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729 W. Allegan Street, originally 719 W. Allegan Street. (CADL/FPLA)

I came across an image of 729 W. Allegan while examining images of the house at 735 W. Allegan. In 1981, David Caterino took a series of photographs of structures west of the Capitol that were slated for demolition.[1]The property at 729 W. Allegan was not part of Caterino’s survey, the home was acquired by the state in 1970 and torn down either in 1970 or 1971.[2]A survey of the Lansing City Directories points to the home being built between the years 1884-1887, the 1888 Lansing City Directorylisted 719 W. Allegan as being owned by Joseph R Larose. Just who the architect of the home was is unknown. But one key to who the architect was were the teardrop columns on the second-floor porch an element not seen in the design of many homes. Note how these columns seem almost suspended over their base and how second-floor porch flairs outward.

An enlargement of the first photograph that show the teardrop columns on the second-floor porch as well as the columns on the entrance porch and the columns that frame the second-floor front window.

The home at 729 W. Allegan was an exquisite structure that contained many interesting architectural elements. Observe the front porch columns in the Doric pier style, a characteristic that is repeated on the shed porch at the rear of the home. The front porch is also canted, laid out at an angle from the main structure. The second-floor window on the front of the home is framed by Ionic style columns, they are so delicate that they could be overlooked. The architect used three styles of columns in the design of the home. It is interesting to note the graceful arching of the roof of the second-floor porch and the attractive slope of the dormer over the second-floor window. These elements coupled with the angler structure of the entrance porch, demonstrated that the architect was comfortable mixing angles and curves in their design.

Note the bay window at the back of the home and the fish scale siding on the gable ends.

Joseph Roman Larose was born on May 22, 1850 to Francis Xavier and Leonore (née De Lisle) Larose in the state of New York. Joseph spent part of his childhood in Milwaukee but received his education in Quebec. He was apprenticed as a painter and left Quebec for Troy, New York where he worked for several years. His career as a painter meant that Joseph led a life of travel, he found work in Savannah, Georgia and later Detroit. In 1876 Joseph married Miss Melvina [Malvina] Robarge in Detroit, the couple had three children; Mary Maud, Ervy [Irving] Emerson and Edith Rose Larose. Joseph moved to Lansing in December 1877 to labor with John B. Voiselle on the fresco work at the state Capitol. John was a native of Quebec, so in a way John and Joseph had a common background. In 1879 John and Joseph formed the decorating and frescoers company of Voiselle & Larose. Besides painting and tile work the firm sold wallpaper, blinds, moldings and supplied business signs. Years later Joseph started his own business, J.R. Larose & Company a painting and decorating firm. On September 23, 1909, Joseph died of cancer after a year and half battle against the disease, he was 59.[3]

Normally I do not explore the home after the first owner, but in this case, I made an exception. The second owner of the home was Anna Trostle (sometimes listed as Trostel or Trussel) who acquired the property in 1891. Anna was the wife of Frederick George Trostle, an early settler of Lansing who was one of the few gunsmiths in Lansing. Frederick was born in Germany in 1840-1841 He married Anna Gilbert, the couple had three children, Mattie M., Mamie E., and George F. Trostle. What is interesting about Frederick is that he disappeared. In 1891 Frederick was brought before the Honorable George W. Bristol, Judge for the Probate for Ingham County and the state of Michigan, by Lawrence Price of Lansing to show that Frederick Trostle was insane. The petition asked that Frederick be committed to the Michigan Asylum at Kalamazoo asa private patient. Doctor Joseph Bowdish Hull, who had practiced in Lansing since 1851, testified on October 20, 1891 that Frederick claimed to be the Son of the Supreme Being and his insanity was related to religious subjects. Next, Doctor Alexander McMillen stated that Frederick was insane on all religious subjects and claimed to be the son of the Supreme Being, but on all other subjects he was rational. Doctor D.M. Nottingham testimony agreed with that of Doctor McMillen and reiterated that Frederick was sane regarding all matters outside those of a religious nature. TheDetroit Free Presson November 1, 1892 stated that Frederick ascended the pulpit at Lansing’s Central Methodist Church, on October 30, 1892 and declared himself to be the savior. He was led away by the pastor. The article indicated that Frederick was committed several times but always managed to escape. Frederick was again confined to the Michigan Asylum at Kalamazoo on January 17, 1893, that same year he walked away from the asylum never to be seen again. A death certificate was issued years later with no date. At this time, it is unknown what happened to Frederick. He could have wandered the county as a vagabond and died as an unknown person somewhere in the United States. Part of me wants to think he was happy wandering. Anna Trostle remained in Lansing, passing away at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Mary E. Kuhns on June 7, 1921.

