Built to last

By City Pulse

Mid-Michigan chapter of American Institute of Architects salutes 25 of Lansing's most notable structures, including a few surprises

You could lift Lansing’s humble Mug & Brush barber shop and rub it on the tip the Capitol dome, the way you would chalk up a cue stick.

Despite the size difference, both buildings are recognized as city landmarks in a new brochure, “A Guide to Lansing Architecture,” soon to be issued by the mid-Michigan chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The 25-stop tour is meant to be walkable, but some folks are ahead of the curve.

Michele Filipiak leads lunchtime architecture tours downtown as part of a wellness program at Lansing Community College, where she is the coordinator of the architecture technology program.

“I get such large groups I can hardly contain them,” Filipiak said.

“For many people, the architecture of Lansing is just the Capitol,” Filipiak said. “They’re amazed at all the different styles, all in such a small area.”

The project came together when architecture students at Lansing Community College, under the guidance of instructor Ron Campbell, walked around downtown, REO Town and Old Town, picking the most interesting buildings, as part of a class last year.

Lansing architects and AIA members like architect Barry Wood got together, approved the students’ choices and added some of their own.

Wood suggested the Mug & Brush, a tiny former gas station with a terra cotta roof on South Washington Avenue. The ornate Bank of Lansing building or the mammoth Ottawa Power Station may be more impressive, but size isn’t everything.

“The barber shop is a piece of lost Americana, a thing you might drive by every day without thinking much more about it,” Wood said.

“A Guide to Lansing Architecture” joins similar projects published by Michigan’s AIA in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Flint.

Tim Mrozowski, a professor in the Michigan State University School of Design, Planning and Construction and president of the mid-Michigan chapter of AIA, said Lansing has “outstanding examples that can go toe-to-toe with many buildings from around the state.”

— Lawrence Cosentino


Michigan State Capitol

Capitol Avenue ca. 1872 -1879; restored 1990-1993

The first of three state capitols designed by Elijah Meyers, it quickly became the model that states followed for the next 60 years. Patterned after the U.S. Capitol, the Michigan Capitol building reflects the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Its Classical Style façade translates to the interior and the elaborate use of decoration and color.


J.W. Knapps Co.

300 S. Washington St. ca. 1937-1939

Commonly known as Knapps Department Store, the building was designed in the Art Moderne style, it was a dramatic departure from the surrounding architecture and for the design architect, whose other works include Spartan Stadium and Cooley Law School. Its sleek and streamline features are characteristic of Art Moderne. Art Moderne is often confused with Art Deco, which was popular during the same time period. The most distancing feature between the two is that Art Moderne uses horizontal orientation and Art Deco uses vertical orientation. This building is one of the best examples of Art Moderne architecture anywhere in Michigan.


Mug & Brush

1501 S. Washington St. ca. 1920s

The Mug & Brush is one of the smallest free-standing barbershops in North America. Originally constructed as a gas station, the simple structure with its red tile roof is an iconic example of the early full-service auto centers.


Rodgers-Carrier House

528 N. Capitol Ave. ca. 1891

This large home is often referred to as the Moon House, so named after its local architect Darius Moon.

Designed in the Queen Anne style in 1891, the house has strong vertical lines, multi–story porches and wood detailing. Lansing Community College acquired the property in 1967 and opted to preserve the house; today, it is home to the main offices of the Extension and Community Education departments.


Turner-Dodge House

100 E. North St. ca. 1850-1905

One of Lansing's
finest Georgian Revival houses, it was built on the site by James Turner
as a two-story brick structure flanked with one-story wings on each
side. In 1905, Turner's son-in-law, lawyer and politician Frank L.
Dodge, reconstructed the house you see today.

The house is operated by the City of Lansing and is open for tours and special celebrations.


Christ Community Church

227 N. Capitol Ave. ca. 1894

in the Romanesque Style, Christ Community Church was designed by
Lansing architects Earl Mead and Edwin Bowd. Since its completion in
1894, several additions have occurred, but the original farm house built
prior to the original church still serves as the church offices today.


Strand Theater

211 - 219 S. Washington St. ca. 1925

historic building (now offices) was designed by the renowned theater
architect, John Eberson of Chicago. The structure was completed in the
Beaux Art Style, which combines ancient Greek and Renaissance features
in a highly decorative neo-classic style that flourished between 1885
and 1920. The building reflects the ‘City Beautiful’ movement at the
turn of the century, combining its formal design philosophy with city
planning in order to beautify cities.


North Lansing Dam
& Brenke Fish Ladder

On the River Walk south of Old Town and east of
North Washington and Grand River ca. 1843, original dam; 1936, present
dam; 1981, Fish Ladder

present dam was constructed in 1936 by the Board of Water and Light as a
source of power for hydroelectricity. The Brenke Fish Ladder was
constructed in 1981 to allow fish the opportunity to travel up stream.


Hall of Justice

925 W. Ottawa St. ca. 2002

Hall of Justice is a six-story, limestone-clad edifice with a gently
curved principal fa
çade. Covered arcades extend toward the street, and
give visitors access to parking beneath the plaza. The interior spaces
of the Hall of Justice are organized around the circular, colonnaded
lobbies on each floor. All major spaces within the building radiate from
these lobbies.


Bank of Lansing Building

101 N. Washington St. ca 1931

Working during the depth of the Depression, Lee and Kenneth Black translated Romanesque motifs into the façade. Hand-carved stone sculptures depicting Lansing’s history were crafted by sculptor Ulysses Ricci. Other architectural sculptures by Ricci adorn the General Motors Building, the Detroit Free Press headquarters, the Fisher Building and the National Archives. The building faces were finished in limestone. Cast bronze doors at the entrance hint at the ornate stone and tile work in the interior.

