.

— Adapted from “The late, great ‘Cat Hole’” by James Tobin, Michigan Today


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