©Lost Lansing 2019

[1]If you want to view the images of 735 W. Allegan visit Local History Online, check the Items with Images Only box and enter, with quotes “735 West Allegan”.

[2]LSJ 10/7/1970

[3]See LJ9/23/1909 and Portrait and biographical album of Ingham and Livingston counties295.

Clark Carriage Works circa 1904. The office building, the three-story structure to the left was torn down in 1926, the rear of the building, barely visible survived. The angled building to the right housed the wheel storage section and the packaging and shipping plant.

The buildings that once stood at 235-237 make for interesting viewing. The site once was the home of Clark Carriage Works, famous for the fine carriages it produced but also for creating the first body for Ransom E. Olds’ horseless carriage.

 

The Clark Carriage Plant on South Grand Avenue. Notice the footprint of the angled building and location of the administrative office. Sanborn Map 1906

On July 4,1906, the Clark Factory was partially damaged by fire, but was quickly rebuilt, the firm was engaged in the production of carriages and bodies for Oldsmobile. In 1911 Lansing Wagon Works purchased the Clark & Company Carriage Works. By 1912 part of the plant was acquired by the Lansing Sanitary Ice Company (LSJ 3/25/1912) Later, in 1919 John Bohnet Company, manufactures of truck bodies and automobile accessories acquired the Clark Plant (LSJ 6/12/1919). The John Bohnet Company was acquired by the Briscoe Motor Company of Jackson, Michigan in 1919-1920.

Notice the location of the John Bohnet Company and the Lansing Sanitary Iceless Plant. Sanborn Map 1913.

So, you may be asking yourself, what does this all mean. Well this whole post is centered around a 1939 image of the property.  The background may not seem important, but it is. This was one of the most important structures in the history of Lansing and no attempt was made to save it, by either city government or the public. Is it odd or just me, that the plant that was so integral to the birth of the automobile industry just leveled? No one seemed to care, so much for history.

The Clark Carriage Works plant in 1939. The building to the right was the original plant. The three-story building to the left was added in 1926 to replace the old office building. Notice the service station on the ground floor. (CADL/FPLA)

In 1926, the office building for Clark Carriage Works was torn down and replaced with the new structure by F.J. Blanding, ironically Lansing’s first Ford dealer. (LSJ 6/3/1926) What is important is that the eastern part of the Clark Carriage Works survived. Years later in 1948 that area that was the gas station was enclosed and converted to office and showroom space (LSJ 2/15/1948). Alas it was not to survive, in December 1962 the building was torn down and replaced, with you guessed it a parking lot (LSJ 12/27/1962). Today it is the site of the Grand Tower.

So instead of examining the life of Frank Clark or John Bohnet, both of whom are well known in Lansing, I thought it would be interesting to review the life of Fred J. Blanding, Lansing first Ford Dealer.

Fred (Fritz) Blanding when he played for the Cleveland Naps (LOC)

Frederick James Blanding Jr. was born in Redlands, San Bernardino, California, on February 8, 1888 to Frederick James and Emma (née Sly) Blanding. Tragedy had struck the family, just eight days prior to young Frederick’s birth when his father died.  Fredrick’s mother Emma, decided to return to Michigan and settled in Bloomfield, Michigan where her parents lived. Frederick (Fred) attend Detroit Central High school and the University of Michigan where he was a standout pitcher. He was drafted by the Cleveland Naps in 1910 and is best known for his first outing when he faced the future Hall of Famer, Walter Johnson. Fred threw a 6-hit shut-out and the Naps won 3-0. Fred’s career was quite varied and to save time it is far simpler if one reviews the excellent Wikipedia article on Fred Blanding’s baseball career. Let’s just say Fred left baseball under his own terms and deserves a lot of respect for that.

