Inter-Cooperative Council Logo photo: coopers on porch

Working Together: The Story of the ICC

A Brief History of the Inter-Cooperative Council- Part 1

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.