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All posts for the month November, 2015

 

226 W Wastenaw

The proposed Patrician Homes Apartment Building at 230 W. Washtenaw Street

In January 1941 Mrs. Carrie E. Smith, of Takoma Park, Maryland sold the property located on the northeast corner of Washtenaw and Townsend Streets to Mr. and Mrs. Freeman Hart McClintock. A seemingly insignificant real estate transaction that signified the end of one of the most interesting real estate developments that never happened in Lansing, a New York style co-operative apartment building, basically a condominium that was owned and not rented.

Mrs. Smith was the widow of Judge Quincy A. Smith a long time Lansing residence. The name may be familiar to many; Carrie Smith was the sister of Herbert M. Rogers the first owner of the Rogers Carrier home on the campus of Lansing Community College. The Smith family had owned the property at the corner of Washtenaw and Townsend Streets since 1896 when Judge Smith purchased the home as an investment. The family lived with Herbert Rogers at his residence on North Capitol Avenue until 1901 when they moved to 230 W. Washtenaw before relocating to Wichita, Kansas in 1919. After Herbert’s death Carrie moved to Takoma Park to live with her daughter.

In 1931 a promotional pamphlet was produced by Patrician Homes, whose offices were located at 226 W. Washtenaw in Lansing. There is a slight problem with this that 226 W. Washtenaw was a residence occupied by W. Loy Phillips and his wife Viola, W. worked at Motor Wheel. A year later the home was occupied by Mrs. Helen S. Wright, a vocal teacher. So who was providing the brochures? Well at this point in time that is unknown.

The brochure has some interesting descriptive terms in regards to what an owner could expect in their new apartment home.

“A woman in a co-operative apartment home is free from those annoying and trying details which take up so much of her time in a house, such as the supervision of heat, refrigeration, keeping the surroundings clean, having to stay in for the ice or meter-men, and other incidents of like nature.”

There was to be a central core that contained elevators and stairs and the hallways radiate from that point in the shape of a cross allowing all the rooms to be on the outside with a view. The structure was soundproof, fireproof, with a basement garage and roof gardens. Each apartment was to have parqueterie floor, iceless refrigerators, fireplace, large closets, noiseless flush toilets, large rooms, floor plugs and individual radio instillation. All of these features were high-end stuff in 1931, the radio instillation and iceless refrigeration was the equivalent of the 21st Century smart home. This was a way cool building, not unlike what you would see in the movie Just Around the Corner staring Shirley Temple. Watch the movie and you will see what I mean, come on the movie even has a doggie day care.

One interesting feature, besides the rooftop garden is that each floor had “Bide-a-wee” seating in the hallways, what is a Bide-a-wee seat, well it means stay awhile, basically stay and enjoy yourself on a sofa while waiting for the owner to return. Another interesting aspect of the development is outlined below.

“Each Apartment is to individually owned and the monthly assessment of each owner and the monthly assessment of each owner is limited to the proportional share of the cost of the maintenance of the building, including taxes, insurance and the salary of the custodian and his wife. If supplies and labor go down, so will the assessment and it cannot be raised except as the actual supplies or labor increase in cost or the taxes may be raised in amount. Not only does every owner own his apartment, but he is entitled to a proportionate share in the store rentals on the street floor, which of themselves may pay a large part of the monthly assessment.”

This was a pretty neat idea. So why did it fail, well I have not been able to find the exact reason, but it may be a result of Michigan Governor Wilbur M. Brucker’s policies during the Depression. In 1931 when Brucker took office Michigan’s unemployment rate was 18%, in 1932 it rose to 43% and in 1933 it was 46%, these are not numbers to entice investors. So a great idea that may have transformed the landscape of downtown Lansing fell by the wayside as a result of the Great Depression.

Coming next A History of the early Lansing Breweries!

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