The Cortrite home and Fanning Mill Works is an image that appeared in Durant’s History of Ingham and Eaton Counties, Michigan. The color image is one that I came across years ago, I just cannot remember where. The address of the home was listed on the illustration as being 96 Michigan Avenue in 1880. So just where was that? Well in today’s world it is 808-814 E. Michigan Avenue. The Fanning Mill was sited at 810-814 E. Michigan Avenue while the home was located at 808 E. Michigan Avenue. That is in the elevated lot between Moriarty’s Pub and Stober’s Bar. The Fanning Mill Factory is long gone, but the home existed until the mid 1980s. Hard to believe that the home was not listed in Memorandum 76, that may have been because of the homes location, set back from the street and between two commercial blocks. Simply it may have been overlooked.

The Cortrite Fanning Mill from the 1870 patent

Durant in his history of Ingham County stated that that the Eureka Fanning Mill plant was established in Lansing in 1875. Prior to that Henry Cortrite operated the factory that manufacture fanning mills in Plymouth, Michigan. Henry relocated to Lansing because of its central location to the railroad lines. If you consider where the new fanning mill was located, just two blocks east of the Michigan Central Railroad line and several blocks from the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway line, the factory was in a perfect position to capitalize on shipping via the railroads. Barnard Cortrite was the inventor of the Cortrite fanning mill, Henry his brother, was not listed in the patent. Barnard also operated a factory to manufacture fanning mills in Norwalk, Ohio, while his brother Henry operated the factory in Lansing. Between 1876 and 1880 the two plants manufactured and sold over 10,000 fanning mills. A fanning mill was an implement that employed sieves and a fan to remove chaff from grain that had been threshed. Later, the technology was combined with the threshing machine, eliminating the need for a separate mill. On Sunday, April 23, 1882 disaster struck the Lansing business when the warehouse that contained 150 finished fanning mills was destroyed by fire. Although the business was insured the production of fanning mills by the Cortrite’s ended in Lansing. (ICN 4/27/1882) The 1883 Lansing City Directory listed Joseph Schneeberger (1832-1911), as the owner of the Eureka Fanning Mills and living at 804 E. Michigan.[1] At this time, it is unknown when Henry sold his business to Joseph, but it must have been in either 1881 or 1882 and it is not clear if Joseph was manufacturing the Cortrite fanning mill or one of a different design.

Henry Cortrite

Henry Cortrite was born in Phelps, New York on November 23, 1837 to Garrett and Electa (née Pullen) Cortrite. When he was 16 he moved with his mother, sister and younger brother to Genesee County, Michigan, Henry’s father Garrett died Phelps, New York on June 16, 1857, just why the family moved to Michigan four years prior to Garrett’s death is unknown. On November 23, 1864, Henry married Miss Annie E. Moreland, the couple has six children, Bernard, Elizabeth, Mary Jane, Henry, Charles B., and Lucretia E. Cortrite. After leaving Lansing for Pontiac, Henry worked in the real estate business and owned a farm. Henry died in Pontiac, Michigan on December 7, 1909. His brother, Bernard continued manufacturing fanning mills in Norwalk, Ohio and retired to California, he passed away on February 17, 1921.

Detail of the porch on Henry Cortrite’s home on Michigan Avenue

I almost forgot, I was exploring the house at 808 E. Michigan. So, if you examine the above image of the porch and focus on the arch between the columns you can see that there is a small opening near columns side of the arch, and another at the center that carried through with the arch. Now observe in the next two images and you can see that the same pattern repeated. Unfortunately, the detailed millwork from the upper part of the porch is missing from the two later images of the home.

808 E. Michigan from the 1950s (CADL/FPLA)

The Cortrite home was later divided in to five separate apartments. You can see the two separate front entrances in the images from the 1950s. The second-floor windows have been replaced with the ornate central window being exchanged with a door. All the gingerbread bargeboard had been removed from the home giving the structure a rather pedestrian appearance.

808 E. Michigan from the 1950s (CADL/FPLA)

So just what happened to the home? Well it became sort of a flop house. The majority of the references in the Lansing State Journal in regard to 808 E. Michigan Avenue are either advertisements for apartment rentals of notices regarding the criminal citations for one of the residents. The home was torn down in 1985. So, what does this all mean? Well it is another example of Lansing choosing destruction over preservation. You may think that this is out of place because the structure is in what has been called the downtown corridor, which is asinine. As much as the mayor and advertisers like to state, downtown is west of the river and not east.

