Harvey D. Mason

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The Orlando Mack Barnes Mansion

The most iconic residence that ever existed in Lansing was the Orlando M. Barnes Mansion. There has been, over the last 50 years, a lot of discussion about why the home was rejected by the State of Michigan as a home for Michigan’s Governors. Emile Lorch, former Dean of Architecture at the University of Michigan, felt that the home was “designed at a time when taste in architecture was clearly at a low level.” While O’Rourke, Billings and Rasmusson in their seminal work, Barnes’ Castle 1877-1957, believed that if the home had survived it would have been “the premier American specimen of the Eastlake genre.” Hmm quite a difference of opinion on the value of the mansion. I have always believed it is best to commence at the beginning. Bear in mind by doing that this becomes a long story a very long story.

To begin, we need to examine the newspaper articles that were published when the home was being constructed.

“U.D. Ward is hauling the stone from the J. L. & S railroad [Jackson Lansing and Saginaw Railroad later merged with the Michigan Central Railroad line in 1916] station for the new residence of O.M. Barnes. It comes from Stony Point, Jackson county.” (LRSW 2/1/1876) [1]

“A costly residence. O.M. Barnes of this city is making preparations to erect a handsome and costly residence on what is well known as the Hinman property, on Main street, a few rods west of the Washington avenue bridge. This residence will cost not far from $20,000, and Mr. Barnes has contracted with Harvey D. Mason to superintend its erection.[2] The style of the building is Gothic and Italian combined. The walls will be of cut sandstone from Stony Point, Jackson county, backed by brick. It will be two stories high, with attic, and will be surmounted by a slate roof. The size of the building will be 66 by 77 feet, and the total girth of building, bay windows and all is 316 feet. The main front will be toward the north, but there will also be east and west entrances. The principal rooms in the first story are a main hall 12 by 27 feet, a stairway hall 10 by 18 feet, a drawing-room 15¾by 27 feet, a parlor 15¾ by 18 feet, dining room 13½ by 24 feet, library 15¾ by 20 feet, kitchen 12 by 18 feet, with bathroom and conservatory, and many other smaller rooms and closets.  The partitions will all be of brick, and the rooms in the second story will be about the same size as those on the first story. The building will be completed next November. L.D. Grosvenor of Jackson drew the plans.” (LRSW 2/15/1876)

“H.D. Mason has commenced on O.M. Barnes’ new home.” (LRTW 4/25/1876)

[1] With the construction of the new Michigan State Capitol it was decided to use sandstone from the quarry in Amherst, Ohio as opposed to Stony Point sandstone. The state board felt that there was the inability of the quarry to supply a uniform stone in a consistent color was the reason for selecting the stone from Amherst, Ohio. So the Michigan State Capitol is built out of Ohio sandstone, score one for Ohio. Sorry for the Michigan Ohio State reference.  See Documents Relating to the Erection of the New Capitol of Michigan: 1871 to 1879, p 3.

[2] Harvey D. Mason born in New York on May 22 1827, it is unknown when his family moved to Michigan. The 1860 Census records that Harvey D. Mason lived in Portland, Michigan with Olive M. Mason, it is unclear if Olive was Harvey’s wife, if she was there were three children from the marriage, Orson O., Jay B., and William Mason. What is known is that Harvey enlisted in the 1st Company Michigan Sharp Shooters as a private and left the service as a 2nd Lieutenant. The 1st Company Michigan Sharp Shooters was attached to the 27th Regiment Michigan Infantry. After the Civil War Harvey moved to Lansing where he married Hattie A. Avery on April 17, 1870, Hattie was born in 1852 making her 18 at the time of their marriage Harvey was 42. The couple would have two children Bertie and Lena Mason. What is odd is that Olive and her children followed Harvey throughout his life from Lansing to Los Angeles; it is possible that Olive was his sister-in-law and that he was supporting his sister and her children.  But I can discover no record of Olive and her children post 1900. In 1882 Harvey moved his family to Los Angeles and passed away there on August 22, 1897.

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