The City

Collegeville (1887, 1895)
College Delta (1898, 1899)
Oakwood (1899)
Cedar Banks (1900)
College Grove (1903)
Fairview (1904, 1905)
College Heights (1904)

Charter of 1907

Avondale (1913)
Bungalow Knolls (1916)
Chesterfield Hills (1916)
Ardson (1919)
Ridgeley Park (1921)
Strathmore (1925)
Glen Cairn (1926)

The Campus




Interactive Map

Sites on the National and State Historic Registers

Complete list of
Significant Structures


College Delta (1898)

Map by the author, based on Newman, 1915.

The “Delta,” the triangular area of land extending west from the junction of Michigan and Grand River Avenues to just west of Delta Street, was included as part of the original Agricultural College land when it was purchased in 1855. At that time, Michigan Avenue’s eastern end was at Harrison Road. When Michigan was extended to Grand River Avenue around 1867, the Delta (also known as the “Flatiron”) was isolated from the rest of campus. With better proximity to the center of campus than Collegeville, the Delta became a prime candidate for faculty housing.[Kuhn, p. 114. Minutes, 9 Jul 1897, pp. 190–191]

By 1898 the State Board of Agriculture was uninterested in further expansion of Faculty Row, and that year platted the site into “College Delta.” It offered ten large lots at prices ranging from $110 to $150, with proceeds from the sale “going towards the purchase of land for an athletic field on the south side of the river,” now known as Old College Field. Water and sewer service were provided by the College, and housing quickly sprang up. Potential buyers were required to have “connection with college affairs,” and were made to enter a contract “to erect a residence costing not less than $800.00.” (At the time, a typical professor’s salary at M.A.C. was $1,800; assistant professors and instructors earned considerably less.) Burton O. Longyear (Instructor in Botany 1894–1904, later State Forester of Colorado) was the first to build; his house on the southwest corner lot stands alone on an 1899 map of campus.[Lautner, pp. 59, 80–81, 102. Minutes, 9 Jul 1897, pp. 190–191. Towar, p. 43. 39th AR, p. 13. 43rd AR, p. 7]

College Delta, circa 1900, view from campus facing north. Only two years after its platting, at least eight houses have already appeared on the Delta. Longyear’s house is at far left. Photo Credit: Chace Newman Family. Reprinted in Kestenbaum, p. 8.

Since College Delta was intended for faculty housing, for several years the Board kept close tabs on its development and purchasers. There is an illustrative and surprisingly candid moment in the Minutes of the Board in 1899: Secretary A. C. Bird announced that a Mrs. Olive Backus, having recently purchased the lot at the apex of the Delta, was planning to build a store on it. Bird admitted that she had an “unquestionable” legal right to do so, but since the Board’s intent was that “nothing of this kind should ever be done” he suggested an unsubtle resolution: because the water and sewer service was being provided with “no written agreement entered into… it might be possible to prevent the execution of this building by suggesting to Mrs. Backus that… water supply at least would be cut off from her premises.” The Board gave President Snyder and Secretary Bird power to act, and although nothing further was ever mentioned (in the official record at least), no store was built. Instead Mrs. Backus built a boarding house and “kept women roomers and furnished meals, the first pioneer of East Lansing in that enterprise,” according to Towar.[Minutes, 29 Aug 1899, p. 339. Towar, pp. 43–44]

Twelve houses were eventually built on the ten lots of College Delta,* and over the years they sheltered many of East Lansing’s (and the college’s) famous names, among them:

Gas station at the apex of College Delta, late 1920s. Photo Credit: James Case. Reprinted in Miller, p. 50.

The Board of Agriculture could not keep its leverage over the Delta forever—particularly once the city, rather than the College, began providing water and sewer services—and over time rooming and boarding houses began to supplant the faculty homes. By the 1920s, a gas station had joined Mrs. Backus’ boarding house at the apex of the Delta, and by 1976 only three historic homes remained on the plat. Today the Landon–May house is the sole survivor. The College Delta, with its monolithic student apartments, fraternity houses, and convenience store, now stands as a testament to the fate of historic homes in the midst of urban development.[Miller, p. 50. Kestenbaum, p. 9]

Landon–May House, 243 W. Grand River Ave. (1902)


Brooks’ Addition to College Delta (1899)

Map by the author, based on Newman, 1915.

Charles and Hannah Brooks filled in the last unplatted space between Harrison Road and the Delta with this addition. Louis Street is named for their son, and has since been converted into a cul-de-sac. Empire Avenue was renamed Elm Place by 1915. Prospect Street was changed to Oakhill Avenue following the creation of College Heights, and later became Hillcrest Drive.

C. M. Krentel House, 322 Elm Place (1906)
Central School, 325 W. Grand River Ave. (1917) SR/NR

Next: Oakwood

The Spirit of Michigan State

by J. Bruce McCristal