April 28 2010 12:00 AM

City aims to close 92-year-old Scott House to save $7,000

To know the Scott House, you have to know that its real name is the Jenison House, a fact that has been lost to the home’s odd history.

It sits on a patch of land at the south end of Capitol Avenue at Main Street; its neighbors are a boarded-up motel, the Cooley-Haze House (home to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame), Cooley Gardens and the Grand River.

city of Lansing took possession of the house around 1945 after its
owner, Orien Jenison, died at 80. It was used as a meeting space by
various Lansing-based clubs. Today, it is the meeting place of
organizations that celebrate numismatics, herpetology and horticulture.

facing a $12 million deficit, the city has floated a plan to close the
92-year-old Scott House and evict its users to other meeting locations.
The move would save the city $7,000 it pays annually in utilities,
Parks and Recreation Director Murdock Jemerson said.

said the city would lock the house and would winterize it. He added
that he was hopeful that boarding up the house would be unnecessary.

“The city has a $12 million deficit, and we’re looking for every possible means to lower our costs,” he said.

Klunzinger, head of the Lansing Coin Club, said five to six groups meet
at the house, and until last week he was unaware of the plan to shut
Scott House. Mayor Virg Bernero introduced the idea among others in
March as part of his proposed budget. The mayor’s proposals are still
subject to Lansing City Council approval. Among the groups that meet
there are the coin club, the Mid- Michigan Herpetological Society
(celebrating reptiles), the Garden Club of Greater Lansing, the Friends
of Cooley Gardens, and posts of the American Legion, the Disabled
American Veterans, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The
groups meet at the house at varying times throughout the year, and meet
collectively as the Scott House Advisory Board. Each group pays about
$100 each year to the city to use the house.

The Scott House, judging by its condition, is somewhat of a backwater of cityrun community facilities. Some walls are peeling
under duress of water damage. The attic, home to old boxes of sports
trophies, is scattered with dead insects. The Parks and Recreation
Department uses a room off the kitchen for storage, which is almost
entirely filled with boxes. Klunzinger almost fondly remembers times
when the house was invaded by bats.

“Over the past 15 years, the groups
have been concerned about the state of the building,” he said.

said that in 1996, the city assessed how much a restoration would cost.
It showed that it would take $534,000 to fix a host of architectural,
plumbing and electrical issues throughout the house. The house is now
clad in vinyl siding, which is falling off in places, revealing the
home’s original halftimber and stucco Tudor revival façade.

that was in 1996,” he said. “You could probably tack on another 30 to
40 percent now. You’re looking at $1.5 million, maybe $2 million, to
redo that building.”

Despite its condition, Jemerson said there are no plans to demolish Scott House.

Bauer, a past president of the garden club, said that she heard that
Scott House’s poor condition is due to the circumstances surrounding
its name change.

1978, Oldsmobile wanted to expand parking, but the city-owned Jenison
House, then located on Townsend Street, was in the way. So, the city
did a trade: Oldsmobile agreed to move the Jenison House up the street
and place it on its current site. At that time, Oldsmobile owned the
property that the real Scott House once occupied. Described as a
“beautiful Georgian colonial” with giant white columns, the original
was bought in 1907 by Richard and Gertrude Scott — Richard Scott came
up with R.E. Olds in the formation of the auto company, and by 1923 was
president; he also donated to Lansing the property that is now the
Fenner Nature Center. Gertrude had the house demolished in 1965, not
wanting it to be carved into apartments. The current Scott House is
located in an area of Lansing that was once a row of mansions built by Lansing barons, including Ransom E. Olds.

the eastern edge of the property, though, is a remnant of the Scott
family: a sunken garden that fell into disrepair, but was restored for
the city by the garden club in 1985. The garden looks like the
foundation of an old castle, though impeccable, and contains perfectly
round shrubs and bright tulips. Bauer says that if the group has to
move, it may not continue to maintain the gardens. Another club
tradition, the annual greens market, where Christmas decorations are
sold to raise funds for the group, would have to find a new location.

“I think they would be very pleased to tell us where to go,” Bauer said of the city’s plans.

the Scott House’s main living room on the first floor hanging above the
fireplace is a picture of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero surrounded by the
queens of the gardening club. They are dressed in green and red
Christmas outfits. It is the only picture hanging in the room.

mayor came by for the greens market,” Bauer said. “We always send an
invitation for the mayor to come to the greens market. Even the past
mayors will come back to purchase items for decorating their homes.”