People

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

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