Cornelius A. Gower

All posts tagged Cornelius A. Gower

One day after walking my dog along the Lansing River Trail I ended up in Moores’ Park. I like to visit the park in the fall to look at the leaves, sit on the stands for the pool and just enjoy the view of river, park and the Eckert Power Plant. I know weird, but the Eckert Power Plant is an interesting structure to see, especially in the fading light of a late fall day. So, since I was in Moores Park, I decided to explore the homes that James Henry Moores owned in Lansing. It has been difficult to trace where J. H. Moores lived prior to the construction of the home at 303 W. Allegan. The 1873 Lansing City Directory listed a J Henry Mores as residing with Rev. J. Evarts Weed, east of Pennsylvania Avenue. Rev. Weed was the pastor for the First Presbyterian Church in Lansing for five years, 1865-1870 and then became a partner with J.H. Moores in his land business. Moores’ next residence was on Kalamazoo Street, the 1878 Lansing City Directory has Moores living on the southside of Kalamazoo, just east of Chestnut Street, no image of the house survives. The first home that we can identify with Moores, is the house he had built at 303 W. Allegan Street, across from the Capitol. A location that was one of the prime building sites in the city and Moores home did not disappoint.

303 W. Allegan, Lansing, MI.

In this image the you can see the entrance on the side, the random pattern of the fieldstone foundation and if you look closely the third-floor porch on the tower.

The magnificent an architecturally original home at 303 W. Allegan was designed by Jackson architect, Lemuel Dwight Grosvenor for James H. Moores in 1885-1885. Below is a description of the Moores’ home published from the State Republican in 1886.

A MODEL HOME

The New Residence of Mr. J.H. Moores on Allegan Street

“Many handsome homes have been erected in Lansing this year, but by all odds the most striking exterior is that of Mr. J.H. Moores’ new residence, at the corner of Allegan and Townsend streets, which reached completion this week. The building is a novel combination of the Northern and Southern styles of architecture. The venture was a daring one, but it has proved successful and picturesque in the extreme.

At the northwest [northeast] corner is a tower following many of the Norman lines; on the east side is an Oriental oriel tower; everywhere there are cosy [cozy] porches, odd little balconies and graceful angles. There are no weak sides to the structure. From whatever side or corner, it is viewed the effect is equally pleasing. The building is painted a rich dark red with dark olive-green trimmings, and the foundation walls, which are of fieldstone square but left rock-faced, are laid in a novel hit-or-miss pattern.

The interior is probably the handsomest in the city. The front entrance  at the side of the oriel tower connects with a large hall finished in cherry, and from this hall open the dining room, reception room, parlor and library. Wide sliding doors enable the family to instantly transform all these into a magnificent suite, and with the single exception of the library all are furnished with extremely handsome fireplaces.

The dining room is finished in black walnut, the others in cherry, the fireplaces in the parlor and reception room have mohoganized cherry mantels with tile work and oxidized brass mountings. The windows are broad, low and deep. In the reception room a pretty bit of art in the shape of a small window of stained glass depicts Cupid amid the flowers. The pantry, kitchen, china closet, and the smaller rooms are finished in the natural color of the wood.

The front stairway with its rich cherry mountings, occupies the oriel tower, a stained-glass window at the first landing adding materially to its attractive appearance. There are four large front chambers on the second floor, fitted with handsome fire places in rich marbleized slate and affording magnificent views of the city from their numerous windows. In the rear are the bathrooms and smaller sleeping rooms.

The building is provided with every possible convenience in the shape of dressing rooms, closets, hot and cold water, gas and electric bells. The cellar runs the entire length of the house, and is divided into laundry, coal room, furnace room and vegetable cellar. The masonry was done by Chittenden, the building by Fuller & Wheeler and the painting by Voiselle & Larose. Most of the timber used in the structure was taken from Mr. Moores’ pine lands in Northern Michigan.” (SR 10/15/1886)

This must have been a fascinating home to see in its prime, especially the interior. There is so much going on, architecturally it is overwhelming.

