Wednesday, January 25, 2017

February & March Events

Viewing of 1937 Film Black Legion 
Thursday, February 23 – 5:30 p.m.
Lansing Community College, Dart Auditorium, 500 N. Capitol Ave.

Movie explores reign of terror in Detroit

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Lansing Community College are hosting a showing of the award-winning 1937 movie “Black Legion” Thursday, February 23 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Dart Auditorium in downtown Lansing. The event is free and a discussion of the movie’s themes will follow.

By the mid-1930s the white hoods of the Klan gave way to black hoods of another hate mongering group called the Black Legion. The membership which espoused white supremacist and nativism ideas was centered in Detroit, Pontiac and other large Michigan cities.

Catholics, Jews, Blacks, Eastern Europeans and Communists felt the brunt of the group’s numerous beatings, bombings and other brutish crimes including the murder in 1935 of a Detroiter employed by the WPA. The murder would garner national attention when one of the murderers squealed to the police. More than 50 Legion members were charged with crimes ranging from murder to arson. Ultimately, 46 were convicted of crimes including murder.

Newspapers across the country covered the murder trial with two inch headlines. The coverage got the attention of Hollywood and by January 1937 the crime drama “Black Legion” centering on the murder and starring Humphrey Bogart (as the murderer) began showing in theatres. Movie posters were illustrated with a black-hooded man holding a whip with the sub headline “death to squealers.” In Lansing, the movie was shown at the Capitol Theatre. The film is considered a classic noir crime movie starring Bogart who would later become a major star in 1941 after starring in the movie High Sierra.
The movie is part of a year-long commemoration and look at the tumultuous year 1937 in Michigan and across the nation and world. The inspiration for the in-depth look at the historical figures and events of 1937 was Lansing’s June 7 city-wide “Labor Holiday” which saw thousands of union members stream into the streets virtually shutting the city down. 

“The Lansing Labor Holiday was overshadowed by the Flint Sit-down Strike which had ended in February of 1937,” said John P. Beck who is the chairing of the Commemoration Committee “We are working to bring this significant labor event out of the historical shadows.”

The catalyst for the “Holiday” was the arrest of several union members for labor activities including picketing the Capitol City Wrecking Company. “Community-wide general strikes were rare in the 20th Century and it is time for the Holiday to get the recognition it deserves,” Beck said. In addition to hosting several lectures on topics relating to the year 1937, the Historical Society will launch the exhibit “1937: The Year” in May 2017 which will examine what Lansingites were living through that year including the year’s major architectural, design, fashion, religious and political highlights. The exhibit will be hosted in the lobby of Lansing City Hall.

The year 1937 saw spectacular events like the Hindenburg disaster, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of Hitler, the loss of Amelia Earhart, and the inauguration of Michigan Governor Frank Murphy, who would become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and also the Flint Sit-Down Strike, the REO Sit-Down Strike and the Battle of the Overpass among other monumental Labor events.

Participating in the “Lansing Labor Holiday” events are the REO Olds Transportation Museum, Representative Randy Schor, Lisa Fine, author of “REO Joe” and MSU History Professor, Capital Area District Library, the United Auto Workers, the City of Lansing, Lansing Community College, Historical Society of Greater Lansing, Motor Cities National Heritage Area and the United Steel Workers.

Following the one hour and twenty three minute movie David Siwik, history professor at LCC, will facilitate a discussion on hate groups throughout history.  It is still believed by many in Lansing that the death of Earl Little, Malcolm X’s father, in 1931 was at the hands of the Black Legion.

Calling All Collectors 
Saturday, March 18, 2017 - 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Delta Township District Library - 5130 Davenport Dr.

            This year HSGL will be co-sponsoring the 3rd Annual Collectors Showcase to be held March 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Delta Township District Library. Collectors willing to display their collections and talk to the public about their passion are needed for this just-for-fun, no buying or selling
event. Collections at past events have included both antique and contemporary collectibles, such as Pez dispensers, vintage hats, postcards, dolls, Dionne quintuplet memorabilia, Lansing dairy items, and salt and pepper shakers. All collections suitable for family viewing are welcome. One collection will receive the People’s Choice Award, chosen by visitors the day of the event.