© Lost Lansing 2018

[1] This is a good time to point out that addresses in Lansing changed several times between the 1880s and 1906 when Lansing implemented the Philadelphia method or street addresses.

The Porter Home on the South West Corner of Washington and Kalamazoo. (CADL/FPLA)

So sometimes it’s fun to look at an old image and see what we can learn from it. The other day I was on Forest Parke Library and Archive’s site, Local History Online, and I came across the above image of the Porter House on South Washington Avenue and Kalamazoo Street. The image was described as the E. H. Porter House, located on the south west corner of Washington and Kalamazoo. The home was owned by Edwin H. Porter, he acquired it from Charles W. Butler in 1871 in exchange for Porter’s home on Townsend Street. Charles was the son of Orange Butler, Charles was a developer who along with Edward Sparrow and John J. Bush platted the Bush, Butler & Sparrow’s Subdivision.

The Porter Home on the 1866 Bird’s Eye View.

The home was built circa 1862 by Charles and can be seen on the 1866 Bird’s Eye View of Lansing. Edwin Haines Porter was born in Onondaga, New York on December 16, 1822 to Seth John and Cynthia Miriam (née Haines) Porter. Edwin came to Michigan with his parents in 1832 and in 1846 married Miss Adeline E. Waiter, the couple had four children; Harvey, Charles, Alice and Nellie. Adeline Porter died in June 1866. During the Civil War, Edwin enlisted with the 4th Michigan Cavalry, serving as Quartermaster and was present at the capture of the Jefferson Davis. After the war, Edwin married Miss Emily E. Nash in 1867. Edwin passed away on May 6, 1912. (LSJ 5/6/1912)

An enlarged image of the Porter Home.

Before we continue with a history of the Porter residence, I thought it would be interesting to look at the house close-up. Notice how the porch extends around the home. There is a picturesque element to the structure. The gingerbread details on the lower and upper porch lend to the elegance of the home, coupled with the ornate widow’s walk made this one of the impressive homes in early Lansing.

An extreme close-up of the Porter Home.

So, you may think there is nothing of the above image, but look closely, I know it’s not much but this is the earliest image we have of the Freewill Baptist Church. Notice the steeple to the right of the widow’s walk. Between 1880 and 1882, Porter sold the home to Dr. Charles N. Hayden who the 1883 Lansing City Directory is listed as residing at 402 S. Washington, the house retained the 402 S. Washington address until 1894, the address changed to 111 W. Kalamazoo. Why? Well we are going to look at a series of maps that may help to explain what happened.

From the 1873 Lansing map. Notice the location and footprint of the Porter home and site of the Freewill Baptist Church.

This is an image the 1892 Lansing Sanborn Map. Notice that there is now a grocery business built on the front of Lot 1. This explains why the house number was 402 S. Washington. Also observe the shape of the Porter home, notice how it matches the shape on the 1873 map and the 1866 Bird’s Eye View. Also, the wrap around porch is present in all the images, except the next.

Above is an image from the 1898 Lansing Sanborn Map. Look how the home is was located to the back of the lot, away from the rear of the grocery building. I believe it is quite possible that the home was moved to the back of the lot and that the western single story structure was removed. Look at the layout of the home in 1898, it resembles the 1892 layout without the wrap around porch and single story wing. Is this conclusive proof, no but it needs to be considered? The 1906 and 1913 Lansing Sanborn Maps all show the same footprint for the home. In 1896, the address for Dr. Charles N. Hayden changed to 111 W. Kalamazoo. Dr. Hayden lived in the home until his death in 1902. The home at 111 W. Kalamazoo was torn down around 1935 and turned into a used car lot. Previous to that the home become a flop house.

© Lost Lansing 2018

Well I decided to look at the Edward Cahill home that was in the news regarding the destruction of the Scott (Jenison) house with the building of the Board of Water and Light Substation. One of the problems with the building of this white elephant is that the Scott Sunken Garden, which was fabricated using the foundation of the Cahill Home would be destroyed. Yep I know, most cities embrace their waterfront property and build condos, expensive homes, apartments or parks on their riverfront. Oh, wait this was a park. So much for city planning. The fact that we did not know just what the Cahill Home look like bothered me so I thought I would do some work on the topic. No detailed photograph of the Cahill Home exists, I decided to look at images of the R.E. Olds Mansion. Why, because Olds Mansion was located directly north of the Cahill Residence and the Olds Mansion was one of the most photographed residence’s in the city. After completing that task, I found two intriguing images of the Cahill home. First a little background on Edward Cahill.

