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Introduction

Origins

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

Chronology

1855–1870
1871–1885
1886–1900
1901–1915
1916–1927

 

Interactive Map

Sites on the National and State Historic Registers

Complete list of
Significant Structures

Sources

The Harrison Family


The Harrison family home was built in 1865 facing the unpaved lane that became Michigan Avenue. By the time it was razed in 1964 for a road widening, it was addressed as 1111 Michigan Avenue and the Brody residence hall complex was immediately to its east. Photo Credit: City of East Lansing. Reprinted in Miller, p. 24.

Almond Harrison (1802–1892) and Eliza Newton Harrison (1805–1892) moved from Berkshire County, Massachusetts to the Territory of Michigan around 1826, more than a decade before statehood. They settled in Lenawee County, on an irregular lot of about 120 acres on the east bank of the River Raisin, east of Blissfield. Over the next nine years they accrued more parcels, all in the area between Blissfield and Deerfield, for a total of nearly 270 acres by 1835.

While at Blissfield, Almond and Eliza had a total of seven children: Louisa, later known as Lois (born 1832); Daniel, 1834; Clement, 1836; Joel, 1839; Gertrude, 1841; George Wyman, 1845; and Dwight, 1847.

In 1860 they moved to Lansing Township. Their new 92 acre farm was south of the Middletown Road East (later renamed Michigan Avenue), immediately west of the Agricultural College, and bisected by the sectional centerline road that now bears the family name. Although the site was on the far outskirts of the township, and still very much in the hinterlands, this must have seemed like a future-thinking investment at the time—and yet risky, as the pre-Reorganization College was not yet firmly on its feet.

Most of Almond and Eliza’s children joined them in the move, with two exceptions. Lois, the eldest, was married by age 17 to George M. Hubbard, a Blissfield merchant some twenty years her senior. They remained at Blissfield. Joel, meanwhile, moved to Detroit. He served as a Private in the Michigan 1st Cavalry Regiment from September 1861 to September 1862.

A year after arrival (i.e. 1861), Almond built the first bridge over the Red Cedar River at Farm Lane for the College. Within a year it had safety issues, but we may assume he corrected them. The bridge lasted until it was carried away in the spring thaw of 1875.[Minutes, 29 Apr 1861, pp. 78–79; 13 Nov 1862, p. 100]

In 1862 Gertrude, the younger daughter, married Abram Truman. By 1870 they had established a 160-acre farm at the northwest corner of Harrison and Mount Hope Roads.

In 1866 George and Lois Hubbard purchased the John Joy farm in Meridian Township. This 87¾-acre lot fronted on the plank road, opposite the College property. Today, this former farmland is marked from just west of Bailey Street to just east of Kedzie Street, extending north to Burcham Drive. It forms the heart of the Bailey neighborhood, having been platted into the Fairview and Strathmore subdivisions.[Towar, p. 33, who refers to the buyer as “L. W. Hubbard” and obfuscates her gender throughout the paragraph. Beers, p. 51]

Within the next several years, the elder sons of Almond and Eliza continued to expand the Harrison territory. Daniel Harrison built the 280-acre Peninsula Farm on the east side of Harrison Road, south of the oxbow bend in the Red Cedar River, where today stand the athletic complex (Spartan Stadium, Breslin Center, Munn Arena, etc.) and the South Neighborhood of residence halls. In an era when most residents kept a “home cow” for fresh milk, Daniel was a pioneer in collective dairy farming.* C. L. “Kep” Harrison’s 160-acre farm was across Harrison Road from the Peninsula Farm, on the site known today as the Red Cedar neighborhood (Flowerpot and Ivanhoe subdivisions). The family operated a cheese factory on Harrison Road near where Marigold Avenue is today.[Towar, pp. 34–35. Beers, p. 15]

Meanwhile, Joel had moved home to study “phonography,” a form of stenography. Wyman (M.A.C. B.S. ’66, M.S. ’67), having worked for a year as assistant foreman of the College Farm, also lived with his parents, working as a life insurance agent. Dwight (M.A.C. ’68) was a drug store clerk in downtown Lansing, and boarded there. Joel soon finished his studies and moved out: he was a phonographer at Lansing (and living downtown) in 1873; at Adrian in 1880; Grand Rapids in 1887.


