Lansing History

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

Images CADL/FPLA

 

© Lost Lansing 2021

 

232 South Capitol

232 South Capitol. The home was built in 1885-1886, when Mason Chatterton moved to Lansing.

Mason D. Chatterton, died suddenly at his home at 232 South Capitol Avenue on October 27, 1903. He was 68 years old, and his death was a shock to the community. Mason had been in excellent condition his entire life, but in late 1902 he began to suffer periodical bouts of ill health. In early October 1903, Mason attended a stockholders meeting of the Farmers’ Bank in Mason, Michigan. He caught a cold while traveling to the meeting, two weeks later his health had not improved and he became noticeably weaker. On the advice of his doctor, Mason decided to remain at home and work in an attempt to hasten his recovery. After ten days he seemed to be recuperating, but late in the evening of October 26, 1903, he became violently ill and passed away suddenly from pneumonia. Mason Chatterton was born in Mt. Holly, Rutland County, Vermont on August 3, 1838. His parents Daniel and Betsey (née Jewett) Chatterton, moved their family to Michigan in 1851, stopping briefly in Oakland County, before purchasing property in Ingham County. The Chatterton farm in Meridian Township was 72 acres in size and was located in the north east corner of Hagadorn Road and Grand River Avenue, with additional lands below Grand River Avenue reaching the Red Cedar River. According to many sources, young Mason was the first student admitted to the Michigan Agricultural College where he studied for three years, he then attended the State Normal School in Ypsilanti,[1] for one year before he enrolled in the University of Michigan to study law. After Mason’s graduation from the University of Michigan, in March 1861, he was admitted to the state bar. Mason was a man on a mission, he was the town clerk of Meridian, selected as an Ingham County Court Commissioner, 1864-69; elected as an Ingham County Probate Judge, 1873-81; after leaving politics Mason became Director and President of the Farmers Bank of Mason. He practiced law in Okemos, Mason and Lansing where he moved in 1886. He was also an accomplished write, he wrote, Law and Practice in the Probate Courts and Immortality from the Standpoint of Reason, which was published by his wife after his death. On June 2, 1864, Mason married Miss Mary A. Morrison, who was the daughter of Norris and Jane (née Homer) Morrison. The couple had one child, Floyd M. Chatterton. Daniel’s wife Mary A. Chatterton passed away on April 29, 1923, at the age of 87. The home at 232 South Capitol was designed by the architectural firm of Mason & Rice.


Wolverine Insurance Building

The Wolverine Insurance Building soon after its completion. 

So, what happened to the Chatterton home, well it was torn down in 1924 and replaced by the Wolverine Insurance Building.[2] Accident Fund acquired the building in 1950 and moved into the old Wolverine Insurance building in January 1951. Surprisingly the oldBuilding is still standing, the façade is hidden behind metal panes that grace the entire structure at 232 S. Capitol. I am not sure what to make of this building, on the one had in many ways the exterior is disappointing and seems dated, while on the plus side the multi-storied atrium is wonderful.[3] Today the building is the home to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan.

For more information on Mason Chatterton see LJ 10/28/1903, SR 10/28/1903, Past and present of the city of Lansing and Ingham county, Michigan, Cowles page 137ff and Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections P 763 Vol 34 1904

[1] Today Eastern Michigan University

[2] The architects were Edwyn A. Bowd and Orlie J. Munson see LSJ 10/24/1925

[3] See LSJ 3/3/1986 and LSJ 3/15/1988

© Lost Lansing 2021

Merry Christmas Everyone and a Happy New Year!

No boring text just a look back at some images of the Lansing City Market, Enjoy!

Market Scales circa 1966

Fruit vendor circa 1966

Egg and Cheese vendor circa 1968

Flowers circa 1968

Vibrant Market circa 1968

A really cool exterior shot circa 1968

The courtyard circa 1968.

Seems odd that Grand Rapids, Detroit and Ann Arbor all have vibrant city markets.

Just saying.