Frank McLean Lives History

The following is the text of an article in The Ad-Visor of August 1979. Upon request, the Secretary can provide a copy of the article with the accompanying photo of Frank Dodge McLean on the front steps of the Turner-Dodge House.

Frank McLean Lives History

by Jack Thompson

What is it like to grow up as part of local history? Frank Dodge McLean of Lansing knows. His home for many years was the Turner-Dodge House, recently placed on the national rolls as a local historical site. Mr. McLean is the great-grandson of James Turner, who built the original house, and the grandson (and namesake) of Frank Dodge, who enlarged it.

When Mr. Turner died, the estate went to his three daughters. Marion Reasoner had the acreage west of the house, now Reasoner Park. Eva Black received the land farther west, later the site of the Michigan Sugar Co. The house went to the widow and the ground around it to another daughter, Abby. Later, Abby's husband, Frank Dodge, bought the house from Mrs. Turner.

According to Mr. McLean the Turner house was square. When Frank Dodge bought it, he added wings on both sides, a third floor and a pillared facade. The work was completed in 1902. The Dodge home became a showplace where such notables as William Jennings Bryan were entertained.

"The original walls were 14 inches of solid brick," Mr. McLean explained. "This made the house very warm in winter and beautifully cool in summer. The music room alone was almost as big as a normal house. And we had three pianos in the house."

The basement, which contained the kitchen of the original house, had a marble fireplace and a brick floor. The mansion had seven other fireplaces as well as two staircases, one in front and one in back. "The windows were all French plate glass and the floors were hardwood throughout," Mr. McLean said. "In the library and reception hall the woodwork was all hand carved. The ceilings were 14 feet high. We always had a church size Christmas tree."

"It was a little different from most homes," he continued. "We used to have a lot of formal parties in the ball room, usually with an orchestra. Grandmother entertained quite a bit when she got back. There were often meetings of the D.A.R. or the Michigan Bar held at the house. Living with my grandmother, I got a lot that kids my age would have missed. She talked about things that happened way back. I felt I had lived them."

Mr. Mclean's grandmother, Abby Turner Dodge, died in 1947. In 1958, the house was sold to the Great Lakes Bible College. At the time, Frank McLean, his brother and their mother were living there.

"The last New Year's Eve we lived in the house," McLean recalls, "we had three separate parties going on - one in the ballroom, one in the music room and one in the library.

Mr. McLean has been active the past few years working with the City on the renovation of the house.