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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.

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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

 

 

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The Allegan Street side of the Wilson/Busch Building

On April 1, 1909 construction began on the new Wilson Building which was located on the south-east corner of Allegan Street and Washington Avenue. The structure was original three stories tall and completed in less than 5 months with the first occupants being John S. Wilson and Alex Andros who opened the BZB restaurant. The building was expanded in July of 1916 when two stories were added to the existing building and a five story extension was completed across the back.

The building was acquired in 1946 by Alfred A. Busch, Vice President of Busch Company, with Marston G. Busch was President. It is unclear if the building was owned by the business or the individual. The firm specialized in Jewelry and Optometry. Kind of an odd combination. The building’s dimensions were 22 feet on Washington Avenue and 99 feet on Allegan Street resulting in a long narrow building. In 1949 the tenants of the building were the Michigan Cab Company Dispatch office on the First Floor. On the second floor, office 201, W. Kendall Meade, Dentist; 205, William J.B. Hicks, Dentist; 206, William R. Lesher Company, Investments; 207-208, Kenney Brothers Real Estate and Insurance, Lucien B. Smith Agent; 300-308, Clyde Smith, McKnight and Lyman Insurance Agency; 307, National Fire Insurance Company; 310, Style Beauty Salon; 401, Sonotone of Lansing Hearing Aids and Mar-Vel Shop Dressmakers; 405, Merle Norman; 407-408, Michigan State Chiropractic Society; 409, Orlie, J. Munson, Architect and Garlock & Howland Architects; 501, H. Donald Bruce, lawyer; 503, Fidelity Life Insurance Company,; 506, CC Ludwig Real Estate and Harry F. Hittle, Lawyer; 508, Charles G. Loepke, Tailor;510 Hollywood Beauty Shop; and 511, Busch Company Workroom. From all accounts the Busch family was devoted to Lansing, with Marston maintain a home here until his death in October 1988, while Alfred passed away in Metro-Detroit in October 1961.

 

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The facade of the Busch building which demonstrates how ugly certain architectural modifications are. You can almost hear the conversation, “Hey Steve does this look good? Sure George it looks great.” Reaffirming a bad modification so not make it good. 

The Wilson/Busch building was torn down in June of 1965, well part of it was, 201 S. Washington fell to the wrecking ball, while the little five story addition that John Wilson added to the rear of 201 S. Washington still stands today, take a look at the building, the address is 110 E. Allegan. The building is described as little because it had a 22-foot frontage on Allegan and only went back 60 feet, the building is so narrow I am not sure it contains an elevator. A pretty nice looking building, kind of a shame its mate was torn down. (LSJ 9/1/1946 and LSJ 6/17/1975)

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Ok trust me there is a Chase Bank at 201 S. Washington not a Bank 1, its an old image.

The building was replaced with a modern style structure that was designed for the First State Savings Association of East Lansing. The cost of the building was $260,000 in 1975. The new building was two stories in height, with a glass front and a work area, two conference rooms, an employee lounge, private offices and was 5,070 square feet. First State Savings Association of East Lansing was established in East Lansing on January 1, 1919 later through a series of mergers became part of the Great Lakes Bancorp the rest of its history is so convoluted that you would need an attorney to figure it out. All that can be said is that a Chase Bank is currently on the site and that First State Savings Association of East Lansing is now part of the TCF National Bank of Arizona. You have to love the United States banking system. (LSJ 6/20/1975 and usbanklocations.com)

© Lost Lansing 2016

Pioneer Brewery; the Full Story

By David Votta

Local breweries and brew pubs have a long tradition in Lansing. The Lansing Brewing Company on the corner of Turner and Clinton operated between 1898 and 1914. Yeiter & Co. opened the Grand River Brewery on Madison overlooking the river in 1865. Their water came from an artesian well. Additional smaller breweries came and went during the late 19th century.

Most of the description of the first brewery derives from two sources An Account of Ingham County from its Organization by Frank N. Turner and a Pioneer History of Ingham County by Mrs. Franc L. Adams. The accounts are nearly exact duplicates. Adams includes more editorial comment. She was the secretary of the Ingham County Pioneer and Historical Society and in addition to writing compiles other’s accounts adding her own comments and thoughts.

Imbibing in the story of Lansing’s first brewery one travels to the NE corner of Pine and Maple Streets circa 1856. There is a spring fed creek crossing Maple and providing fresh water for brewing. Its source was deep in the “impenetrable” Bogus Swamp, a haven for miscreants, now the Westside Neighborhood. There are two buildings. A long porch faces east off a one and a half story residence. This porch is for the public house addition to the home and overlooking the beer garden in a stand of maples. Adjacent to the north is the brew house, east of that a “young forest of hop poles”.

A cabbage patch thrives in the fertile soil of the creek flats. Pens house pigs fattened on waste malt. There is the smell of sauerkraut, “steaming malt” and pipe tobacco billowing from “large porcelain pipes.” To the south cows grazed in an unfenced pasture. The sound of their bells “tinkling” during the day was drowned by drinking songs, sometimes late into the night, sung “by a score of lusty Germans.”

The proprietors were Frederick and Anna Weinmann. He was born circa 1822 and described as tall, “full of energy and hard work”. Anna was about 7 years his junior, “short and sturdy”. They had several children and emigrated from Württemberg Germany.