A poor image of the Moores’ home. Note the two balconies on the facade and the Oriental oriel tower. I have no idea why this was described as an Oriental oriel tower? It is an oriel window. Note the hood over the front porch entrance, it resembles a witch’s cap normally seen on a tower, here it is a quartered segmented covering that many have served as an ornamental detail versus a functional one.

In October of 1893, James exchanged his home at 303 W. Allegan for one at 501 S. Washington with Cornelius A. Gower. Why? Well it may have been a result of the Panic of 1893 which resulted in a 43% unemployment rate in Michigan. In 1893 there was a run on gold, yes, the USA was on the gold standard, when the Reading Railroad Company, yes, the one in Monopoly, went in to receivership triggering the run on gold. Over 500 banks closed, businesses failed, and farmers simply stopped farming. The result was a migration to cities by the rural poor. Detroit’s Mayor Hazen S. Pingree instituted a public works program in the city for the unemployed and created the Pingree’s Potato Patch, which allowed citizens to farm lots in the city. Seems like history always repeats itself. Turner, in his history of Ingham County suggested the Panic of 1896 as the reason for Moores’ financial ruin. The Panic of 1896 was for all practical purposes a continuation of the Panic of 1893.(Turner 573) No image of the Gower home at 501 S. Washington survives, the home on South Washington was torn down in 1890-1891 to erect the Glaister building.

In the image you can see the roof cresting with finials across the roof’s ridge line. Does the front of the home seem unbalanced with the location of the porch on the side and the small windows under the second-floor and third-floor balconies?

An enlargement of the facade of Moores’ home on Allegan Street. Note the third-floor balcony with its large supports and the spaced spindles on the balustrade, an element that is not up to code today. You can also observe the paintwork on the third-floor fish-scale siding, repeated on the face of the front gables.

Cornelius A. Gower

So, who was the man that J.H. Moores traded houses with. Cornelius A. Gower was born in Abbott, Maine on July 30, 1845, the son of Cornelius N. and Abigail (née Hawes) Gower. He attended Colby University in Waterville, Maine, and the University of Michigan where he graduated with a degree in Literature in 1867 and law in 1869. After graduation he accepted a position as principal of the public schools in Fenton and three years later became Superintendent of the Genesee County School system, a position he held until 1871. In 1871 he became Superintendent of the Saginaw Public Schools. In 1878 Gower was appointed the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, by Governor Croswell a posting Gower retained until 1881 when he became Superintendent of the Boys Industrial School, a situation he kept until 1892. After leaving the Boys Industrial School Gower served as Vice President of the Capitol Savings & Loan Company. On September 12, 1871 Cornelius married Miss Dora L. Walton in Fenton, Michigan, the couple had three children; Helen D., Charles A., and Clara A. Gower. Cornelius  died at his residence in the Porter Apartments on Thursday, January 14, 1932. See LSJ 1/15/1932 and Portrait & Biographical Album 248.

Architect Bowd’s design for the Wolverine Insurance Company and Michigan Employers’ Casualty Company building at 300 W. Allegan. (LSJ 5/26/1921)

The Wolverine Insurance Company purchased the home from the Gower estate in 1920 and remodeled the structure to serve as their headquarters. In 1921 the business engaged the services of architect, Edwyn A. Bowd to design a new building for the company to be situated on the property after the home was torn down. The structure was never built due to cost, a smaller Wolverine Insurance Company building was constructed at 232 S. Capitol in 1924-1925. The home at 303 W. Allegan was torn down in May of 1926 with little fanfare, the structure took over 30 days to tear down because the Lansing Housewrecking Company was stripping the building of the white pine, cherry and other specialty woods used in the home’s construction. The site was briefly the home of a Y.M.C.A. playground until it was replaced by the new Lansing Post Office and Federal Building that currently occupies the site. (LSJ6/1/1926)

Coming soon. Moores’ financial recovery and his home at 500 Townsend.

©Lost Lansing 2019