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City of Lansing

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Mayor Virg Bernero
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Historic Districts

Lansing has ten (10) historic districts established by Council resolution and regulated by local ordinance Chapter 1220. Permits for construction, alteration, and demolition of resources in the districts are reviewed and approved by the Historic District Commission.

Cherry Hill, Cherry Hill Neighborhood

On October 12, 1989, The Lansing Historic District Commission received an petition for the establishment of a Historic District in the Cherry Hill Neighborhood. This petition was the result of two years work by neighborhood residents. The Cherry Hill Neighborhood is the area South of Kalamazoo, East of Washington Ave. West of the Grand River, and North of St Joseph Ave. It contains the largest number and most representative surviving examples of nineteenth century brick and clapboard Victorian style homes. Some thirty homes in the area approach 100 years in age. Cherry Hill was part of the city’s original plat. It is the remaining portion of an impressive neighborhood which at one time extended south into the area where I-496 now runs.

Historic District Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Report Update and Walking Tour, 2012 (PDF)

Ottawa-Walnut, 320-328 West Ottawa Street

Situated directly across from the state Capital grounds the Emery Houses (320-322 and 326-328 West Ottawa) are a pair of double houses representing two of the few remaining structures of a type once common to the city. The houses are frame with brick veneer, two stories tall, set on high foundations, and separated by a four foot corridor. Each is topped by a steeply-pitched roof surface that gives the effect of a mansard roof. Although often described as Second Empire style, the houses technically do not belong in this category since the mansard is little more than a decorative cornice. The Emery houses are associated with the life of Populist activist Sarah E. Van De Vort Emery and are very good examples of double house architecture of the late-Queen Anne Period. Sarah Emery was a well-known public speaker and writer who toured all over the Midwest during the 1880’s and 1890’s, garnering support for her causes which included the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and women’s suffrage.

The Ottawa-Walnut properties are the last surviving examples of late nineteenth century town houses and apartments in Lansing. Built for speculation directly across from the Capitol Building this series of four connected units, three stories high with their mansard roofs have been partially restored and are still occupied. They represent the last relatively unaltered group of such “flats” in Lansing.

Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Darius B. Moon House, 216 Huron Street

Darius B. Moon House, 216 Huron Street (formerly 116 South Logan Street) was built in 1894 this elaborate Victorian Eastlake-style house was designed and built as well as occupied by Lansing's major 19th century architect, Darius B. Moon. Moon built most of the elaborate homes of Lansing's leading citizens from the 1880's through the early decades of the 20th century. This house, one of the most complex in terms of wood carvings, towers, cupolas and porches, was the architects own house, built in 1894. In later years this house was used as apartments and a major fire in the upper floors forced its boarding up in recent times. (Source-memorandum "76 Historic Lansing pg 19)

The Darius B. Moon House was originally located at 116 Logan Street (now Martin Luther King Boulevard). It was going to be demolished in the 1970s, but community efforts to save it resulted in it being moved three blocks, to 216 Huron. It remains a private residence (a detached three-car garage on site is a non-contributing structure that only dates from 1979) (mcgi.state.mi.us).

Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Arbaugh Building, 401 South Washington Ave.

The Arbaugh Building was erected in 1905 by Basil C. Cameron and Frank N. Arbaugh. Their department store had been a great success and had outgrown the building it had been in. The growth of Cameron and Arbaugh’s had been partially based upon the innovative policy of being the first company to accept paychecks from the employees of the newly established Olds Motor Works.

The new Cameron and Arbaugh’s building was the tallest in Lansing, all of five stories. It was equipped with many of the latest innovations including central heating, elevators and a pneumatic tube system which whisked payments to a central cashier’s office, where change was made.

In 1909, the store became Arbaugh’s when Arbaugh bought out Cameron. As Arbaugh’s success grew, Frank Arbaugh razed buildings to the south and built an addition which increased square footage to near 100,000.

The store was called Arbaugh’s until 1969, although the store had mostly passed out of local control. But business was in decline until Jack Butler, the then owner, closed the store in 1972.

The building is a classic example of the vernacular Commercial building style of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Some of the original cornices were removed during renovations in the 1970’s. However, the original elevations and fenestration are largely intact. The original architect is unknown, however the building reveals the influence of the famed contemporary architect, Albert Kahn.

Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Mutual Building, 208 North Capital Ave.

Now known as the Christman Building, the Mutual Building was constructed in 1928 to house the Michigan Millers Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a Lansing based firm established in 1881 to provide fire insurance protection for mills. The Mutual Building is a five-story, limestone-trimmed, red-brick office building. Its exterior is a stylized version of Elizabethan architecture. The building has a flattish, five-bay wide facade in which the bays at each end project very slightly forward of the facade's central portion. The Mutual Building is a product of the old and prominent Chicago firm of Pond & Pond, Martin & Lloyd. Pond & Pond designed numerous Michigan structures in the 1920s, including Lansing’s Eastern High School, the University of Michigan Union Building, and the Whitcomb Hotel in St. Joseph.

Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Prudden/ Motor Wheel Factory, 707 Prudden Street

The Prudden Wheel Company was the pre-cursor of the long dominant wheel manufacturer Motor Wheel, and established itself in the wheel industry supplying 60% of all the automobiles manufactured in the U.S. at that time with their wheels. The Prudden Wheel Factory is a classic example of early Modern American factory architecture. Its clean, simple lines, ultra-minimalism and cube-like modularity harkens to the International Style spawned by the Bauhaus movement or ‘the building as machine’ philosophy, which wasn’t widely recognized until the 1920’s. The Prudden factory has retained its most basic architectural characteristics, while other iron and wood post buildings to the North did not survive. The automobile industry has been a significant part of Michigan’s and Lansing’s history, and the preservation of the Prudden Wheel building at 707 Prudden Street represents an early example of that proud heritage.

Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Ranney Building, 208 South Washington Ave.

The Ranney Building was constructed in 1890 on Block 115 of the Original Plant of the City of Lansing. In 1883, with his purchase of Lot 17, Dr. George E. Ranney became the first private landholder there, opening a doctor’s office. He constructed the present three-story red sandstone building on that lot in 1890. The site was dedicated to doctors’ offices for nearly 50 years, doctors who were involved in local, state, regional, and national advances in medicine and public health. The Ranney Building exemplifies the Characteristics of the late-19th Century American Romanesque style. The Ranney Building is in Lake Superior red sandstone, and is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. Many of the building’s distinctive features have survived to the present day.

Dr. Ranney (1839-1915) came to Lansing in 1866, already, at 27 years old, a Civil War hero, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor as a surgeon with the Second Michigan Cavalry. Dr. He saw action as a surgeon at Atlanta, Chickamauga and other battles. He treated survivors of the Confederacy’s infamous Andersonville Prison. He came to Michigan in 1866. He was instrumental in the field of public health, including documenting the associations of bad water with typhoid fever, a major breakthrough for public health. He was a founder of the Michigan State Medical Society. Dr. Ranney served as medical director of City Hospital, organized by Edward W. Sparrow, his brother-in-law. He died in 1915, having just days earlier bequeathed what is now Ranney Park to the City of Lansing.

Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Ottawa Street Station, 217 East Ottawa Street

Now known as the Accident Fund Building, the Ottawa Street Station is one of the best examples of a monumental Art Deco styled building. It is displayed prominently in the downtown skyline of Lansing.

Built in 1937 and designed by the Bowd- Munson Company, this tiered; Art Deco Building has progressive colors in the brick which are said to symbolize the clean combustion of coal. Providing electricity for the explosive growth of Lansing after World War I, The power plant used a combination and arrangement of steam and electric generating equipment that had not been used before. Ottawa was designed to couple high efficiency and maximum reliability with reasonable costs to construct and operate. The plant cost $4 million to construct which was paid for by electric sales alone. Even though Lansing had some of the lowest electric rates in Michigan no bonds or other government dollars were used to construct the plant.

