In our continuing exploration of Michigan, today my husband and I visited Old Town in Lansing, Michigan.
In 1825 a surveying crew stopped along the Grand River next to what is now Lansing and plotted land that would someday be called Old Town. James Seymour and Jacob Cooley from New York purchased the land from the federal government eleven years later.
In 1843 John W Burchard purchased a portion of the land from James Seymour and built the first log cabin in North Lansing, later called Lower Town and now Old Town. He also built a dam across the Grand River hoping to build a mill. However, in 1844 he drowned while inspecting a break in the dam. After his death James Seymour continued his plans and built the mill.
In 1847 Lansing became the capital of Michigan. This brought commercial and industrial business along with new families to the area. Franklin Street, now named Grand River Avenue, was the main thoroughfare with shops, churches, banks, a railroad station, manufacturing quickly springing up along the street.
As the area grew, there were three different areas comprising Lansing: Upper Town, Middle Town and Lower Town.
It was here, in Old Town, that Ransom Eli Olds founded the car company that became the first assembly line producer of automobiles in the world (Oldsmobile). Although Henry Ford is credited often with that distinction, Olds was the first to actually build cars in an assembly line. Henry Ford, of course, took that idea and made it a successful part of his company.
For many years Old Town saw prosperity and the growth of a large middle-class. However, as the car manufacturing industry moved to Detroit, Old Town began to become a shell of what it once had been.
Neglected as the middle class fled to the suburbs or other parts of Lansing, buildings were boarded up, with some burned down.
A few years ago some residents of Lansing felt that this part of the city could be revitalized. A Main Street program was established in 1996, This part of the city is such a treat. Full of great restaurants, stores, art galleries, my husband and I spent over two hours just walking around and taking in the scene.
Today was a great day to visit as they were celebrating “Chalk of the Town.” Artists began creating masterpieces on an assigned area of the sidewalk at 9 a.m. They could use only chalk. All creations were to be completed by 2 p.m. and winners would be announced by 3 p.m.
We only got a few pictures of the many who were busy at work all morning.
Sadly a thunderstorm rolled in about 1 p.m. We quickly jumped in our car and barely missed getting soaked by the heavy rainfall. I’m not sure what they did about judging the art. When we parked early in the morning one man was just beginning his work. Coming back to our car he was just finishing his work and putting his chalk supplies up when the rain came. He took a picture of his work.
I felt sorry for him – after working all day to see your work washed away so quickly.
But we enjoyed the day. Cut short because of the rain, we will definitely be going back soon to Old Town. If you live near Lansing, I strongly recommend you spend a day there soon.