The little store at 1704 Maplewood (FPLA/CADL)

Throughout the history of the United States the corner store was a fixture in the everyday life of an urban neighborhood. With the demise of the general store, and the growth of department stores, the local corner or neighbor store quickly filled this gap in the retail trade.

What was a corner store, well it’s a retail operation tucked into a neighborhood. The stores were not on a main street or a bus route, they were surrounded by the homes of their customers. You didn’t drive to your neighborhood store, you walked or road your bike. It is the place you went as a kid to return the glass bottles you collected for the 5¢, then used your windfall to buy a pop, baseball cards, penny candy or on those hot days a cool treat.

For adults the store stocked ice cold beer, cold cuts, can goods, fresh vegetables and paper products. In the era before the grocery store and for many years afterward, the neighborhood store served the needs of the community. What made these hole in the wall stores interesting is the owner lived above his or her business. That was their appeal, the owner was always around. In Lansing, just to cite a few examples, there were stores at 1529 New York, another at 110 N. Butler and believe it or not, one at 1001 Seymour. Although many of the hole in the wall stores were torn down years ago you can still see an example of what they looked like. There is one that is still standing at 401 Shepard, right across from the Allen Community Center.

The store at 1704 Maplewood first appears in 1924 and was owned by Mrs. Pearl Joel. Pearl was married to George P. Joel. The couple met while Pearl was working as a telephone operator, they married on January 28, 1921, in Lansing. It may have been that George and Pearl intended to operate the store and raise a family, but it was not to be. The 1924 Lansing City Directory listed Pearl as the only operator of the business. George, a World War I veteran was at his parents’ home, in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, slowly wasting away from pulmonary tuberculosis. Pearl would sell the business to Thomas West and move to Pennsylvania to care for her husband. George Parrish Joel passed away on Christmas Day 1925. (Morning Press 12/26/1924)

Pearl Madeline Randel was born in Burns Township, Michigan on June 5, 1898, to Henry J. and Dora B. (nee Wriggelsworth) Randell. Little is known about Pearl’s early life except that she married Volney M. Vorce in Lansing on November 24, 1915, he was 20 she was just 17. The couple had one child, Maxine R. Vorce. Volney served in the 119thField Artillery in World War I with Carlton Randell, Peral’s brother. The couple divorced in 1920, Volney was cited for extreme and repeated cruelty. After George’s death in 1925, Pearl married Harvey D. Hincher in Novi, Michigan on January 1, 1925. The couple settled in Lansing where Harvey worked for Hill Diesel Engine Company. Harvey adopted Maxine in 1931. (LSJ 12/10/1931) Unfortunately Harvey died of a heart attack on July 6, 1946, at the age of 47. Pearl met the widower, Paul Edgar Fancher and the couple married on April 19, 1947, in Lansing. Paul worked for Oldsmobile for 35 years and when he retired in 1965, he and Pearl moved to Englewood, Florida. One bit of information that is known about Pearl is she was an accomplished amateur photographer, who won several awards. After Paul’s death in 1971, Pearl ,oved to Atlanta, Michigan where she lived with her daughter. Pearl died at the age of 91 on July 9, 1989. (LSJ7/11/1989)

That was quite a rabbit hole to dive down, but Pearl’s life was an interesting, especially how fate brought George and her to open a little store on Maplewood, which reflected the dreams of many veterans and their wives following World War I.

So, a little more about 1704 Maplewood. In 1927 the business became part of a loose affiliation of local corner stores called the Lansing Service Stores, with A. E. Thomas as proprietor. In the 1940s Earl V. Osgood acquired the business which he operated for several years until the mid-1950s when he sold the building to Village Cleaners. In the 1960s Harry Penton bought the building and established Penton Upholstering. In the 1970s the building became the site of the Emmanuel Tabernacle, with Pastor Harold Wonders. The city of Lansing issued a make safe or raze, order in 1980 resulting is the building being torn down. So ended the dream of a young married couple.

A view of the 900 N. Washington looking east of Jefferson Avenue before it was renamed. Note the trees in the distance where the Oakland Avenue bridge stands today. 

