Dodge Mansion

The following is the text of an article in The Michigan Assessor of June 1974. The article has an accompanying photo of the House.

Dodge Mansion

(Great Lakes Bible College) 106 E North St., Lansing, Mich.

Throughout the twentieth century the Dodge House has been the foremost architectural ornament of north Lansing. It is a massive brick veneer building in Georgian Revival style, the three story central mass flanked by two and one-half story wings. A two story brick wing is on the west end of the house. It is situated on the high north bank of the Grand River, on a lot several acres in size.

The most notable feature of the house is the large front porch, its roof supported by two story wooden columns in the Ionic style. The light simplicity of the columns and balusters contrasts with the heavy, rough stone which supplies the foundation for the porch. A massive wooden cornice encircles the house and a large porte cochere is found at the rear. The interior is also in Georgian Revival style, characterized by large, classical doorways and many fireplaces. Beveled and leaded windows are still present, and the paneled walls and ceiling of a room in the two-story wing are in their original dark oak finish.

Encompassed within this house is the brick James Turner house, constructed in the 1850s. Except for a few exterior walls, this building has been completely obliterated, but variations in the masonry and color brick make its original outlines apparent. It was a two-story building with one story wings placed symmetrically at each end.

In 1847 the Michigan Legislature selected a site for the state's new capitol in what was then a practically unbroken wilderness on the Grand River near the center of the peninsula. James Turner, a merchant at nearby Mason, came by sleigh to inspect the site and immediately decided to settle there. The location he selected was on a high wooded bank of the Grand, where that stream turns west to begin its course to Lake Michigan. Known for years as "Turner's Woods", the site had been occupied from time to time by a band of Indians led by chief Okemos. Turner became one of the first residents of Lansing, and until his death in 1869 was one of the community leaders. He was active in construction of plank roads and railroads, and a founder of the Michigan Female College.

In the 1850s Turner constructed one of the largest and most pretentious dwellings in Lansing. [A] bird's eye view of the town, published in 1866, showed that it was brick, a two story central mass flanked by one story wings. Turner's widow continued to live in this house after his death. Frank L. Dodge, a young lawyer and native of Ohio, married one of Turner's daughters in1888 and moved into the family mansion. Acquiring ownership in 1899, he launched an ambitions project to enlarge and modernize the building. He selected the currently popular Georgian Revival style and determined to retain the walls of the existing building. Although a biography of Dodge's son reported that the new part of the house was completed in 1905, tax assessment rolls indicated that the work was probably undertaken over several years. The assessed valuation in 1900 was $2,100. This jumped to $3,100 in 1902, $5,000 in 1904, and $6,000 in 1906.

When completed the Dodge House was the largest Georgian Revival building in Lansing. Although the masonry walls of the Turner house are still visible, the early twentieth century renovations were so different in style that it was in essence a new building. In fact, a county history published in 1905 congratulated Dodge on his "new house". Like Turner, Dodge was prominent in local affairs, although his Democratic politics kept him from many offices. He was [a] state representative for two terms in the 1880s, U.S. commissioner four years, and a member of the city council twelve more. After Dodge's death in 1929 a bachelor son occupied the property. Great Lakes Bible College acquired the property in 1958 for their campus, occupying it until this year [1974].

Given the rather late date of the founding of Lansing, there are few truly old houses in town. Urban renewal and freeway construction have taken their toll of many historic homes, and the Benjamin Davis house, a National Register property that had been the focus of local preservation efforts, was recently damaged by fire and demolished.