The facade of the Scott Home
Ok a short timeout from the history of Lansing’s early breweries. There has been a lot in the news lately about the Scott house located at the south west corner of Washington Avenue and West Malcom X [Main] Street. From the start we really need to be clear, this is not the Scott house that is standing on the current lot, it is the Jenison house which was moved to the site of the Scott property in September 1978, the original Scott house was torn down in June 1965.
So it is best to start from the beginning. The original Scott residence was actually designed for James Russell Elliott by local architects Thomas E. White and Harry Hussey in 1905.
The State Republican states “Plans and specifications for a fine colonial residence to be erected by Mrs. J. R. Elliott on Main Street, just between the Barnes and Cooley residences, will be completed by White & Hussey tomorrow. The house will be 52 by 54 feet and will have a large porch with pillars” (SR 6/15/1905).
The rear of the Scott Home
James Elliott was Vice President and Treasurer of the Michigan United Railways Company, today commonly known today as the interurban. James was born in London, Ontario on January 31, 1871 to Charles H. and Phoebe (née Farror) Elliot. On January 1, 1896 James married Emeline Williams Mills, the sister of Myron W. Mills, President of the Michigan United Railroads. James and Emeline had two daughters, Margaret and Emeline [Holly], later James and Emeline divorced in the 1930s. In 1916 James moved to Portland, Oregon to oversee his investments in lumber tract he had purchased earlier while he still functioned as the Vice President of the Lansing Southern Railroad Company and offshoot the Michigan United Railroads. James life took a series of turns all with some nature of involvement with street railroads. James and his family lived in Glendale, California in 1930, but by 1940 he is living by himself in Detroit, Michigan and managing a wholesale paint store while his wife is living at 1013 Huron Avenue, Port Huron, Michigan. The couple may have reunited before James’ death because he died at Emeline’s home in Port Huron, Michigan on December 13, 1945. (Port Huron Times Herald 12/13/1945)
James was responsible for the Michigan United Railways acquisition of Leadley Park and the subsequent name change to Waverly Park. Interurban lines usually purchased amusement parks outside of the city to keep their cars working on the weekends.
“The larger park above mentioned, known as Waverly Park, is the development of a park property which was purchased by the new company and opened to the public, with many improvements, on Aug. 1, 1904, the opening day being welcomed by the city in the form of a holiday. This is a very prettily located park site of 73 acres, 20 acres of which have been improved for actual park purposes. The land is located upon the Grand River, southwest of the city, so that the advantages of boating bathing are available. The park has a large hotel, open air theatre, dancing hall and fine new baseball park and grand stand; representative illustrations presented herewith show some of the park attractions. The buildings and grounds are electrically lighted by a private isolated plant upon the grounds.
The attractions at Waverly Park are in general operated by outside effort, through arrangement with the railway company. Excellent attractions are provided, and it is arranged to provide the very best of accommodations, the result of which has been very gratifying in the amount of traffic created in this way. During the winter, dances and parties have been made a special feature of the park by the company, and also a gun club has been organized with a large membership, which will have its headquarters at the park. Better access will soon be provided for entrance of cars to the park, as a subway will be built next spring under the line of the Grand Trunk Railroad, next to the park grounds, so that cars may then approach directly; it is expected that this subway will be completed by May 1” (Street Railway Journal 2/25/1905).
“The proposed extension of the line from the Agricultural College, 7 miles further to the east, will open up another important district and reach a very popular summer resort known as Haslett Park, or Pine Lake. This lake is one of the principal resorts in that section of the state, but it is inaccessible at present except by a steam railroad which gives very poor passenger service. This lake occupies a space of 360 acres, and is surrounded by numerous summer cottages, hotels and club houses; also the Spiritualists’ organization have made that resort the meeting place for their annual conventions, which brings large crowds to the lake in the summer. In addition, the lake abounds with excellent fishing, which furnishes unlimited sport for the angler. Active work has already begun upon the Pine Lake extension, the contract for construction having been let to the L.E. Meyers Company, Chicago, and it is expected that it will be opened for traffic by June 1. The extension will be built upon private right of way from the college to the lake, and conform in general to the construction used upon the interurban line to St. Johns” (Street Railway Journal 2/25/1905).
Richard H. Scott in the lower gardens along the Grand River
The home was purchased by Richard Scott in May 1909 who also acquired the former residence of Judge Edward Cahill which was later torn down and the foundation used to create the Scott sunken garden.(LSJ 5/20/1909) Oddly the 1913 Sanborn map still shows the Cahill residence still standing. The Scott home was located just west of the sunken garden. Just who Richard Scott was would take several posts to complete. Briefly Scott helped to establish the REO Motor Car Company and later became President of the company when R.E. Olds retired in 1923. The important facet to consider is that Scott was an avid gardener. Not only did he create the sunken garden but he also created a tiered garden along the banks of the Grand River behind his home. Remains of this garden can still be seen today if you walk the river trail and look toward the north when you pass the current building on the site you can see the field stone walls that lined the paths. In fact, you can still climb down and walk the paths of the old garden, I have done it with two good friends. Be forewarned that it is best to walk these paths in early spring our you will be confronted by a mass of poison ivy. The best time to go is a warm day in March, do it soon time is running out for this site.
The west garden, notice the Barnes’ home in the background
So what happened to the Scott home, well after the death of Scott the gardens were maintained by his wife, Gertrude and son Maurice. Gertrude decided in 1965 to have the home torn down but to keep the gardens intact, Gertrude passed away in 1969. After her death the family donated the property to the city of Lansing. The Lansing Garden Club then picked up the task of maintaining the gardens. In 1952 the Orien A. Jenison home at 915 Townsend was acquired by the city and became the home of the arts in Lansing, the Garden, Art and Photography clubs used the Jenison home as their headquarters. In the summer of 1952 the name of the site changed to the Scott Park Art and Garden Center. Why the Scott name was chosen is unknown. In 1979 in a confusing exchange of property between the city of Lansing and General Motors Corporation the Jenison home was moved to the Scott property on Main Street, General Motors used the former site of the Jenison home to build, you guessed it a PARKING LOT! Don’t get me started on Lansing unquenchable need for parking lots. It needs to be pointed out that the Jenison house was not positioned on the foundation of the Scott home but sited closer to the edge of the river bank. Why the home was placed in a different location is unknown?
The Scott residence from the north west
So why are we here? Well the Scott house is a Lost Lansing treasure. The design of the home with its elegant columns and wide porches was undoubtedly influenced by Thomas E. White’s training as an architect in the southern Untied States. It is tragic that this home was lost. Soon I am sure there will be a Lost Lansing post on the Jenison home. Because I am sure Richard Scott and his family would be proud that their donation would now be used as a BWL Substation. Sarcasm 🙁
© Lost Lansing 2016