It is time for a brief confession, I drive around the city of Lansing a lot and in my wanderings, I have come across many architectural gems and a few oddities. For example, in the above image you can observe a carriage house, just to the left of the home. The carriage house in the image is still standing, one of the few that remain in Lansing. It would be a worthwhile project to one day, locate, inventory and photograph the carriage houses that remain in the city.

Several times a week I drive by the corner of Washington and Oakland Avenues and years ago I noticed that the lot on the north-east corner of Washington and Oakland Avenues was empty. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised that I just had to find out what was on that corner lot. To be honest, I knew 10 years ago, I just haven’t had time to write the story, life sort of intervenes. In the late 1870s the corner of Washington and Oakland was far different. First there was no bridge across the Grand River at Oakland Avenue back then, so there was little traffic, it was quiet and peaceful location, an ideal spot to build a family home. Secondly, it wasn’t Oakland Avenue at that time it was Jefferson Avenue, the name changed in 1965.[1] Take a look at the above image, which was taken in the early 1940s of a snowy day in Lansing.

Observe how the porch is in the shape of an L. The flat roof is surprising is a home of this type. A pitched roof is more common with this style structure.

The home was erected between 1875 and 1877 and was probably designed and built by its owner Henry R. Howard. Henry presents and interesting challenge, we know he was a carpenter and owned/managed a planing mill. He may have been a Civil War veteran, but so much of his life is a mystery. He was born in the state of New York in 1834 or 1836, the son of Charles W. and Dighton R. Howard. Just when Henry moved to Michigan is unknown, the first record of Henry in Lansing is from the 1860 Census. He may have arrived in Michigan sometime in the 1850s. So, let’s deal what we do know about his life. On November 19, 1872, Henry married Celia M. Walton in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Celia was the daughter of Jerome and Maria C. (née Sherman) Walton. Henry and Celia had six children, Mary Belle Pratt, Jerome Walton, Blanche D., Margaret Richmond, Charles W., and Laurance W. Howard. Their son Jerome became superintendent of the Michigan School for the blind in the early 1900s, afterward he accepted a position as superintendent for the Oregon School for the Blind.[2] In the 1878 Lansing City Directory, Henry is listed as living on the northeast corner of Washington and Jefferson Avenues. The address of Henry and Celia’s home was listed in the City Directories as 800 North Washington, until 1906, when the house address changed to 900 North Washington. It was in 1906 that the city of Lansing adopted Philadelphia method of street numbering, a system we still use today.

Note the changes in the porch, it originally was in the shape of an L, but the shorter portion of the L was enclosed

Henry Howard died at the age of 58, on May 19, 1893, no cause of death was listed, and the only useful information provided is that he lives at 800 North Washington, and that he was old.[3] (SR 5/20/1893) A little more is known about Celia Howard’s death. Celia had been in excellent health after her husband’s passing. On December 2, 1907, after attending church services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, she decided to walk home. After returning to her residence, Celia suffered a stroke, she lingered until 5 am and passed away on December 23, 1907.[4]

There is something odd about the design of the home. The rear section of the home is awkward. It is almost as if it was added as an afterthought.

Was this unconventional home worth preserving? Probably not. There is a certain gracelessness to the design of the home, the structure lacks balance. On the left side in the above image, you can see the rear addition with the door that faces the large two story canted bay window. It creates an awkward recess to the rear of the home.

When the home was originally built the amount of traffic on Jefferson/Oakland Avenue was minimal. Today the road is basically a racetrack. Oakland Avenue has the highest ticketing rates for speeders than any other road in Lansing. Keep in mind that Oakland Avenue goes through a residential neighborhood, which makes one question the wisdom of the person who thought that was a good idea. The residence was chopped up into four apartments in the 1950s. There is no record of the home after 1966, today there is just a patch of grass.

