Property: Darius Moon House Fully Restored Porch, 216 Huron St., Lansing
People who like to cruise around looking at Christmas lights might want to start, while it’s still daylight, at 216 Huron St. on Lansing’s near west side. One of the most beautiful front porches in the state has been fully restored, painted and decorated for the holidays by owners Carol Skilling and Tom Stanton.
The 124-year-old "stick Victorian" style house belonged to Lansing's foremost architect, Darius Moon, who lived there from 1891 until his death in 1939.
Moon built nearly 300 buildings over a 60-year career, only about 30 of which survive. His own house was one of his best. The porch, a curvy confection of gingerbread with many sculptured details and its own fancy tin roof, was specially baked to entice clients.
Over the decades, normal wear and extra damage from previous tenants seriously eroded the porch’s charms. Working from century-old photos, a small team of restorers, led by Amanda Harrell Seyburn of Sedgwick & Ferwada Architects, set to work in July 2015, designing new pieces to match missing originals where necessary. Restorers Clayton Shafer and Jared Browers stripped away 15 layers of paint, revealing intricate details that have gone unseen for decades. There’s nothing straightforward about this porch, built mostly out of highest-quality Douglas fir. The simplest joins turned out to involve over 20 carefully fitted pieces. Major work was done in fall 2015, capped by a painting party in summer 2016. This is the first Christmas the porch has been seen in full glory since Moon himself welcomed visitors 100 years ago.
Work wasn’t limited to replacing a few knobs and curlicues. In 1975, the house barely escaped demolition when a grass-roots nonprofit support group raised enough money to move it to Huron Street from its original location at 116 Logan St. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). Unfortunately, the move weakened the porch’s support structure and the house’s foundation. The story goes that sympathetic city officials moved the demo order to the bottom of the inbox to give them time to raise the money.
The house made it safely to a vacant lot donated by the city, but the foundation was hastily and carelessly built. Structural repairs, along with the fine restoration work, pushed the bill for the porch (together with a second porch toward the rear of the house) over $90,000.
Stanton and Skilling have no kids, however, and (thankfully) love to sit on the porch. Most important, they take their stewardship of one of Lansing’s most significant historic houses very seriously. “People are definitely driving by and looking,” Stanton said.