Henry Cortrite

All posts tagged Henry Cortrite

The Cortrite home and Fanning Mill Works is an image that appeared in Durant’s History of Ingham and Eaton Counties, Michigan. The color image is one that I came across years ago, I just cannot remember where. The address of the home was listed on the illustration as being 96 Michigan Avenue in 1880. So just where was that? Well in today’s world it is 808-814 E. Michigan Avenue. The Fanning Mill was sited at 810-814 E. Michigan Avenue while the home was located at 808 E. Michigan Avenue. That is in the elevated lot between Moriarty’s Pub and Stober’s Bar. The Fanning Mill Factory is long gone, but the home existed until the mid 1980s. Hard to believe that the home was not listed in Memorandum 76, that may have been because of the homes location, set back from the street and between two commercial blocks. Simply it may have been overlooked.

The Cortrite Fanning Mill from the 1870 patent

Durant in his history of Ingham County stated that that the Eureka Fanning Mill plant was established in Lansing in 1875. Prior to that Henry Cortrite operated the factory that manufacture fanning mills in Plymouth, Michigan. Henry relocated to Lansing because of its central location to the railroad lines. If you consider where the new fanning mill was located, just two blocks east of the Michigan Central Railroad line and several blocks from the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway line, the factory was in a perfect position to capitalize on shipping via the railroads. Barnard Cortrite was the inventor of the Cortrite fanning mill, Henry his brother, was not listed in the patent. Barnard also operated a factory to manufacture fanning mills in Norwalk, Ohio, while his brother Henry operated the factory in Lansing. Between 1876 and 1880 the two plants manufactured and sold over 10,000 fanning mills. A fanning mill was an implement that employed sieves and a fan to remove chaff from grain that had been threshed. Later, the technology was combined with the threshing machine, eliminating the need for a separate mill. On Sunday, April 23, 1882 disaster struck the Lansing business when the warehouse that contained 150 finished fanning mills was destroyed by fire. Although the business was insured the production of fanning mills by the Cortrite’s ended in Lansing. (ICN 4/27/1882) The 1883 Lansing City Directory listed Joseph Schneeberger (1832-1911), as the owner of the Eureka Fanning Mills and living at 804 E. Michigan.[1] At this time, it is unknown when Henry sold his business to Joseph, but it must have been in either 1881 or 1882 and it is not clear if Joseph was manufacturing the Cortrite fanning mill or one of a different design.

Henry Cortrite

Henry Cortrite was born in Phelps, New York on November 23, 1837 to Garrett and Electa (née Pullen) Cortrite. When he was 16 he moved with his mother, sister and younger brother to Genesee County, Michigan, Henry’s father Garrett died Phelps, New York on June 16, 1857, just why the family moved to Michigan four years prior to Garrett’s death is unknown. On November 23, 1864, Henry married Miss Annie E. Moreland, the couple has six children, Bernard, Elizabeth, Mary Jane, Henry, Charles B., and Lucretia E. Cortrite. After leaving Lansing for Pontiac, Henry worked in the real estate business and owned a farm. Henry died in Pontiac, Michigan on December 7, 1909. His brother, Bernard continued manufacturing fanning mills in Norwalk, Ohio and retired to California, he passed away on February 17, 1921.

Detail of the porch on Henry Cortrite’s home on Michigan Avenue

I almost forgot, I was exploring the house at 808 E. Michigan. So, if you examine the above image of the porch and focus on the arch between the columns you can see that there is a small opening near columns side of the arch, and another at the center that carried through with the arch. Now observe in the next two images and you can see that the same pattern repeated. Unfortunately, the detailed millwork from the upper part of the porch is missing from the two later images of the home.

808 E. Michigan from the 1950s (CADL/FPLA)

The Cortrite home was later divided in to five separate apartments. You can see the two separate front entrances in the images from the 1950s. The second-floor windows have been replaced with the ornate central window being exchanged with a door. All the gingerbread bargeboard had been removed from the home giving the structure a rather pedestrian appearance.

808 E. Michigan from the 1950s (CADL/FPLA)

So just what happened to the home? Well it became sort of a flop house. The majority of the references in the Lansing State Journal in regard to 808 E. Michigan Avenue are either advertisements for apartment rentals of notices regarding the criminal citations for one of the residents. The home was torn down in 1985. So, what does this all mean? Well it is another example of Lansing choosing destruction over preservation. You may think that this is out of place because the structure is in what has been called the downtown corridor, which is asinine. As much as the mayor and advertisers like to state, downtown is west of the river and not east.

© Lost Lansing 2018

[1] This is a good time to point out that addresses in Lansing changed several times between the 1880s and 1906 when Lansing implemented the Philadelphia method or street addresses.