As Michigan's state capital, Lansing is full of history.
But that history isn't limited to museums or government buildings. It can be seen on a drive down the street admiring the city's historic homes, which provide a glimpse of how Lansing has changed during the past 160 years.
"It gives you a sense of what the world was like back then, and probably piqued your curiosity to find out who lived there, what they did, how they made their money," said Bill Castanier, president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing. "It's part of the arts and culture of a community, a sense of place."
Here are some historic homes to check out in Lansing:
100 E. North St., Lansing.
When the sun hits the windows of the Turner-Dodge house at just the right angle, the light is caught by the French-leaded crystal glass and throws prisms of color across its rooms. It also draws attention to the gleaming woodwork.
"People are just overwhelmed with the beauty," said Barbara Loyer, docent and event manager at the Turner-Dodge House and Heritage Center.
The building is more than just a beautiful abode. It's the story of the beginnings of Lansing.
The owner, James Turner, was a notable merchant, financier, land agent and politician, and was instrumental in establishing Lansing as the state capital.
"Mr. Turner was very much at the root of all things Lansing," Loyer said.
Aware that the legislature wanted to relocate the capital from Detroit to a central city, Turner secured land and financing in the Lansing area. He also worked to improve transportation into the city and was instrumental in building the Lansing and Howell Plank Road and bringing rail lines into the city.
"Whenever there was a need, he just sort of stepped in and solved it," Loyer said.
Although the house was not the first to be built in Lansing, it is among the oldest. Completed in 1858, the original house was built in the Greek-revival style, which is notable for its white columns and other details reminiscent of ancient Greek architecture.
The fashionable architecture pointed to the Turner family's roots in Cazenovia, New York, Loyer said, and it would have stood out in the swampy wilderness that was Lansing at the time.
The two-story brick Turner house had six bedrooms, a dining room and a parlor. The kitchen was in the basement, along with the rooms for the Turner's staff.
Following Turner's death, his daughter Abigail and her husband, Frank Dodge, took over the house.
The couple renovated it around the turn of the century, completing a neoclassical addition in 1903. The architect was Darius Moon, who worked on hundreds of other projects in Lansing during the mid-19th and early-20th centuries.
These days, the house is owned by the city, and people can schedule an appointment to visit. Tours are available Tuesdays through Thursdays between 1 and 7 p.m. Groups with more than 10 people can schedule a visit for different days.
From Dec. 18 through Jan. 1, the Turner-Dodge House is hosting a Holiday Open House. Hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 7 pm. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The house will be open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5, and children 12 and under are free.
Rogers-Carrier House and Herrmann House
528 and 520 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing.
Located on the campus of Lansing Community College, the Rogers-Carrier House is one of Lansing's so-called "Moon Houses," designed by the same Darius Moon who worked on the Turner-Dodge renovation.
Unlike the Turner-Dodge House, the Rogers-Carrier House is in Moon's signature architectural style, Queen Anne.
The style, popular between 1880 and 1910, is known for decorative wood trim, asymmetrical front facades, steep roofs and round towers, all characteristics present on the Rogers-Carrier House.
The house was built in 1891 for H. M. Rogers, a local real estate agent. Lansing Community College bought the structure in 1967 and used it as a bookstore. Architectural studies students at the college undertook restoration work on the house in 1982. Currently, the house is used by the college for storage.
Next door to the Rogers-Carrier House is the Herrmann House.
Originally built in 1893 for Lansing tailor John T. Herrmann, this Tudor-style house was purchased by LCC in 1967 for use as a faculty conference center. Although the house is still owned by Lansing Community College, it underwent renovation and preservation around 2010 and is now home to the college president.
The brick facade, steep roof, triangular gables and narrow windows are all nods to the Tudor style, making the house reminiscent of an English manor.
"Both of those houses have a unique history to them," said David Siwik, project manager and instructional design consultant at Lansing Community College. "They're finely preserved examples of what that neighborhood on the north side of downtown looked like circa 100 years ago."
The college offers tours of both buildings, which can be arranged by contacting Lansing Community College.
"They're real architectural gems that we have in the community, and the fact that the college has made a commitment to keeping them preserved and in some capacity open to the public is a real benefit," Siwik said. "A lot of old houses like that are private residences, so it's not very easy to come into them."
Newbrough House and 1025 N. Washington Ave.
615 N. Capitol Ave. and 1025 N. Washington Ave., Lansing.
Lansing Community College isn't the only place to find historic homes downtown.
Driving north along Capitol Avenue toward Oakland and Washington Avenues, there are several well-preserved homes.
"At one time that would have been one of the premier streets in Lansing," Castanier said. "There are some really dramatic houses."
The Newbrough House stands at 615 N. Capitol Ave. The house was built by William Newbrough around 1915 and is typical of the combination of architectural styles popular just before World War I. Newbrough was president of the New Way Motor Company, a gasoline engine manufacturing company. From 1931 to 1951, the house served as the headquarters for the Auto Owners Insurance Company.
Along North Washington Avenue, there also are several impressive homes to view, Castanier said, many dating to the 1850s and 1860s. Of note is 1025 N. Washington Ave., the home of Lansing's first postmaster, George Washington Peck.
Moores River Drive neighborhood
Historically significant and still an in-demand area, the Moores River Drive neighborhood is another place to view interesting homes, Castanier said. This time of year, many of them are decorated for the holidays.
The Ray Potter House, located at 1348 Cambridge Road, is well known as one of Lansing's more lavish houses. The English Tudor-style home was built by Ray Potter, the president and treasurer of the Michigan Screw Company during the 1920s. Inside, the house boasts marble staircases and ornamentation.
Also in the area is the Rumsey M. Haynes House at 1704 Jermone St. Completed in 1930, the large English Tudor-style house was built by architect Lee Black for the prominent Rumsey Haynes family.
A comparatively modern home, the Talbert Abrams house, known as "Wingspan," is also worth a look, Castanier said. Built in the 1950s, the cut stone and glass house at 1310 Cambridge Road was owned by Talbert Abrams, a pioneer in aerial photography.
"When he came to build his house, his wife decided to make it look like an airplane shadow on the ground," Castanier said. "It's a very cool house and just unusual."
Unlike other cities, Lansing doesn't have one set historic district with old homes, Castanier said. Instead, history is tucked alongside modern office buildings, contemporary homes and the Capitol complex.
The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is working to preserve the historic structures in the city and help people learn about them. Next year, Castanier said the organization hopes to put together a driving tour of 100 architecturally significant sites in Lansing.
Castanier said it's important for people to understand what makes something historic.
"Everybody...will have a different idea about what a truly historic site is," Castanier said. "We're not the only answer...there are a lot of homes that look pretty plain that very important people lived in or had some significance...We try to tell those stories, not only of important people, but just of people that made a difference and were important in their own way."
Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (517) 231-9501 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Tour Lansing's past at these iconic historic homes