[1] See LSJ 1/8/1965

[2] LSJ 5/11/1937

[3] SR 5/20/1893

[4] SR 12/23/1907 and LJ 12/23/1907



© Lost Lansing 2021



Another Rich Haul


Proprietor Charles Brand and Several Inmates of the House are Again Before the Bar of Justice

“Brand refused and reached as if for his pistol pocket, but the marshal quietly shoved a revolver under his nose, said he guess not, and right then and there Brand capitulated. The officers in the meantime, by the aid of a certain key in the hands of Officer Drum, had entered every room in the house and ordered every male and female occupant to dress and join the forces below. Every room contained a man and a woman and in several instances they were captured in bed. Two rooms refused admittance to the officers, the occupants having been warned by Miss Brand, sister of the proprietor, that officers were in the house, but without ceremony these doors were broken down and all except “Kit” Smith and Nora Keating, who were sick, were compelled to enter the hacks bound for jail.

There was the biggest kind of circus at the Gate House last night. Marshal Shubel, Officer Drum and six policemen raided the entire ranch and quartered seven girls and five men in city jail, with Proprietor Charles Brand as the head of the list, charged with keeping a house of ill fame. The raid has been on tap ever since March 26, and every preparation possible had been made. It worked almost beautifully. Between 2 and 3 o’clock this morning a hack stopped in front of the notorious ranch, apparently filled with gay young bloods who were out for the night, all more of less tipsy, with slathers of money. One jumped out and merrily made for the door. Aroused by the noise Proprietor Brand raised the window from above and in a minute opened the door to the man knocking. The man stepped inside, pulled off his false mustaches and revealed the determined countenance of Marshal Shubel. The astonished landlord gave a gasp, which was somewhat prolonged when out of the hack tumbled that officers’ efficient assistants instead of the anticipated gay young spendthrifts. The landlord was squelched and became most abject until the raid was over and Marshal Shubel ordered him to get into the hack and go to jail with the rest.

The foul language used by inmates during the raid would have done credit to a fiend incarnate. There was no limited to it, and in jail this morning the women were still inclined to swear at every and anything. They were all in bad temper, and looked longingly towards the door whenever anyone passed out.

“Don’t you put my name in the paper,” shouted one, “for if you do, you, I will kill you when I get out.” “Yes and I’ll help,” said another, with curses and the foulest epithets. The men are all quartered behind the bars, but the women are lying on couches and chairs in the office. The following is a list of those arrested, with the charges: Charles Brand, keeping a house of ill fame; A.E. Rude, disorderly; John Demorest, disorderly; F.H. Merrill, disorderly’ Bessie Benson, prostitute; Jennie Stage, prostitute; Margaret M. McCumery, prostitute; Flossie Martin, disorderly; Mabel Gray, disorderly; Ida Cook, disorderly, Emily Ford, disorderly; “Kit” Smith and Nora Keating have not yet been charged.

“This time,“ said Marshal Shubel, “I have got Brand sure and I will make it the warmest kind of a time for him” Certainly the outlook for that individual does not bear the rosiest hue imaginable. There is a disposition among the officers to believe that the Gate house has been the scene of crime, and a thorough search of that house and premises will be made on that theory., and if any crimes are hidden within its portals the officers intend to bring it to the surface. The raid was well planned, well carried out, and is well applauded by every decently inclined person in the city. The parties were arraigned before Justice Chase this afternoon, A.E. Rude pleaded guilty and was fined $10 or ten days in jail. Mabel Grey, Bessie Benson, Fred Merrill, Flossie Martin, Ida Cook, Frank Bowman, Jennie Sloge and Margaret McCumery pleaded not guilty and were held on bonds of $200 each until next week. Charles Brand pleaded not guilty to a charge of keeping a house of ill fame and was held in $500 bonds which he furnished.” (State Republican 4/17/1891)

On April 30, 1891, a jury of six men, Fayette M. Howe, D.B. Moon, J.A. Bowen, Charles Thenen, John B. Voiselle and William S Sellers, deadlocked over the guilt of Flossie Martin three jurors for a guilty verdict and three jurors for an acquittal. Just what happened in Flossie’s later life is unknown.

For DB