Providing affordable student housing since 1932

Our Roots

A Brief History of the Inter-Cooperative Council

By John Hopper, with additions by Jim Jones & Brian Nagorsky


During the United States’ economic depression of the early nineteen thirties, the first cooperative house at the University of Michigan was organized in 1932 by graduate students in the Student Socialist Club. A house was rented on East Ann street, and Michigan Socialist House was founded. By buying as a group and doing their own work, they cut room and board costs down to two dollars a week. They ran their house by democratic meetings, where every member had an equal voice in the affairs of the house.

By 1941, there were 8 men’s and 3 women’s co-ops organized in rented houses on the U. of M. campus. With the entrance of the U.S. into World War Two, a rental housing explosion occurred in Ann Arbor caused by the large number of war factory workers temporarily settling in town. Developers and speculators bought up many of the big houses that were suitable for co-ops. With rising rents and decreasing numbers of male students, only three co-ops survived into 1946: Owen, Lester, and Michigan.

The Inter-Cooperative Council was started in 1937 as a coordinating body for the cooperatives, and in 1944 it was incorporated as a non-profit organization. The first Board of Directors was organized, with the number of board representatives from each house being proportionate to the size of the group. The first house was purchased in that year: A. K. Stevens House, named in honor of the professor who co-signed the loan. Shortly thereafter, another house was purchased for Owen Co-op, which had been previously rented. In 1946, a building was purchased and a new co-op began, named Osterweil. In 1947, the building rented by the Michigan Socialist House on East Ann was sold, and the ICC purchased the house at 315 North State as a permanent home for the newly re-named Michigan Cooperative House.

In the years following World War Two, ICC functions were further centralized to satisfy legal requirements and to limit the liability of the members. Titles to houses were held in common and with the centralization of finances came the equalization of charges among members. The first ICC office was opened at Owen Co-op. In 1948, Nakamura was purchased, as was the first ICC truck (for hauling garbage).

The centralization of the ICC coupled with concern over reduced membership levels related to the Korean War, promoted the hiring of the first ICC employee. In the 1951, after an ICC-wide referendum, the hiring of a full-time Executive Secretary was approved. On December 12th of that year, Luther H Buchele began working for the ICC. His duties as Executive Secretary were corporate finances and accounting, advising committees, supervision of purchasing, and carrying out Board directives. Buchele worked for the ICC for nearly 34 years, until his retirement in 1985.

Between 1953 and 1965, the membership actively supported a period of steady expansion. Houses for Lester, which had been previously rented and Brandeis, a new co-op for married students and children were purchased in the 50’s bringing the total number of owned houses to six. In late 1961, members approved a 2% increase in rates to pay for expansion and soon afterwards a 20% increase in development funding was approved. At about the same time, the five existing kitchens were renovated, and two houses were added, Vail and Mark VIII. In 1965, Pickenil house was purchased and joined to Mark VIII (today known as Baker). These two houses and Stevens constituted Tri-House, the first co-ed co-op.

Between 1968 and 1971 came a period of explosive growth. Debs House was purchased in 1967, and in that year planning began for the North Campus Co-ops. The North Campus building was opened, still unfinished, in the fall of 1970. The 216 new members slept in sleeping bags at the Sterns Building until he construction was finished. In 1970, Bruce (today known as Truth) and Minnie’s houses were also opened. In a single year ( 1970 ) the capacity of the ICC went from 200 to 540 members. In 1971, Xanadu was opened bringing the number of ICC members to about 600. The houses were divided into three “Divisions” to decentralize governance and management.

From 1978 to 1980, the houses were rehabilitated with the help of a HUD loan for $1.6 million. Maintenance in many houses had gone lacking under the system of division maintenance budgets. An active Rehab Committee worked hard to improve the physical part of the ICC.

The ICC since 1978 has changed a little while changing a lot. The Board has placed more emphasis on planning and improving the quality of life in the co-ops. North Campus was reorganized from 11 co-ops to 2 ( Renaissance and O’Keeffe ) and the larger rooms were made optionally double or single. In 1985 the membership at the ICC annual meeting unanimously approved a restructuring of ICC governance, eliminating separate Division Councils and naming house presidents as representatives to the Board of Directors. The staff structure was altered that same year to give the new Executive Director, Jim Jones, more of the powers of a general manager.

And , in 1986, the ICC began to grow again, as Xanadu was sold and four building purchased. Two comprised Luther House, named the honor Luther Buchele, one became Black Elk, and the fourth is the ICC’s Moses Coady-Paulo Friere Cooperative Education Center. Regular expansion again became a part of ICC planning. In 1988 Linder House was purchased. This allowed Minnie’s to become monogamous boarding with Mich House and for Linder members to board at Vail. In 1990 the apartment house next to Nakamura was purchased and named Kagawa for Toyohiko Kagawa the Japanese cooperator. This house was run as apartments for several years until it was decided to convert to “suites”(larger apartments) that are part of Nakamura.

Many operational changes resulted from house and other problems during the late 80’s. Member accounts were centralized and computerized in the office, while minor maintenance was “socialized” in 1989, making more money available for houses with the greatest need. Additional staff were hired to improve both maintenance and educational services, and much greater effort was put into the training of both Board and house officers.

Nationally, ICC became deeply involved with the establishment and funding of the Campus Cooperative Development Corporation, which acts as a developer of student housing cooperatives in the United States and Canada, and NASCO Properties, a national holding company for student co-op property. By 1990 successful new cooperatives had been established at the University of California at Davis, the University of Chicago, Ohio University, and University of Vermont.

In 1993 the ICC expanded again with the purchase of Ruths’ at 321 N Thayer. This building, which was 2 5-bedroom apartments, but is run as a group house. In the Fall of 1994, the ICC celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary of incorporation and home ownership. In honor of this anniversary, the ICC produced a 30 minute history video and 100 page history book, “In Our Own Hands”. In the summer of 1995, the ICC purchased its 20th house and once again surpassed the 600 member level. The house is named Karl D. Gregory House after an ICC alum from the 1950s Karl Gregory. In the fall of 1995, the ICC moved out of its office on the fourth floor of the Michigan Union and moved into a newly purchased office building at 337 East William St.


Bentley Historical Museum