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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

C. D. Woodbury Mansion, 415 M.A.C. Ave. (1903) SR


C. D. Woodbury House, November 2003. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.

Chester D. Woodbury was a Lansing businessman and one of the developers of the Oakwood subdivision. When Woodbury and his wife May lived in this residence, it was located at 110 W. Grand River Avenue, on a double lot between Abbot Road and Evergreen Avenue. It was designed by noted Lansing architect Darius B. Moon, one of three homes designed by Moon for the Woodburys.[MacLean, pp. 243–245]

In 1911 the Woodburys sold the house to the Hesperian Society, a local fraternity, which used it until 1926, when it was sold to the East Lansing Development Company and moved to 323 Ann Street. It was then renamed “The Eldon” and was used as a women’s dormitory until the construction of Mary Mayo Hall on campus in 1931. In 1948 it became Howland House, an independent student cooperative.[Towar, p. 45]

In 1984, in anticipation of redevelopment on the large lot bordered by M.A.C. and Albert Avenues, Ann and Charles Streets (now the University Place hotel complex), the house was threatened with demolition. Preservation advocates suggested relocating it, but skeptics doubted that such a large structure could be moved. Fortunately the historical record showed that this had already been successfully done once before, and the house was moved to its present location at 415 M.A.C. Its neighbor, the gambrel-roofed 427 M.A.C. (visible on the right of the above photograph), was moved from 343 Albert on the same day. One witness described the two houses’ slow progress through the East Lansing downtown as “a short but impressive parade.”

As an aside: 343 Albert Ave., a former fraternity house, was in the late-’60s the home of the New Community student co-op, which at the time was a haven for students espousing progressive (and sometimes radical) social change. Among the contributions of its members were the formation of the Student Housing Cooperative, and what is now the oldest operating crisis center in the nation, The Listening Ear. The building, now at 427 M.A.C. and currently a sorority house, arguably has significance in East Lansing history, but is not listed among its Significant Structures.

When the Woodbury house stood in Oakwood, it was even more dramatic and decorative than it is today. A wraparound porch extended partway down the right-side elevation, capped by a small second-floor porch. The main porch had siding that flared at its base on all sides and echoed the flared edges that may still be seen along the eaves and between the first and second floor. The porch was truncated long before the house arrived on M.A.C. Avenue. In addition, the first floor of the house originally had a brick veneer, rather than the wood siding seen today; this appears to have changed during the 1926 move to Ann Street. Iron cresting with finials at each gable end, a typical Darius Moon decorative touch, have also been lost.[Sanborn (1913) vol. 1, p. 105; (1951) vol. 2, p. 268]

Nevertheless, many of its most distinctive elements remain: a curved bay window that extends through the eave to a similarly shaped dormer, “which gives the illusion of a tower, especially since the dormer is covered by a false conical roof;” a recessed third-floor porch in the gable, now facing south; the oval window in the front façade, similar to those Moon used on the lamented and long-demolished R. E. Olds mansion. Even in its modified state, and after more than a century as student housing, the house remains “one of the architectural ornaments of East Lansing.”[MacLean, pp. 243–245]


Hesperian Society House, formerly the Woodbury Mansion, circa 1913.
Note the porch extension, roofline details, and finials. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 198.

Today this house is one of the last examples of several large, stately homes built in East Lansing around the turn of the twentieth century. It also is a rare existing design by the prolific Darius Moon, on a list of his surviving buildings that is now altogether too short.