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.
The Harrison family—Almond, Eliza, their two daughters and four of their five sons—moved to the area in the early 1860s from Lenawee County and settled on 120 acres of farmland south of Michigan Avenue. The farm was bounded on the east and south by the Red Cedar River and included the sectional road that today bears the family name.
The elder sons of Almond and Eliza expanded the Harrison territory toward the south. George 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, George 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]
The remaining son, Joel Harrison, nicknamed “Ping” because he sported an identical beard to that of Michigan Governor Hazen S. Pingree, retired as court stenographer of Lenawee County in 1896 and joined the rest 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.[Towar, p. 35. Miller, p. 24]
In 1900 the family platted a portion of their land into the Cedar Banks subdivision.
By 1913 the Peninsula Farm was owned by C. D. Woodbury, who sold the land to the College that year.
The two other sons of Almond and Eliza, along with five grandchildren, all attended M.A.C., graduating in various years.[Towar, p. 36]