All posts for the month October, 2015


Robson House

Mayor John Robson Home 335 N. Walnut

In 1871 construction started on one of Lansing’s iconic homes. There are few people in Lansing today who remember the Robson residence since it was torn down about 80 years ago. Remember the site is Lost Lansing, so we seek out what was once present in Lansing to document what we have lost. The destruction of the Robson home seemed to set a precedent for historic preservation in Lansing, there was none. The home was torn down for no reason other then to use the stone in the construction of a garage and the lot that the house sat upon remained empty until 1965 when the Ferris Park Towers was built.

The residence was constructed in 1871-1872 for John Robson. The home was designed by Lansing architect Orville V. Fuller, a local architect that I mistakenly confused as being part of the local building firm of Fuller & Wheeler. The work of Orville Fuller will be examined at a later date on this site. The Robson home was two stories in height with a Mansard roof; the house faced Walnut Street and was 31 by 33 feet with an extension on the rear measuring 33 by 24 feet. The lot had a 99-foot frontage on Walnut Street and was 128 feet deep bordered on the north by Shiawassee Street. Local craftsmen were employed in the construction of the house; Longstreet & Lapham installed all the interior woodwork, Parker & Hilliard were responsible for the masonry and brick work, while the Hatch brother painted and did the graining work on the interior.[1]

The interior rooms on the first floor were a parlor, kitchen, pantry, bedroom and a bathroom with a large copper tub; the rooms were extremely large with high ceilings. There were seven bedrooms on the second floor as well as a bathroom that was supplied by water from a rooftop tank, John’s daughter Mrs. Antoinette R. Smith related that family members took turns pumping the water to the tank. Antoinette was married to Gurdon B. Smith (yes his name was Gurdon), President of Smith Floral and lived next to her father’s home at 415 W. Shiawassee. The area under the Mansard roof contained two large recreational rooms, it was said in 1873 that given the home’s location on high ground there was a magnificent view of the city, the Grand River and the countryside, which demonstrates just how much the city had expanded in latter years. Two other aspects of the home need to be mentioned the basement extended under the full footprint of the building and there was a winding staircase that extended from the front hall to the recreation rooms on the upper floor. The staircase was of walnut with a hand carved railing.

Robson, John 200

John Robson

So who was John Robson? He was born in Canada on August 25, 1833 to Thomas and Rachel (née Rix) Robson. In 1837 the family immigrated to the United States settling in Farmington Hills, Michigan where Thomas worked as a tailor. At the age of 20, John moved to Lansing and found employment with James I. Mead at his store in North Lansing where John worked as a clerk. Three years later James and Mead established a partnership and the dry goods store of Mead & Robson was formed. The business was located at the northwest corner of Grand River (Franklin) Avenue and Center Street. In 1862 the partnership was dissolved when Robson bought out Mead’s interest in the store and in 1867 he moved the business to the south end of Lansing where he ran a general store. Around 1887 John formed the Robson Carpet Company, which he managed until his death. He also started the Robson’s Brother Wholesale Grocery that he ran with his brothers Robert and Charles. Eventually Robert and Charles joined John in the carpet business located at 223 N. Washington. John was elected Mayor in 1871 and was instrumental in getting the first iron bridge built on Michigan Avenue over the Grand River. He also purchased the first steam fire engines for the city. He served as an alderman from 1873-1877 and was elected Mayor again in 1881. In 1901 he was elected to as a state senator when he defeated Frank L. Dodge, he served one term. In regards to his personal life, John married Miss Mary Ingersoll in 1858; the couple had three children Frank, Dwight and Antoinette. Mary passed away in 1874 a year later John married Miss Julia S. Farrand on October 12, 1875; the couple had six children; Hattie, Mary, Helen and Theodore T., Frank and A.M. Robson. On July 8, 1916 an automobile driven by Harold N. Mills struck John at the corner of Washington and Ottawa. At first John’s injuries were not thought to be life threatening but his condition deteriorated and John Robson passed away a week later on July 14, 1916. Harold Mills was not charged in the accident, witnesses testified that Harold was driving safely and that John seemed confused and walked in front of the vehicle.

In 1936 Joseph Gleason purchased the home from the family and decided to tear down the home and use the stone to build a four car garage at his home at 323 N. Walnut. So ends the saga of another Lost Lansing residence.

For further information see; LR 6/13/1873, LSJ 7/15/1916, LSJ 1,1,1934, LSJ 1/2/1934 and LSJ 6/13/1936

[1] “Graining is the practice of imitating wood grain on a non-wood surface in order to increase that surface’s aesthetic appeal. Graining was common in the 19th century, as people were keen on imitating hard, expensive woods by applying a superficial layer of paint onto soft, inexpensive woods.” Wikipedia Graining 10/5/2015

© Lost Lansing 2015



Christo Korkosko’s Submarine

“A new type of submarine that looks like a big door knob, that goes as high as 50 miles and hours and that is practically destruction proof has been invented and patented by Christo Korkoske, at the Clippert-Spaulding brickyard settlement just east of Lansing. A government patent was secured Jan. 9 and now Christo wants financial; backing to put his war dolphin into the market.

