A view of the 900 N. Washington looking east of Jefferson Avenue before it was renamed. Note the trees in the distance where the Oakland Avenue bridge stands today.
It is time for a brief confession, I drive around the city of Lansing a lot and in my wanderings, I have come across many architectural gems and a few oddities. For example, in the above image you can observe a carriage house, just to the left of the home. The carriage house in the image is still standing, one of the few that remain in Lansing. It would be a worthwhile project to one day, locate, inventory and photograph the carriage houses that remain in the city.
Several times a week I drive by the corner of Washington and Oakland Avenues and years ago I noticed that the lot on the north-east corner of Washington and Oakland Avenues was empty. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised that I just had to find out what was on that corner lot. To be honest, I knew 10 years ago, I just haven’t had time to write the story, life sort of intervenes. In the late 1870s the corner of Washington and Oakland was far different. First there was no bridge across the Grand River at Oakland Avenue back then, so there was little traffic, it was quiet and peaceful location, an ideal spot to build a family home. Secondly, it wasn’t Oakland Avenue at that time it was Jefferson Avenue, the name changed in 1965. Take a look at the above image, which was taken in the early 1940s of a snowy day in Lansing.
Observe how the porch is in the shape of an L. The flat roof is surprising is a home of this type. A pitched roof is more common with this style structure.
The home was erected between 1875 and 1877 and was probably designed and built by its owner Henry R. Howard. Henry presents and interesting challenge, we know he was a carpenter and owned/managed a planing mill. He may have been a Civil War veteran, but so much of his life is a mystery. He was born in the state of New York in 1834 or 1836, the son of Charles W. and Dighton R. Howard. Just when Henry moved to Michigan is unknown, the first record of Henry in Lansing is from the 1860 Census. He may have arrived in Michigan sometime in the 1850s. So, let’s deal what we do know about his life. On November 19, 1872, Henry married Celia M. Walton in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Celia was the daughter of Jerome and Maria C. (née Sherman) Walton. Henry and Celia had six children, Mary Belle Pratt, Jerome Walton, Blanche D., Margaret Richmond, Charles W., and Laurance W. Howard. Their son Jerome became superintendent of the Michigan School for the blind in the early 1900s, afterward he accepted a position as superintendent for the Oregon School for the Blind. In the 1878 Lansing City Directory, Henry is listed as living on the northeast corner of Washington and Jefferson Avenues. The address of Henry and Celia’s home was listed in the City Directories as 800 North Washington, until 1906, when the house address changed to 900 North Washington. It was in 1906 that the city of Lansing adopted Philadelphia method of street numbering, a system we still use today.
Note the changes in the porch, it originally was in the shape of an L, but the shorter portion of the L was enclosed
Henry Howard died at the age of 58, on May 19, 1893, no cause of death was listed, and the only useful information provided is that he lives at 800 North Washington, and that he was old. (SR 5/20/1893) A little more is known about Celia Howard’s death. Celia had been in excellent health after her husband’s passing. On December 2, 1907, after attending church services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, she decided to walk home. After returning to her residence, Celia suffered a stroke, she lingered until 5 am and passed away on December 23, 1907.
There is something odd about the design of the home. The rear section of the home is awkward. It is almost as if it was added as an afterthought.
Was this unconventional home worth preserving? Probably not. There is a certain gracelessness to the design of the home, the structure lacks balance. On the left side in the above image, you can see the rear addition with the door that faces the large two story canted bay window. It creates an awkward recess to the rear of the home.
When the home was originally built the amount of traffic on Jefferson/Oakland Avenue was minimal. Today the road is basically a racetrack. Oakland Avenue has the highest ticketing rates for speeders than any other road in Lansing. Keep in mind that Oakland Avenue goes through a residential neighborhood, which makes one question the wisdom of the person who thought that was a good idea. The residence was chopped up into four apartments in the 1950s. There is no record of the home after 1966, today there is just a patch of grass.
 See LSJ 1/8/1965
 LSJ 5/11/1937
 SR 5/20/1893
 SR 12/23/1907 and LJ 12/23/1907
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