Turner-Dodge History Brochure

The following is the text of an undated flyer, written circa 1982.

Turner-Dodge History Brochure


Gracefully situated on the bank of the Grand River, this Classical Revival style mansion was the home of prominent Lansing merchant James Turner. A house, especially one which has stood for many years, reflects the ethnic background, social and economic status, intellectual interests and taste of those who made it a home. Walking through the house visitors will see a variety of architectural and decorative designs reflecting the growth and changes that occurred through the years in keeping with its residents.

The main section of the house was built for James Turner in 1858. Drawings and photographs show it with two central stories balanced by one-story wings on either side. Turner, who came to the Lansing area from New York, found new business opportunities when the Capitol moved here in 1847. He opened a general store in the first hotel in north Lansing, at the corner of present-day Turner Street and Grand River Avenue.

James Turner married Marian Monroe of Eagle, Michigan, and had a son James M. and three daughters, Marian, Eva and Abby. Interested in education he helped found the Michigan Female College, now the site of the Michigan School for the Blind. Turner was also actively involved in the construction of the Howell to Lansing plank road and the Ionia to Lansing railroad.

Turner's daughter, Abby, married Ohioan Frank L. Dodge in 1888 and they purchased the house from Turner's widow in 1899. Dodge, a Democrat, served in the Michigan House of Representatives and as commissioner of the United States Court. He gained recognition as a defense lawyer in a case originating from the Saginaw Valley Labor Strike. For twelve years he was city alderman and was active on several civic boards.

Between 1900-1906 Dodge hired local architect Darius Moon to enlarge and re-design the house to accommodate eleven family members. Moon's eclectic design resulted in a three-story building featuring stately wooden Ionic columns, a decorative cornice, porches and an additional two-story west wing. The interior, with its large Classical doorways and several fireplaces, is adorned with beveled and leaded French windows. This magnificent home hosted family gatherings, weddings and heads of state.

* Historical information provided by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing.

Rehabilitation


After remaining in the family for a century, the property was purchased in 1958 by the Great Lakes Bible College for use as a residency hall. In 1974, the City of Lansing acquired the site for a park at $188,000. The following year the Jaycees leased the house and began a project of renovation in cooperation with the Green Thumb Program which provided workers to remove several layers of paint from oak and fruitwood trims and wall coverings. Lansing Parks & Recreation now administers the use of the house and park as a Center for Cultural Activities.

City, state and federal funds were secured by Parks & Recreation and used to restore the exterior brick of the house, complete a children's play area, gazebo, arbor and a protective deck for the magnificent beech tree. Care has been taken to preserve the historical integrity of the house, which is the only building in Lansing, except the Capitol, on the National Register of Historic Places. Grounds and interior improvements progress slowly as monies become available through programs, grants, community and foundation support. Individuals wishing to support this project should inquire about the newly formed Friends of Turner-Dodge House and Park.