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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

Krentel Brothers


The Krentel family, circa 1899. Front row, left to right: Andrew, Matilda, George Sr, Lillian; middle row: Calla, George Jr, Christian; back row: Alex, Adorf.
Image credit: The Record, 47(4), July 1942, p. 8.

The Krentel Brothers were local businessmen and developers, connected with the College for decades and an important factor in East Lansing’s growth. Theirs is a classic tale of the American Dream.

George P. Krentel (1844–1925) was born Jürgen Peter Kreutel in Flensburg, a port town on the Danish-German border. He married Mathilde Møller (aka Matilda Miller, 1842–1913) in Denmark in 1870; together they had three sons in Copenhagen—Christian Magnus Jørgen (1871–1943), Adorf Bernhart Nicolaj (1873–1948), and Alexander Poul Christian (1875–1927).

The entire family immigrated to the United States in 1876, traveling in steerage class aboard the Hamburg America steamship Pommerania. That same year George’s younger brother Andrew (Andreas Peter Georg Magnus Krentel, 1854–1929) came to the U.S. as well. By 1881 George and Matilda were in Michigan where they had a fourth son, George M. (1881–1966), aka George Jr.

George Sr arrived on campus in 1885 and offered his carpentry skills to the College. “For 34 years George Krentel was a faithful employee of the college wood shop. An excellent craftsman, he was soon made superintendent.” His brother Andrew joined him in 1895, and in 1902 was appointed as an instructor in the Mechanical Engineering department, teaching freshman-level wood shop.[The Record, 47(4), July 1942, p. 8]

The three elder sons of George and Matilda matriculated at M.A.C. in 1895. They were the epitome of big men on campus. Adorf and Alex started on the baseball team as freshmen, at first base and catcher, respectively; Alex would remain with the team all four years and be elected captain in 1899. Both ran track as well. Both were lieutenants in the cadet corps, and Adorf was Adjutant of the corps in 1898. Adorf and Christian each served a year as president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, while Alex was president of Delta Tau Delta. The trio all finished their BS degrees in 1899. (George Jr. graduated from Lansing Central H.S. in 1900 and followed his brothers at the College, but left school after three years.)[MAC Record, 3(39), 14 Jun 1898, p. 2; 3(40), 21 Jun 1898, p. 1. The Record, 47(4), July 1942, p. 8]


M.A.C. baseball team of 1899. According to the source for this image, in the middle row, 2nd from right is Christian and 3rd from right is Adorf.

Soon after graduation, the younger generation of Krentel brothers started making a name for themselves—as the “Krentel Brothers.” A 1907 issue of the MAC Record mentions, “Krentel Bros. are building on one of their lot {sic} in Collegeville.” (It is not clear which brothers, nor which Collegeville property.) By 1912 they had established the Hillandale Poultry Farm, and for the next several years advertised extensively in various farming and poultry-specific periodicals. According to city directories, George Jr was the “poultryman” among the quartet.[MAC Record, 12(38), 11 Jun 1907, p. 4. Lansing City Directory, 1916, p. 424]


Advertisement for day-old chicks “at attractive prices… guaranteed satisfaction and safe delivery,” appearing in American Poultry World, 3(6), April 1912, p. 624.

Meanwhile Adorf married and moved to Canada. Having studied chemistry under R. C. Kedzie, Adorf parlayed that knowledge of the beet-sugar industry into a position as chemist for the Dominion Sugar Co. of Berlin, Ontario. In 1917 he returned to the U.S. and became chief chemist for the Continental Sugar Co. in Findlay, Ohio.

Not to be outdone by the boys, Andrew and Lillian Krentel’s daughter Calla Lillie (1887–1971, M.A.C. BS ’07, MHE ’13) taught for a few years at the Kansas State Manual Training Normal School at Pittsburg, returned to M.A.C. for a master’s degree in Home Economics and, after marrying and moving to a ranch thirty miles north of El Paso, Texas to raise a family, served five terms (1940–1950) as representative from Doña Ana County to the New Mexico Legislature. Calla K. Eylar Wolfe was a highly influential educator and stateswoman for her entire adult life.

By 1919 the Krentel Bros. real estate business was a going concern, having established offices in the new Lansing State Savings Bank building downtown. Alex and Christian were the principals. (George Jr, apparently no longer poultry farming after the war, worked as a die maker in various tool and die shops in Lansing for the rest of his days.) A commercial block, built in the previous year and wearing the Krentel name, is still standing at 1000 S. Washington Avenue in Lansing and was recently renovated.

In 1921 Krentel Bros. platted Ridgeley Park “on the western half of the Valleau farm,” north of Oakwood and west of the old High School, extending Sunset Lane and Forest Street and creating the streets of Northlawn, Centerlawn, Southlawn, and Westlawn. It was annexed into the city on May 28, 1921. (The East Lansing Historic Commission listed no significant structures here.) In 1923 Adorf returned to East Lansing and joined his brothers in the real estate firm.


Krentel men during a family picnic at Moores Park, Lansing, circa 1920. From left: George P., Adorf, Christian, George M., and Alex, with five of George Sr’s grandsons. Image lifted from a Danish-language genealogy blog.

In all, at least three generations of Krentels graced M.A.C. and M.S.C. with their talents. A Record article of 1942 noted that “for fifty-seven years the Krentel family name has been on the records in the registrar’s office” as staff or students or both, a continuous line starting with George’s arrival in 1885 and ending with the graduation of Paul Krentel, Alex’s son, in 1942. In between, seven descendants of George and Andrew received at least ten degrees from the College, and another three attended.[The Record, 47(4), July 1942, p. 8]

Two Krentel houses—Christian’s and Adorf’s—are among East Lansing’s Significant Structures, but others were left off the list. Arguably the most important among these is Alex’s home at 398 Park Lane, which is now owned by the city and has housed two groundbreaking non-profit agencies: in the early 1970s it was the Drug Education Center, which evolved into Gateway Community Services; and since 1978 it has been an energy and environmental demonstration home for Urban Options (now Michigan Energy Options). To make room for a new parking lot behind City Hall, in 1987 it was moved northeasterly and turned ninety degrees to become 405 Grove Street.[Kestenbaum, email of 9 Sep 2016] Andrew’s last residence in East Lansing, built in 1922 at 1014 Chesterfield Parkway and standing one door west of the Grant Hudson House, was also not deemed significant. George Sr’s home at 516 W. Michigan Avenue is now gone, but this author suspects that many other Krentel-built homes are still standing, and is endeavouring to find them.

George, Matilda, their four sons, (most) wives and several grandchildren are interred in the Krentel family plot in Glendale Cemetery, on Mt. Hope Road in Meridian Charter Township. Andrew and Lillian (1862–1936) are interred in the chapel of Deepdale Cemetery in Eaton County.