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All posts for the month August, 2016

Porter at Union Station

A Porter coach at the front of the Union Depot, now known as Clara’s Restaurant.

Back in the day when you arrived by train in Lansing you would have taken a coach from the station to your hotel. Lansing was no different and the largest livery in the city was the W.H. Porter Omnibus Hack and Livery. The business was established in 1866 by John C. Adams. In 1880 William C. Porter purchased half of the company from Adams and two years later bought Adams out. The livery was located on the south west corner of Washtenaw Street and Capitol Avenue, where the Cooley Law School Center is today. In 1906 the business had forty-two horses and operated two omnibuses, two baggage wagons, twelve hacks and twenty-five assorted vehicles, i.e. phaetons, surreys, stanhopes, etc.

Porter 1906 Image 100

The Porter Livery at 300 S. Capitol.

But the business would not last, on February 20, 1908 a disastrous fire struck the Porter Livery, tragically thirty horses died in the blaze. The Lansing fire department battled the fire even though the wailing of the horses unnerved many of the firefighters. Orry (Orla) Rolland (Rowland) who was staying at the Octagon House entered the back of the livery and at the risk of his own life rescued several of the horses that were stabled.[1] William’s son, James also attempted to rescue a horse owned by Oscar Downey, but was kicked by one and barely escaped the fire. Oscar himself, entered the livery to rescue his horse and two others. The firemen were supported by Little Downey, Uneeda Lunch Room, Mrs. George Potter and the Lawrence Bakery who served hot coffee and food to the firemen who battled the blaze. (LJ 2/21/1908 and SR 2/21/1908) In 1916 the site was redeveloped as an Automobile salesroom. (LSJ 4/1/1916)

Porter and Ford 100

Another image of 300 S. Capitol. I am not sure who Ford was, I have yet to find a reference.

William H. Porter  was born in Allegan, Michigan on August 23, 1852 the son of James B. and Eunice J. (née House) Porter. As a young man William came to Lansing in 1864 and later attended Olivet and Oberlin Colleges. William’s father James B. Porter was Michigan’s Secretary of State during the Civil War. After graduation William returned to Lansing and engaged in a variety of business venture, foremost was his investments in real estate, the livery and for a period of time he was president of the People’s Savings Bank. William also was interested in politics, he was alderman from the third ward four times, first elected in 1896. He also served as county sheriff in 1898. On February 19, 1874 William married Miss Eleanor L, Morehouse, of Litchfield, Ohio, the couple had four children; Florence B., Walter F., James B., and Doris E. Porter. William health began to fail in 1928 and a trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas seem to revive his well being, but upon retuning to Lansing his health deteriorated and he passed away at his home, 414 S. Walnut on Friday at 11:30 pm on May 11, 1928. (LSJ 5/12/1928 and LCN 5/12/1928)

[1] I wish I could find more about this friend of horses. At best, what we known is that his name was Orla Rolland and he was from Saranac, Michigan.

© Lost Lansing 2016