Study Committee Final Report

Marshall Street Armory, 330 Marshall Street

The reorganization of the Michigan National Guard started in 1920 created the 32nd Division, and the Lansing unit was designated the 119th Field Artillery. It received federal recognition in February 1922, was designated as horse-drawn 75 mm, and was made up of all of the previous Lansing units and others. Even though money was appropriated in 1917, the new riding hall for the 119th Field Artillery was not constructed until 1922. The delay presumably resulted from World War I and post-war recruitment and reorganization. Designed by state architect Lynn W. Fry, the large brick and glass structure had a large open riding floor and storage for equipment. It was located north of the present day armory, but was demolished circa 2000. In 1924 the present armory building was constructed on the property. Also designed by Lynn W. Fry, the two-story brick building contained a drill hall, storage, and offices for the unit as well as room for recreation and social gatherings, including an officer’s club. The armory was built during a seventeen year period when Michigan constructed ten armories around the state. At least five of these ten armories were designed by Fry.

During peacetime in the 1920s and 1930s the Lansing armory was used for weddings, boxing matches and community gatherings. It filled a typical role of armories in smaller Michigan communities. The drill hall was large enough to accommodate large groups of people, and the facilities were often rented out. This tradition continued at the Lansing armory at least through 1995 when the Michigan Antique Radio Club leased the facility for swap meets.

Study Committee Final Report

Knapp Building, 300 Washington Square

Built in 1937, The J.W. Knapp Building served as Lansing’s most prominent department store for more than forty years.  Billed as the “Showplace of Michigan”, the store included themed shopping areas and in-store restaurants, and drew customers from all around mid-Michigan to shop and play in Downtown Lansing.   Although the department store closed in 1980, the building still stands today as an outstanding example of Streamline Moderne architecture, a style most recognized for its 1950s diners and gas stations with rounded edges and chrome walls.  The unique building is significant to locals who remember the glory days of the store, and shopping as a family affair, especially on Christmas.  Today the building is finishing up renovations for several mixed uses including retail and office space. 

Even before the department store, the site played an important role in Lansing history.  The Knapp building today stands on the former site of the Lansing House Hotel.   The hotel was built in 1865 by General Lafayette Baker, a former spy for the Union Army and the man who captured John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of President Lincoln.  The Lansing House Hotel was renamed the Hotel Downey in the late 1880s and served as Lansing’s premier luxury hotel, a favorite of state politicians.  In 1896, 100 local women met at the hotel to form the Women’s Hospital Association which would later grow into the Sparrow Health System.   The hotel was demolished after a fire and subsequent decline of the hotel in the 1920s and 30s, and the current Knapp Building was built in its place.

The architectural firm Bowd-Munson was commissioned to design the new building.   Bowd-Munson was one of Lansing’s most prominent architectural firms from 1929 through the 1940s, designing the Federal Building, the Ottawa Street Power Station, and the Cooley Law School Temple Building in Lansing, and Spartan Stadium, Jenison Fieldhouse, and Berkey Hall on MSU Campus.  The Streamline Moderne style was popular during this period as a way to incorporate new technologies like electric lighting and show off sleek modernization.  The building and site were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and declared a Historic District in 2011 by the State Historic Preservation Review Board and the City of Lansing.

Study Committee Final Report (PDF)

Additional Historical Surveys of Lansing

Memorandum '76 Historic Lansing, 1976

Reconnaissance Level Survey of Historic and Architectural Resources in Lansing’s Central Neighborhoods, Schneider and Somers, consultants, 1986.

Lansing Architectural Survey II – Historical and Architectural Surveys of Selected Previously Unsurveyed Areas, Henry and Henry Consultants, 1998.

A Phase III Architectural Resource Survey:  Three Downtown Neighborhoods, Lansing Michigan, Great Lakes Research, Inc., consultants, 2000.

Thematic Survey  of Early Automotive History in Lansing, Michigan, From 1890 to 1930.  July 2003.  Mannik & Smith Group, consultants, 2003.

Capitol Historic District Proposal, Capitol Historic District Study Committee, 2001.

While this historic district proposal was not approved by City Council, the Study Committee’s report and property data sheets contain a wealth of valuable information about Lansing’s downtown neighborhoods.

National Historic Districts

As well as the Historic Districts that are regulated by council and local ordinance, the City of Lansing also has many sites that are on the National Historic District List. These sites are NOT regulated by Lansing City Council.

Bill Rieske
Assistant Planning Manager
Contact
316 N. Capitol Ave.
Suite D-1
Lansing , MI 48933
Ph: 517-483-4066

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