When his baseball career ended, Fred opened a Ford dealership in Lansing, Michigan, the home of Oldsmobile, REO and later Durant Motors. That took some guts. On a personal note, Fred married Miss Clara M. Shields on November 28, 1914 in Cuyahoga, Ohio, the couple had three children; George, Robert and Katherine. Not only was Fred involved in business, but he kept a hand in baseball, serving as president of the short lived, Lansing Senators and helping to teach young pitchers at Lansing Central High School. In 1935 Fred and his family left Lansing and moved to Roanoke, Virginia where he worked for a variety of automobile dealerships. Frederick James Blanding died of a heart attack on July 16, 1950 (Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia 7/18/1950).

© Lost Lansing 2018

park-church-1859

I thought for a moment it would be interesting to look back and investigate what was once located on the site of the Downtown Library in Lansing. What we know is that in 1859 there was a church on the on the site. What is unknown is what was located on the property before the church was built. In a discussion with a colleague, who specializes in early Michigan History, we considered the long held myth that the church was built over a site sacred to Native Americans. He proposed that there was intent by early religious leaders to build churches over sites revered by Native Americans to induce them to attend Christian services. With the church’s location on high ground with easy access to the Grand and Red Cedar Rivers, the location was an excellent site for either a Native American settlement or burial grounds. I must point out that there is neither archeological evidence to support this theory nor any indication that anything was present on the site before the church was built. In fact there has been almost no archeological digs in Lansing except for one at the site of the Turner Dodge house and one at Moores River Park which is remarkable, so little has been done to explore the area’s history before the arrival of the first settlers. It is almost if the state didn’t want to know what was here. Just look at downtown Lansing on any map, its located at the U in the Grand River, the high ground and the easy access to the Red Cedar River, all were natural features that made the area attractive to early settlers. Next time you are in downtown Lansing, at the Capitol or the Library and look east down Michigan or Kalamazoo Streets and you will see how the land sloops toward the river. What we do know is that the property was grant to the Freewill Baptist church by the Michigan Legislative Branch circa 1850, the legislators also granted ten other churches property in the downtown Lansing area between 1850 and 1867.

There also seems to be some confusion as to where and when to the Freewill Baptist Society was founded in Lansing. Frank Turner places it formation at the home of Richard Walton, while Joseph Druse in his pamphlet on early religion in Lansing stated that the Freewill Society was launched in May 1848 at the home of Cyrus Thompson. Francis Adams listed the establishment of the Freewill Baptist Society on August 10, 1848 (Turner 245, Druse 12 and Adams 189). Undoubtedly part of the confusion lies in the fact that three separate Baptist organization were founded in Lansing in 1848 none of which survived the 19th Century so their records were lost. The state of Michigan granted the Freewill Baptist Church the property located on Lot 12 Block 136 in Lansing to build a church and a church was present on the site in 1859. The actual address of the church was a bit confusing; mainly because of the location of the three entrances to the church; one on Kalamazoo and two facing Washington of which one of these was actually located on the Kalamazoo side. So the address of the church was listed as 129 W. Kalamazoo or sometimes as 403 S. Capitol. From what I can tell from the records, the Freewill Baptist Society actually has at least three different houses of worship on the site over the years, one built between 1850-1858, one built in 1876 and the final one built in 1884. It is possible that the church described in the 1876 news article was never built.

park-150

Park Baptist Church

Plans For A New Church

“Israel Gillett has furnished the Free Will Baptist society of this city with plans for a new church at the corner of Capitol avenue and Kalamazoo street. The estimate for the entire building is $12,000. It will be built of brick with stone trimmings. The entire length will be 124 ½ feet and a width of 65 feet. The style is purely Gothic, with a tower of 106 feet in height. The audience room will be 65 feet long by 40 feet wide. The main front will be to the west on Capitol avenue, with three entrances. This is a good idea, for in case some one shouts “fire” or otherwise creates an alarm in the congregation, there will be plenty of ways of getting out these door.[really I wonder how often this happens] Therefore we shall have one public building in this city in which the Cincinnati horror cannot be reenacted. [During a performance or the play the Great Republic at Cincinnati’s Robinson’s Opera-house a young boy misleadingly cried fire and a panic ensued. The audience was mainly women and children and when panic subsided twelve people were dead] Neither does this society mean to be troubled with damp basements, but they have planned a vestry room at the east end of the church, 58 by 34 feet. The height of the ceiling in the auditorium is to be 36 feet, and the walls will be 18 feet above the water table. The exterior will be finished with buttresses and 12 minarets, and the whole will be surmounted with a slate roof. The church will be heated by steam and no pains will be spared to have it perfectly ventilated. Work will begin in the spring, although it is only expected to complete the western portion of the building, containing the church proper during the coming summer. Mr. Gillett’s skill in drawing plans has made this a very handsome building on paper, and when fully finished according to these designs, it will be an ornament to the city” (LRSW 2/15/1876).

