Ann Arbor Nursery Inc. is the oldest cooperatively operating preschool in the State of Michigan. Its origins can be traced back to the spring of 1938, when a group of mothers attending lectures on various phases of preschool education at the University of Michigan Extension Service made plans to organize a summer play group known as the Ann Arbor Pre-School Play Group. Permission was granted by the Superintendent of Schools and the Director of City Recreation to house equipment at Tappan School and to use the Burns Park and Tappan playgrounds.
With the success of the summer program, plans were made to continue through the year and the Board of Education found space in Mack School for the venture. After the first year the nursery was moved to Angell School. The nursery continued to expand so that in the fall of 1946, both a three-year-old and a four-year-old group were meeting in the mornings. Two years later an additional four-year-old afternoon nursery was added and the name was changed to Angell Cooperative Nursery.
In the spring of 1949 events at the Mack Cooperative Nursery, which had been formed in 1940, lead to further expansion of the Angell Cooperative Nursery. Overcrowding at Mack School caused disbandment of that group. Those members whose children were still eligible for the nursery joined forces with the Angell mothers to form the Ann Arbor Cooperative Nursery.
To assure financial aid to groups wishing to organize as Cooperative Nurseries, or to provide for emergency loans to be administered by the board to Cooperative Nurseries in the Huron Valley Area, surplus funds from the Mack Nursery Fund were donated to the Ann Arbor Cooperative Nursery. The Marian Barclay Cooperative Nursery Loan Fund is named in honor of the woman most closely associated with the Mack Cooperative Nursery.
In the fall of 1949, three-and four-year-old children met at Angell School in three groups already functioning. Two new groups (morning and afternoon) were formed and housed at the Salvation Army Building.
During this busy year of 1949, the Cooperative Nursery was reorganized to handle the increased enrollment. The basis of organization became the “Room Group,” with an executive board to correlate the whole. This was adopted in the June 1950 constitution. By the fall of 1950 all classes were housed at Angell School.
In 1954 the nursery moved to Fritz School (North Maple Road). It was at this time that the nursery was incorporated. Due to the reactivation of Fritz School the nursery moved to the Evangelical United Brethren Church (Miller and Newport Roads) in April of 1956, where it resided until September of 1961.
From September 1961, through the spring of 1968 the Nursery was housed at the First Baptist Church on East Huron Street. The Nursery then moved to Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church and remained there for two years. In the fall of 1971 the Nursery moved to the Bethlehem United Church of Christ, 423 South Fourth Avenue, where it occupied two rooms until the summer of 2007. It then moved to an interim location at the Ann Arbor Learning Center on Research Park Drive. In the summer of 2008, after the completion of remodeling, Ann Arbor Nursery Inc. moved to its new home, the First Baptist Church at 517 East Washington Street—the same location it occupied over 40 years ago.