advertisement

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

Oakwood (1899)


Map by the author, based on Newman, 1915.

On March 3, 1899, Chester D. Woodbury, Judge Edward Cahill, and Dr. Johnson W. Hagadorn purchased a portion of the Manly Miles farm which fronted Grand River Avenue from Abbot Road to the former Valley Court entrance across from Central School, and extended north to where Burcham Drive has its western end today. Two months later they sold an undivided one-fourth interest to Arthur C. Bird (M.A.C. ’83), secretary of the State Board of Agriculture. They employed Professor H. K. Vedder to design “Oakwood,” comprising eighty-two lots of about one-quarter acre in size, plus a large lot, № 83, west of Evergreen and south of Oakhill, which prior to modern drainage was swampland. The plat was filed on June 17, 1899. (Lot 83 was partially subdivided on October 29, 1903. Its largest remaining lot is now Valley Court Park.)[Towar, p. 70]

Oakwood was named for a stand of native oak trees that stood north of the aptly named Oakhill Avenue. Most of the trees were later cleared, though one massive oak was retained, overlooking the valley. In 1976 it was estimated to be nearly 300 years old. By 1992 the tree was gone, but its huge, eight-foot-diameter stump, near 316 Oakhill, was still evident in 2011.[Kestenbaum, p. 33]


Oak stump on Oakhill Drive, November 2003. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.

Before it succumbed to its inevitable role as the main commercial axis of East Lansing, Grand River Avenue (briefly called Miles Avenue along the south side of Oakwood) was lined with an impressive collection of houses in the late-Victorian styles of the period—mainly Queen Anne style with its asymmetrical planform, wraparound porches, and elaborate details in variegated wood siding and ornamentation. Very few of these mansions are still standing, and none of them remain along Grand River Avenue.


Former J. W. Hagadorn Mansion, in use as Asher House for Men, circa 1961. Photo Credit: Wolverine 1961, p. 359.

The first house to be supplanted by commercial construction was that of J. W. Hagadorn, whose enormous Queen Anne house was built in 1904 on the northwest corner of Grand River and Evergreen Avenue. When the East Lansing State Bank was incorporated in 1916, it constructed the first commercial building in Oakwood, at that corner; to accommodate it, the house was moved to the back of the property and faced Evergreen. The “imposing new ‘bank block’ of dark brown and white glazed brick” was completed in 1917 and stood for one hundred years. The house was used as student housing, in various forms, from 1920 until it was destroyed by fire in 1972. A restaurant later occupied part of the site.[Kestenbaum, pp. 10, 21]

The Woodbury home, built in 1903 but owned since 1911 by the Hesperian Society, was on a double lot facing Grand River between Abbot and Evergreen. As the young city grew, this house at the very center of downtown was seen as an impediment to commercial growth. The East Lansing Development Corporation was formed in 1926 with the express purpose of acquiring the property; it soon did so and moved the house to 323 Ann Street. The Hesperians used the proceeds to build a new, fancier edifice at 810 W. Grand River, and became a chapter of Psi Upsilon in 1943, the last of the local societies to affiliate with a national fraternity.[MSC Record, 48(3), May 1943, p. 9]


Hesperian Society House, formerly the Woodbury Mansion, circa 1913. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 198.

Construction soon began on “The Abbott,” a $500,000 commercial building designed by Edwyn A. Bowd. It opened in 1927 and provided a new home for the East Lansing State Bank, retail space for several other businesses, and the movie house known as the State Theatre. The Abbott* (sans theatre) received a modern update to its façade in 1969. It was demolished along with its neighbor to the west, the 1917 bank building, in October 2017.[Kestenbaum, pp. 26–28]


“The Abbott” circa 1929. The column-flanked entrance to the East Lansing State Bank is near the front corner. The State Theatre marquee is at right, while the preceding bank block of 1917 is in the left distance. Photo Credit: City of East Lansing. Reprinted in Miller, p. 53.

To the west of the Hagadorn house (and later the 1917 bank block) stood the home of A. C. Bird, who built his Queen Anne on the former site of the log house that was home to D. Robert Burcham, the original settler of the farmland. At the time of Bird’s construction the house faced the apex of the Delta at the eastern end of Michigan Avenue. An addition to Peoples Church replaced the house in 1965.[Towar, pp. 45, 70. Kestenbaum, p. 10]


Phi Delta Society House, formerly the A. C. Bird House, circa 1913. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 201.

Today, the southeast portion of Oakwood is the subject of some much-needed redevelopment. Several buildings, many of them vacant for years, have been cleared away in anticipation. The former Evergreen Arms apartments at 341–345 Evergreen Avenue and a two-story bank building at 303 Abbot Road were demolished in summer 2016. Both East Lansing State Bank buildings, the original from 1917 and the “Abbott” from 1927, were torn down in October 2017 to some fanfare and relief; they had stood vacant and blighted for about a decade. A project called the “Park District,” calling for “a 13-story mixed-use building at 100 West Grand River Avenue, a 10-story hotel between there and Peoples Church at 130 West Grand River Avenue, and a 5-story moderate-income apartment building just north of there, at 341 Evergreen Avenue,” is underway. An adjacent development, called “Park Place,” is working its way through the City’s approval process; under threat of demolition from this project are two buildings listed among the East Lansing Historic Commission’s Significant Structures: the Old Post Office at 327 Abbot Road and the Justice William W. Potter House at 334 Evergreen Avenue.[ELi, 19 Sep 2017, 24 Jan 2019, 26 Jan 2019]

James DeLoss Towar House, 507 Abbot Rd. (1904)
Charles B. Collingwood House, 526 Sunset Lane (1905)
Babcock–Sanford House, 437 Abbot Rd. (1907)
W. O. Hedrick House, 220 Oakhill Ave. (1909)
Justice William W. Potter House, 334 Evergreen Ave. (1909)
Peoples Church, 200 W. Grand River Ave. (1924)
Old Post Office, 327 Abbot Rd. (1933)

Next: College Grove


The Test

by Walter Adams