East Lansing, Michigan, was incorporated as a city in 1907, but its true beginnings date back more than fifty years earlier, when the state legislature established a college for the teaching of scientific agriculture on the banks of the Red Cedar River, in the barely developed hinterland a few miles east of the new, wood-frame Capitol. The two entities have grown in tandem ever since, and are now a beautiful college town with tree-lined neighborhoods and an excellent public school system, and a world-class university with fifteen degree-granting colleges educating over 44,000 students.
This site attempts to interpret the histories of East Lansing and Michigan State University by focusing on their historic buildings. Though this tends to occasion a scattershot narrative, it is hoped that a sense of the big picture may be evinced when the site is taken as a whole. Questions, comments, and corrections are always welcome.
About the author
Kevin S. Forsyth (M.S.U. ’91) was born and raised in the East Lansing area, graduating from E.L.H.S. in 1987. He earned a telecommunications BA from Michigan State four years later, making him both a “townie” and a third-generation “gown” (after his grandfather, Ulo J. Forsyth, M.S.C. ’27).
During the academic year 1991–92, he resided at 219 Bailey Street in East Lansing. This vaguely historic home (built 1910, it was the home of Wesley Eastman, Junior Warden of the local Masonic Temple when it was founded in 1915) stands on a block of older frame buildings that now is part of the “student ghetto” that extends eastward from downtown along Albert Avenue. His curiosity piqued by this home, the then-recently formed historic districts, and the changes to the city he was witnessing at that time, he sought to place them in some sort of historical perspective.
The information on this site was initially researched and written in the period 1992–1993, and most of the photos were taken then as well. The author moved from the area in 1998, so the current appearance and/or existence of some things might have changed. Further research and the development of this site was begun in 2003, and continues intermittently to the present.
This site is dedicated to the author’s wonderful parents, Gretchen Duerr Forsyth (M.S.U. ’63) and John James Forsyth (M.S.U. BS ’62, MS ’64, Ph.D ’71, Professor and Associate Chair of Computer Science 1965–2002), a couple of lifelong Spartans who understood, as young newlyweds, that East Lansing is a terrific community in which to raise a family.
In memory of Zolton Ferency (1922–1993, M.S.C. ’46, M.S.U. MS ’72), Professor of Criminal Justice and vociferous East Lansing politican who was “among the state’s most enduring crusaders for human rights.”
A note regarding alumni
Throughout this site, alumni of the school are denoted with parenthetical marks such as “M.A.C. ’06.” These have been simplified somewhat and do not reflect all the name changes that M.S.U. has had over the years:
1855 Agricultural College of the State of Michigan
1861 State Agricultural College
1909 Michigan Agricultural College
1925 Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science
1955 Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science
1964 Michigan State University
The above example would be more accurate as “S.A.C. ’06,” but I have arbitrarily chosen to conflate the names into three eras, M.A.C. (1855–1925), M.S.C. (1925–1955), and M.S.U. (1955–present). As should be obvious, “M.A.C. ’91” refers to 1891, while “M.S.U. ’91” refers to 1991.