Composite detail map of Lansing Township (T4N R2W) and Meridian Township (T4N R1W), Ingham County, 1874. The corner of Michigan Avenue and Harrison Road is at the center of Section 13. Mount Hope Road forms the south border of Sections 24 and 19. Map shows the farms of Almond Harrison, Daniel G. Harrison, Clement L. Harrison, Abram K. Truman, and George M. Hubbard. Total size of the five parcels was 779.55 acres—more than the acreage of the Agricultural College at that time. Image Credit: Beers, 1874.

The 1870s and 1880s appear to have been good decades for the Harrison family, even though Lois was widowed by 1880 and had moved in with her parents. (Presumably she sold the Hubbard farm, but when and to whom is unclear.) Yet by the late 1880s, barely a decade after its peak, it seems that the Harrison empire was on the wane. In 1888 Almond still had the original 91.8-acre farm, worth about $5,000. But Clement worked at a feed mill, Daniel was a stone mason (and his wife Mary was a clerk for the Secretary of State); they all lived in the city. Abram and Gertrude Truman’s farm was down to 80 acres, half the size it was in 1874. Lois still lived at home, helping Eliza run the household. Joel, Wyman, and Dwight had all moved on.

Then in February 1892, just four days apart, Almond and Eliza both died of influenza.

Almond and Eliza’s estate was bequeathed to Lois, Joel, and Dwight, to be divided equally. The three siblings worked out an agreement amongst themselves. Lois and Dwight split the land west of Harrison Road into two odd-sized portions, 13/20 and 7/20, respectively. The dividing line was, by this author’s estimation, a north-south line about opposite where Kensington Road meets Michigan Avenue today. Dwight received the eastern portion, facing onto both Harrison Road and Michigan Avenue. In 1900 he platted part of this into Cedar Banks. Lois received the western portion, which put her home—the original brick Harrison farmhouse—at the northeast corner of that lot.

Meanwhile Joel received the 10 acres of land east of Harrison Road and west and north of the Red Cedar River. Nicknamed “Ping” because he sported an identical beard to that of Michigan Governor Hazen S. Pingree, he retired as court stenographer of Lenawee County in 1896 and joined what remained of his family in these environs. That same year he built the first rooming house in the vicinity of the College, a massive two-and-a-half-story white brick affair at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Harrison Road. Although its formal name was “Harrison Hall,” it quickly became known as the “White Elephant.” Ping Harrison also built a small store east of the White Elephant in 1898 and “became the pioneer merchant of Collegeville,” selling “confectionery, soft drinks, tobacco, cigars and cigarettes.” Both buildings ultimately fell into disrepair, were acquired by the College and demolished. Because of road widenings and the realignment of Harrison Road, the site of the White Elephant is today beneath the intersection of Harrison and eastbound Michigan Avenue. The main bulk of Ping’s land is now the site of the Kellogg Center.[Towar, p. 35. Miller, p. 24]

In time the last pieces of Harrison properties passed from family hands. By 1911 Kep’s farm was owned by Stephen Henry Hicks and his family, who developed the Flowerpot neighborhood. By 1913 Daniel’s Peninsula Farm was owned by C. D. Woodbury, who sold the land to the College that year. The brick farmhouse, “in its early days… a noted rural mansion,” was moved once for a Michigan Avenue road widening in the early 1930s and demolished during another widening in 1964.[ELi, 30 Aug 2015. Towar, p. 34. Miller, p. 24]

Along with sons Wyman and Dwight, five grandchildren of Almond and Eliza attended M.A.C., graduating in various years. Among them was Kep and Jennie’s daughter Mary Louise Harrison (M.A.C. ’88), who was one of just twenty-two women to earn an agriculture degree prior to introduction of the Women’s Course.[Towar, p. 36. Yakeley, p. 51]


The Holy Earth

by Liberty Hyde Bailey