R.E. Olds Transportation Museum/Impressions 5 Science Center/Michigan Museum of Surveying

220–240 Museum Dr. ca. 1850/1905

The museum, formerly a Capital Area Transportation Authority garage, opened in August 1981. Designed to showcase Lansing’s transportation history, it is considered one of the top-rated automotive museums in the United States. The Michigan Museum of Surveying occupies a former power plant building constructed in 1923 for the Rickard Lumber Mill.

Ottawa Street Power Station

217 E. Ottawa St. ca. 1939

This unique design was completed in 1939 with multi-tone face brick and granite to represent coal fire from the power generating process. Bowd and Munson concealed the original smoke stacks within the façade of a modern office building of the period. “Moderne” in style, the building also exhibits the angularity and step backs which are characteristic of the Art Deco style. The station was decommissioned in 1999 and is being renovated and converted to an office building as part of a major project for the Accident Fund Insurance Company of America being completed along the Grand River.

Lansing Riverfront Park

300 N Grand Ave. ca. 1975-1976

Carefully sculptured into the landscape along the banks of the Grand River, this linear park minimized its impact on the environment, while maximizing sustainability, through conversion of the former train bridge for pedestrian traffic. This is a terrific example of how good design can heighten the livability of our communities.


Central United Methodist Church

215 N. Capitol Ave. ca. 1889-1890

Central United Methodist Church is one of the best examples of Richardsonian Romanesque churches in Michigan. It is constructed of dark red Ionia sandstone, has a copper roof turret and interior trim of red oak trim, carved hammered beams and features beautiful stained glass windows. It may be the only church designed by Elijah E. Myers, architect of the State Capitol. The construction cost was $50,000.


Lansing Center

333 E. Michigan Ave. ca. 1987; 1995

This building demonstrates a collaborative effort by two architectural firms for developing the master planning and programming phases of the project. The Center serves as an impressive gateway to the heart of the State Capitol and hosts a variety of events and functions.

Cooley Law School Stadium (Lugnut Stadium)

505 E. Michigan Ave. ca. 1996

Home field to the Lansing Lugnuts, this stadium was designed by one of the leading sport architectural firms in the country.

Old Town Lansing

Grand River Avenue and Turner Street. ca. 1850-present

The area known as Old Town was the site of the first European settlers in the area in 1843, and it became the state capitol just four years later. Its unique architecture and preservation ethic is launching a revival as the place to be for artist galleries, restaurants and unique businesses.

John T. Herrmann House

520 N. Capitol Ave. ca. 1893

Designed for Lansing tailor John Herrmann and his family, the house reflects the English Tudor style, which was at an early stage of its popularity. It remained in the Herrmann family until 1966, when it was purchased by Lansing Community College, which uses it as a faculty conference center.

Lansing City Hall

124 W. Michigan Ave. ca. 1960

Lansing City Hall is a prime example of the International style of architecture that emerged out of the modern movement of the 1920s and '30s. The International style gave new emphasis to the structure and enclosure. Revolutionary and new light weight materials lead to the development of the ‘Curtain Wall System’ promoted by such architects as Le Corbusier, Phillip Johnson, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. The 1950s and '60s saw a wave of glass, colorful panels and gleaming aluminum replacing the high-rise structures of a decade earlier.

Capital Bank Tower (Boji Tower)

124 W. Allegan St. ca. 1927- 1931

Lansing’s tallest building brought out cries of anger during its construction and led to a city ordinance that restricted future building heights to less than that of the State Capitol. Topping out at 345 feet, the building has 25 floors above ground and two basements. It was built by Ransom E. Olds, who was able to finance its construction from the earnings he made on just one business deal.

Reutter Park

400 S. Capitol Ave. ca. 1920

Reutter Park is one of several city-block size parks in and around downtown Lansing that were a part of the City Beautiful movement in architecture and urban planning in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Potter Park Zoo

1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave. ca. 1935 and 1984

The zoo opened in 1915 on 58 acres of land donated to the city by J.W. and Sarah Potter; another 27 acres were added in 1917. The first building, the Lion House, was constructed in 1930 by the Depression-era recovery program Works Progress Administration. Monkey Island — now the bighorn sheep exhibit — was added in 1936. The architecture of the buildings reflects the Art Deco and Moderenistic styles popular at the time. In 1986, the Potter Park Zoological Society was created to oversee the park and its operation.

Michigan Historical Center

717 W. Allegan St. ca. 1989

An ingenious combination of classical and modern architectural elements, the Center is the state's first public building expressly designed to accommodate commissioned artworks. Architect William Kessler incorporated materials native to Michigan throughout the Center. Literally built around a Michigan white pine tree, the facility features a copper-clad outdoor courtyard, white oak doors, limestone exterior and polished granite walls. Glass atriums add sunlight and a feeling of spaciousness to the library and museum.

1930s sampler

South Washington Ave. from Baker Street north. ca. 1930s

The heart of any community is reflected by its neighborhood commercial districts, and this section of Washington Avenue is no exception. Along this stretch of Washington, one can find a broad range of architectural styles in small commercial buildings, including Art Deco, Art Moderne, Renaissance Revival, early 20th-century commercial, Spanish Mission and Vernacular.

Capital Area District Library

401 S. Capital Ave. ca. 1960s

The Capital Area District Library is the main branch for the district. It has a flat roof design, cantilevered entrance canopy and precast decorative concrete panels that make up the façade of this 1960s design.