The first minister of the Freewill Baptist Church is Lansing was Laurens B. Potter. Laurens was born in Clarence, New York to Sheldon and Welthy (née Baldwin) Potter on November 7, 1818. At the age of 18 Laurens experienced an intense religious awakening and began his studies in earnest. In 1843 he moved to Jackson, Michigan and was instrumental in the founding of Michigan Central College in Spring Arbor, Michigan later to become Hillsdale College. Laurens was not a man to be trifled with; in today’s vernacular he was a doer unlike so many of his colleagues, he actually helped to build the college cutting timber and worked as a stonemason. In 1858 Laurens moved to Lansing and reinvigorated the Freewill Baptist church, which was in dire straits and ready to disband. His energy and experience saved the church and strengthened the membership. For ten years he served as pastor of the church and worked for the state, as a clerk, by that time the church was able to employ a fulltime pastor. From all accounts Laurens was a remarkable and caring individual who by his actions sought to improve the lives of the residence of Lansing. Laurens Baldwin Potter passed away in his sleep on May 31, 1888 shortly after his death the State of Michigan passed a resolution recognizing his work. (LJ 6/1/1888 and SR 6/1/1888)

“The new Free Will Baptist church at the corner of Capitol avenue and Kalamazoo street will be formally dedicated next Sunday. Rev. Dr. Dunn of Hillsdale will preach the dedicatory sermon a 2 o’clock, and other interesting exercises will take place in the evening” (LJW 11/14/1884).

“The new Free Will Baptist church on Capitol avenue to be known as the Park church was dedicated last Sunday afternoon with appropriate services. The house was crowded to overflowing, many being unable to gain admission. The pastors of the various local churches, together with a number of former patrons of the Baptist society, occupied seats neat the pulpit and took part in the exercises. Rev. Dr. Dunn of Hillsdale preached and able and eloquent sermon. Following it the pastor, Rev. A.E. Wilson, formally dedicated the church in a few impressive words. A prayer by Mr. Wilson concluded the services. Thus far the building has cost $6,200, of which sum $2,200 is still owning. $1,000 of this has been provided for, and a considerable additional sum was subscribed Sunday afternoon. The vestry and steeple are still unfinished. These when completed, will bring the total cost of the church up to about $9,000” (LJW 11/21/1884).

In late 1905 the old Park Baptist Church was purchased by Independent Order of Odd Fellows Capital Lodge Number 45, which converted the church into clubrooms. The main room was 61×38 feet with 58×35 feet of the area available as dance space. The room was painted dark red with green trim and a cream colored ceiling with the old pews mover to the side walls to serve a seats for the tired dancers. The lobby or anteroom was 20×20 feet with two regalia rooms in the corner. These rooms were constructed to hold the masonic symbols, insignia, dress and emblems of the organization. There was also a lobby for lodge room where candidates waited before being admitted to the lodge room for initiation. All very hush hush on the description of these rooms.

The second floor was located over the waiting room and housed the canton and camp room where storage was available for sixty of the organizations uniforms. The basement of the hall contained a kitchen and dining room where up to 75 guests could be seated. The bathrooms were also located in the basement. There was a plan to expand the hall in 1906 by removing the bell tower and closing off the west entrance to the building. This would have allowed the lodge room with occupied the southern part of the building to be enlarged and to the west. The work was never completed. (LSJ 12/2/1905)

The old Park Church and I.O.O.F. Hall was torn down in 1921 and replaced with a gas station and car dealership. So ended the legacy of Laurens B. Potter.

 

© Lost Lansing 2016