The submarine can be submerged in 10 seconds, whereas it takes a regular submarine 3 to 10 minutes to dive beneath the surface. The subsea ship is a model so that it would hold an enormous amount of cargo without hindering the tactics of fighting. The cannons mounted on the monitor top can be unusually large because of the shape and resistance of the vessel.

Christo got his inspiration while watching some ducks in a pond. Of course his own study and ingenuity was what did it. He noticed that in swimming under the surface the webfeet took one set of movements, and then took another when they were on the surface.

Enlarging the principle of the ducks, Christo constructed four propellers. Of course it would divulge his secret to explain the exact method, but it is sufficient for comprehension that these propellers are on shafts, which may be made vertical, horizontal or oblique. Different combinations of these propellers can effect all sorts of swimming stunts. For instance one end of the boat may come up first, if desired. It could be fitted with a ram for destroying the smaller enemy vessels, perhaps.

Three Independent Propellers

These propellers are independent of one another, and even if some of them were broke off, the scheme of the operations would not be interfered with. At present the submarines have to submerge by means of drawing enough water into their tanks to make the boat sufficiently heavy to sink. Then when they wish to rise, air pressure has to be used to force this water out. But according to this new scheme this air pressure would not be necessary, although its use for extra speed and safety devices. The tilt of the propellers can make the sub-men see the daylight again.

The tragedy of the U.S. submarine F-3 in the Pacific,[1] about two years ago, was caused through the inability of the men to pump out the water from the tanks while they were submerged. If they had had propellers they could have risen without difficulty.

The new device is far superior to the U-boats in several ways. First Christo’s boat can go much swifter, as fast as 50 miles and hour. Thus his device would be of wonderful use as a scout cruiser. Then, too, it provides for more stability due to the shape; is able to resist greater explosion from guns, and has capacity for larger cargoes.

The whole work is done by electricity, although other power could be used. Several demonstrations have been successfully made before the patent was secure. Christo made these demonstrations for the Peerless Show company, which appeared in about a dozen Michigan cities, last fall. Since that time, he has put on numerous finishing touches. The model has just been shipped to Gladwin as Mr. Korkoske lived there before moving to Lansing.

Christo claims that the boat can whoop it up to 50 miles an hour, with a minimum of 25. Thirty miles can be safely accepted as a rate until further demonstrations are made. Two U.S. naval officers went over the invention with Korkoske at Bay City and declared the contrivance a marvel. Some mechanics who have worked in the federal shipyards, he says also praised its excellence and practicability.

Christo emphasizes the point that the “child of his brain” can sit on the bottom of the ocean for hours or days without the use of any power. Merely a partial filling of the water tanks can accomplish this. Such a method would be used to avoid hostile attacks or storms. Power would be conserved in this manner.

He also is glad to think his type of U-boat can save more human life. At present , he says when anything goes wrong while the boat is submerged the occupants have to send a man out through the torpedo tube so that he may float to the surface and signal for help. This new scheme however, has often proved futile when tried, either because the weight of the water crushes the diver to death or because no help is in sight.

The inventor is a little Pole with a high broad forehead and with a good command of English.” Lansing State Journal 2/19/1917.

There is no record of a patent being issued by the Federal Government to a Christo Korkoske or for a Submarine to anyone from Michigan in 1916-1917. It is interesting that Korkoske designed a submarine. But based upon the drawing and the shape of the hull it is doubtful that the sub could make 50 mph or 43 knots on the surface

In all likelihood this is, Christian “Christ” Korkoske a resident of Grout Township, Gladwin County, Michigan who worked briefly in Lansing the clue is the quote “The model has just been shipped to Gladwin as Mr. Korkoske lived there before moving to Lansing”. Christian Korkoske was born in the portion of Poland controlled by Russia on April 16, 1879. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1895 and lived in Lansing. On December 2, 1905 Christian married Miss Florence Pearl Henry in Alpena, Michigan; the couple would have seven children. Christian worked in a variety of professions and locations, Lansing, Detroit but he always retuned to Gladwin County. Christian Korkoske passed away in Detroit from septic peritonitis after surgery to remove his appendix he was 51.

[1] There is some confusion here, the Submarine F-1 was sunk after a collision with its sister ship F-3, and the writer has mixed up the submarines. “USS F-1, first of a class of four 330-ton submarines, was built at San Francisco, California. Launched in September 1911 as USS Carp, she was renamed F-1 in November 1911 and placed in commission in June 1912. The submarine spent her entire career in the Pacific, mainly off the West Coast, but was based at Honolulu, Hawaii, between July 1914 and November 1915. She was laid up in March 1916 and returned to active service in June 1917, a few months after the United States entered World War I. On 17 December 1917, while underway off California, USS F-1 collided with her sister, USS F-3. Her hull torn open amidships, she rapidly sank with the loss of nineteen crewmen. Her wreck was located and photographed during the 1970s.” From Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.