Lansing History

Arbeiter Hall 608 N. Grand, Lansing, MI

This is the only image that has been located that shows the early Arbeiter Hall along with the later 1887 addition at the rear. CADL/FPLA

Recently I came across a reference to a new hall being built for Deutschen Order of Harugari, the Einigkeits Lodge, now I am familiar with the German fraternal societies in Lansing, the Die Arbeiter Unterstuetzungs Vereim and the Lansing Liederkranz society but know next to nothing regarding the Deutschen Order of Harugari, or D.O.H. as it is commonly referred to. The Einigkeits Lodge 575 was located at 420 N. Grand Avenue, just north of Shiawassee Street on the east side of the street. The other German societies were, the Arbeiter Hall at 608 N. Grand and the Liederkranz society, 536 N. Grand.  The concentration of German societies in the area of North Grand Avenue may be attributed to the settlement patterns of the German immigrants and the location of the business at which they worked, i.e., Lansing Wheelbarrow, Bement & Sons, Lansing Wagon Works, and industries in the surrounding area.

I decided to examine the history of the Die Arbeiter Unterstuetzungs Vereim, first, or as it is more commonly known as, the Arbeiter Society or the German Workingmen’s Society, at a later date we will look at the Deutschen Order of Harugari. The Lansing Arbeiter Society was organized on July 8, 1875, with twenty-two members, which grew to 130 members in 1887 than to 400 by the turn of the century. The first officers of the Arbeiter Society were: President, John Herrmann; Vice President, Fred Vollmer; Secretary, C. H. Mann; and Treasurer, Martin Lang. The organization was more than just a social club, true they stage plays, both musical and dramatic, along with a German band the society also held dances and Kirmes, a type of German Festival. The society also provided a death benefit for its male members of $500, plus an additional $100 to cover funeral expenses, it also paid $4 a week in sick benefits. For members of the women’s auxiliary it paid a sick benefit of $3 a week, and a death benefit of $125. In 1880, the Order decided to build a hall. The building was constructed of brick and trimmed with artificial stone, one story in height, with a trussed roof, and its size was 36 by 48 feet. The building was one long hall. Orville V. Fuller designed the clubhouse. Seven years later the building was enlarged by the board. This time Fuller designed an addition to the rear of the building. The addition was two stories high, 33 by 54 feet. The lower floor was divided into two large, connected sitting rooms, a bar room, ticket office, cloak room, etc., and the upper floor contained the hall, dining room, 19 x 35 feet and a large kitchen. The structure cost $4,000.

Arbeiter Hall

The New Arbeiter Hall, note the increase in size of the building and the large hall which occupied the second floor. The building must have been difficult to cool in the summers. CADL/FPLA

In 1904 the building was no longer meeting the needs of the Arbeiter Society and the board engaged the Lansing architectural firm of White & Hussey to redesign the building. The architects developed a plan to completely remodel the building while keeping some architectural elements from the older structure. The main floor was raised so that there will be a basement for storage purposes and the size of the building was increased by expanding the building by nine feet toward Grand Avenue and fifteen feet to the north.

Arbeiter Hall

An architectural rendering of Arbeiter Hall, it was quite an imposing structure.

On the first floor there was a large dining hall, a modern kitchen, a bar, amusement room, bowling alley, ticket office and cloak room. The second floor contained a large room, 49 by 55 feet with a stage, the hall was used for lodge meetings and as a concert venue. There were two ladies’ parlors and bathrooms on the second floor. The façade of the building was in the German Renaissance Revival style. It was constructed with pressed brick, and trimmed with buff Bedford stone.

Aerial view of theArbeiter Hall site

A image from 1948 that clearly shows the Arbeiter Society Hall still standing but part of the Lansing Board of Public Works facility.

In 1920 the building was sold to the Michigan Ice Cream Company which moved its plant into the old hall. Kind of an odd business use for the building, but the Michigan Ice Cream Company felt that given the size of the lot 120 by 250 feet the factory had room to expand. Arctic Ice Cream Company of Detroit acquired the Michigan Ice Cream Company and a year later decided to close the Lansing plant and the city of Lansing purchased the property. The city debated what to do with the property. Finally in 1939 it was decided to tear down Arbeiter Hall and Liederkranz Hall to build a city garage. However, the city only tore down Liederkranz Hall. Arbeiter Hall was incorporated into the Lansing Board of Public Works complex that was just south of Saginaw Street on the Grand River. the hall was finally torn down on August 7, 1959, and replaced with a paint shop. Today, the site is home to Adado Riverfront Park, a location that is well worth a visit.

For more information see:

LR 10/28/1880, SR 4/15/1887, SR 6/20/1904, LJ 10/11/1904, SR 10/11/1904, LSJ 10/31/1919, LSJ 1/1/1921, LSJ 9/27/1923, LSJ 8/25/1924, LSJ 2/11/1925, LSJ 8/3/1939 and LSJ 8/7/1959.

One day the architectural work of Orville V. Fuller in Lansing may be reviewed.

© Lost Lansing 2022

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.

© Lost Lansing 2022

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