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, between Abbot Road and Evergreen Street, the present site of the East Lansing State Bank building.
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.[Towar, p. 45] In the 1940s it became Howland House, an independent student cooperative.
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 once again a fraternity house, arguably has significance in East Lansing history, but is not listed among its Significant Structures.
When the Woodbury house stood in Oakwood, a typical Queen Anne-style wraparound porch extended halfway down the right-side elevation. It was apparently truncated long before the house arrived on M.A.C. Avenue. In addition, the house originally had a brick veneer on at least a portion of its façade, rather than the wood siding seen today.[Towar, p. 45]
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 surviving examples of the Queen Anne style in East Lansing.