Edward Cahill

Edward Cahill was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on August 3, 1843 to Abraham and Frances Maria (née Marsh) Cahill. He attended the local schools then Kalamazoo College, where he met Miss Lucy Crawford, who he later married. At the age of 13 Edward became a messenger for the Michigan Legislature, where he worked from 1857-1859. In 1860, he became an apprentice printer for the Kalamazoo Gazette. With the start of the Civil War, Edward enlisted in the 89th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company A, but was discharged 6 months later due to illness. In the Fall of 1863 he became a Captain with the 102nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, Company D, and saw action at Battle of Honey Hill, Deveaux Neck, Salkehatchie Bradford’s Springs and Swift’s Creek. After the war, Edward lived in St. Johns, Michigan where he was admitted to the state bar in 1866. In June of 1871 he moved to the Chicago to open a law practice. He survived the Chicago fire of October of 1871 and moved to Lansing in August of 1873. Two years later Edward formed a law practice with Judge Albert E. Cowles which lasted until 1881. He later formed practices with Russell C. Ostrander and Clark C. Wood. In 1890, he was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court. Edward later served in a variety of legal capacities with several Michigan Governor’s.

1873 Map of the property, notice the footprint of the home.

Edward married Miss Lucy Crawford on June 11, 1867, the couple had five children, Clara, Margaret, Clark, Charles E. and one unknown. Lucy passed away at her home in Lansing on June 26, 1918. On June 28, 1922, Edward married Mrs. Mary Benbow Crawford of Greensboro, North Carolina. After traveling by steamship from Buffalo, Edward died at his cottage at Roaring Brook, Michigan on July 27, 1922, a month after his wedding.[1]

The 1906 Sanborn Map of the home, notice the footprint of the house

The home may have been built prior to 1873, The County Atlas of Ingham, Michigan, 1873 seems to bear this out, see image. Notice that the footprint of the home is almost the same as the 1906 Sanborn image of the home. There are differences. Notice the shape of the structures similar but different. The original home may have been built for John J. Bush Sr. an early settler and real estate speculator. The LSJ obituary of Edward Cahill stated that he lived at 101 W. Main for 45 years, that would put the building or remodeling of the home at 1877.[2] Was in a new build or a remodel? That has yet to be determined. What is known is that Richard Scott, after he acquired the property when Cahill died and divided the home into two separate residences, 101 W. Main and 103 W. Main. Maurice M. Scott, Richard’s son lived at 101 W. Main, while Andrew B Dougherty resided at 103 W. Main. On January 12, 1929, there was a fire in the kitchen of 103 W. Main, the fire was contained, but the risk to Richard Scott’s home was too great for him to have ignored, or the fire damage to the structure was greater them reported in the Lansing State Journal.[3] In December of 1929, Richard Scott engaged the services of Capitol City Wrecking Company and the home at 101-103 W. Main was dismantled and portions sold off as scrap.[4]

The Cahill residence, the porch in the foreground is that of the Olds Mansion

The home was a frame structure and in many ways very elegant, but a little off balanced. From the images, it seems the western wing of the home was built prior to the eastern, which gives credence that the home was remodeled and was built far earlier then 1877. The Georgian Colonial Revival style of the home with the façade column on the western portion of the home lend an elegance to the structure.

Observe the size of this home, it must have ben at least 300 square feet

You can see that the structure is off balance, the eastern side of the building is much smaller than the western side, especially when you consider the placement of the porch with the offset entrance. Notice how the windows and doors on the porch section are stacked three over three then one. All odd numbers. While in the western wing, the windows are stacked two over the two split pane windows on the second floor. The eastern wing seems symmetrical, but due to the limitations of the images this cannot be determined. There also is a bay window on the eastern side of the structure. I like this home, it must have been quirky and large. Was it a lost for Lansing? It sure was!


[1] See Past and present of the city of Lansing and Ingham county, Michigan, by Albert E. Cowles, p 171, Men of progress: embracing biographical sketches of representative Michigan men, p 85, LSJ 6/27/1918, and LSJ 5/28/1922

[2] LSJ 7/28/1922.

[3] LSJ 1/14/1929.

[4] LSJ 12/7/1929.

© Lost Lansing 2017