With a large German population in town business thrived. The problem was the new neighbors. In 1858 across Pine from the brau haus a school opened. Sisters Abigail and Delia Rogers moved into the new location of their Lansing Female Seminary, later the Michigan Female College, the Odd Fellows Institute and eventually the Michigan School for the Blind. The Rogers sisters, Abigail especially, are recognized as part of the First Wave of the Women’s Movement.

Pioneers in women’s education and the Temperance Movement the sisters catered to the wealthiest and most influential families in the state. Apparently they did not celebrate the only entrance to their institution serenaded by lusty Germans in “harsh guttural tones” or smelling of pigs, tobacco and beer. The Rogers were equally well funded and connected.

In our first installment we learned the Weinmann family emigrated from Germany and set up the first brewery in Lansing. Business appeared to be going well until a full funded Female Seminary opened across the street.

All known descriptive sources indicate Weinmann quickly relinquished. It is reported Abigail Rogers petitioned the brewer and the neighbors to close the establishment. In Adams Pioneer history of Ingham County she states “[c]an you image such a woman letting a German brewer get the best of her in a deal or argument? No, he had to give way and his dream of a beer garden, on the German plan, vanished as well as his profits and customers.”

Evidence contradicts this narrative. The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory of 1863 lists Fred Weinman[n] as a brewer. Abigail Rogers passes from this world in 1869, soon after State Agricultural College, now MSU, admitted women, followed by U of M in 1870. The Michigan Female College soon closes. The 1870 Federal Census states Weinman[n]’s occupation as brewer in Lansing’s fourth ward. By 1873 the Female College building had become the Odd Fellows Institute and Weimann is listed as operating a saloon and restaurant on Turner Street near Grand River (then Franklin). The 1874 County Atlas of Ingham clearly shows the brewery, calling it and the owner by name. The spelling is changed to Wineman. The 1878 Lansing City Directory lists Frederick as a brewer on Chestnut, directly around the block from the Pine address, but the same location for the still operating Weinmann Brewery.

Why the conflicting data? Partially this could be an echo chamber [One purveyor of information will make a claim, which many like-minded people then repeat, overhear, and repeat again (often in an exaggerated or otherwise distorted form) until most people assume that some extreme variation of the story is true. Wikipedia]. Many county histories and locally written pioneer accounts borrow heavily from earlier sources and from oral tradition. Both can be valid, sometimes they are not and often are unverifiable.

It is a common theme in this genre, 19th and early 20th century local/county histories, that progressive, well educated, well-funded community leaders vanquish unsavory unintelligibles. Often elements of Tall Tales seep in reinforcing a specific community cohesiveness. This narrative demonstrates the pioneers were of high social status deriving from prominent families. Adams “imagines” a scenario where Abigail Rogers converses with Weinmann. She derogatorily refers to beer as a “plebian” drink, referencing her ancestors drinking “New England Rum”, the connotation being rum as the more refined option.

In this instance the answer for misleading information may also be propaganda. In 1923 and 1924, the year’s of Adam’s and Turner’s respective publications the United States was in the third and fourth years of the 13-year-run of prohibition. What these historians were musing about was contraband. No explanation is provided if temperance was an issue why rum is better than beer.

More sinister is the characterization of the immigrant Weinmanns as unable to compete intellectually. The overall theme of both articles, copied word for word in many places, is patronizing. Nativism surged in the 1920s. WW1 heightened prejudices against Germans, making them a common target. The relationship of Lansing with its German immigrants was complex. There was a high percentage of Germans, four German churches and a very popular mayor in the teens Gottlieb Reutter, was a German immigrant.

The Klu Klux Klan reemerged strongly in this period, and prominently in Mid-Michigan with anti-immigrant rhetoric. This article in no way suggests the previous authors agreed with the Klan’s sentiments. However, the political climate of the time allowed for some of the largest Klan rallies ever. Labor Day 1924, saw a Klan parade in Lansing of 15 thousand and Klanvocation of nearly 50 thousand Klan members and supporters.

The true relationship between the Weinmanns and Rogers sisters may never be known. The German language was taught at their school. Possibly they had a cordial rapport. Adams’ “imagine[s]” Rogers describing “the smell of…sauerkraut disturbed her digestion”. The Rogers sisters may have enjoyed homemade sausage and sauerkraut available across the street.

It is known Abigail Rogers’ legacy grew. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Weinmann descendants continue to populate the Lansing area, and the creek which fed their pioneer brewery still exists. It is now a storm drain running the same approximate course; a cement bottom and expanded culvert under Walnut were constructed in 1884. In City of Lansing documentation this amalgam of natural waterway and human engineering, once described as “the finest and most substantial work of its sort in the city”, still bears the name Weinmann.

An Account of Ingham County from its Organization by Frank N. Turner
Pioneer History of Ingham County by Mrs. Franc L. Adams
History of Ingham and Eaton Counties by Samuel Durant
Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1863
Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan Volume 6
Lansing Journal Newspaper 9/2/1924
State Republican Newspaper 1/13/1880
State Republican Newspaper 11/18/1884
Lansing Republican Newspaper 3/4/1898
Birds eye view of the city of Lansing, Michigan 1866 Drawn & published by A. Ruger
History and Manual of Odd Fellowship by Theodore A. Ross
Lansing City Directory 1873
Lansing City Directory 1878

1860 U.S. Federal Census
1870 U.S. Federal Census