            In addition to HSGL, the Collectors Showcase is co-sponsored by the Delta Township Historical Society and the Delta Township District Library. The event will be held at the library, at 5130 Davenport Dr., located off Elmwood across from Sharp Park. For more information or to register as a collector, contact Thomas Moore, DTDL Adult Services Librarian,, or 517-321-4014, or check the library website under Events at

The Filth of Progress – Save the Date!
Saturday, March 11, 2017 – 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Library of Michigan – 702 W. Kalamazoo

Join HSGL and the Library of Michigan for a program by author Ryan Dearinger on his book The Filth of Progress: Immigrants, Americans, and the Building of Canals and Railroads in the West. More information about the event will be coming soon.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Tour Through Mid-Michigan Modern


Sunday, December 4, 2016 – 1:30 p.m.
Michigan Historical Museum, 702 W. Kalamazoo

            Learn first-hand about modernist architecture from Susan Bandes, author of Mid-Michigan Modern: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Googie, as she leads a tour of the new exhibit Minds of Modernism which is on display at the Michigan History Museum. Bandes, who teaches art history and is director of museum studies at MSU, acted as advisor/curator for the exhibit and will conduct the free curated tour. Parking is free and Bandes’s book will be available for purchase.

            In her new book, Bandes has collected photographs, art, and oral histories featuring more than 130 modernist structures that were built in East Lansing and Lansing between 1940 and 1970. Included are homes, offices, and sacred places you drive by every day, but really don’t know the story behind the building. For example, the Michigan Medical Society building on Saginaw in East Lansing is a classic example of modernism and was designed by the architect of the Twin Towers, Minoru Yamasaki. She also delves into the architects who designed the modernist buildings and looks at what might be considered mundane structures like East Lansing’s Dawn Donuts. One classic example of a home designed in the modernist vein is the soaring “airplane house” on Moores River Dr., which was designed for the aviator-entrepreneur Talbert Abrams and built to look like the shadow a plane casts while in the air.

            The Minds of Modernism exhibit includes architectural drawings, building models, and representative commercial products from noted designers, such as Eero Saarinen, that reflect the Modernist era. The exhibit was curated by the Archives of Michigan, the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, the Michigan Historical Center, and Susan Bandes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rock, Rebellion and Brownies - the 1960s at MSU

Thursday, November 17 – 6:30 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library – 950 Abbot Rd.

To be sung to the tune “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel:

Sigma Chi, SDS, segregation, what a mess!
John Hannah, Madam Nhu, Mary Poppins, She Loves You
Stevie Wonder, Grace Slick, McNamara, Tricky Dick   
Roger Daltry and The Who, Lennon and McCartney too

Draft dodgers, “RotCee,” Vietnam, and LSD
Goldfinger, James Bond, Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde
Gary Powers, U-2, Sergeant Pepper, Kind Of Blue
Kent State, Green Berets, Ole Miss, and JFK

Rowan, Martin, Smothers Brothers, Frank Zappa and The Mothers
Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, The Graduate, homecoming day
Woodstock, Vonnegut, downtown Lansing, “cruise the gut”
Draft status 1-A, ATL, no PDA

Bubba Smith, Notre Dame, Tiger’s pennant, Rose Bowl game
Smoking weed, women’s rights, everything will be all right
Coral Gables, Union grill, also Frandor open still
Walter Adams, Mr. Kite, Beaumont Tower, Green & White!
(With apologies to Billy Joel and thanks to Bob Mainfort, Mary Kwas and Bill Castanier.)

                Join the Historical Society of Greater Lansing for a look back at the tumultuous Sixties through the eyes and ears of two MSU graduates: Bob Pearson and Bill Castanier. There’s the old saw: “If you remember the ‘60s, you really weren’t there.” This presentation, taken from the pages of the State News and the airwaves of WILS Radio, will help you fill in the blanks. Castanier was a State News staffer in the 1960s and Pearson worked as a DJ at Lansing’s leading rock station WILS.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October 2016 Programs

Trains, Planes & Automobiles

            Transportation history will be the focus of three co-sponsored HSGL programs during October. Come join us for a look at Lansing’s history of “Trains, Planes & Automobiles.”

Babe Ruth: Airport Kid
Wednesday, October 26 – 6:30 p.m.
East Lansing Public Library – 950 Abbot Rd.

            Lansing’s own aviatrix, Marion “Babe” Ruth, will be the subject of a program by Lansing historian Craig Whitford. Ruth lived next to the Lansing airport and became fascinated with flying, taking her first flight in 1931 at age 13. She soloed in 1936, receiving her pilot’s license the following year and her commercial license four years later. During WWII Ruth served as an flight instructor using a flight simulator. She has been inducted into both the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame and Women’s Hall of Fame. Presenter Craig Whitford has written Airport Kid: Learning to Fly, which details Ruth’s early life in aviation. The event is free.

And Back to the 19th Century

Civil War in Michigan
Thursday, October 27 – 7:00 p.m.
CADL-Downtown Branch – 401 S. Capitol Ave.

            Staff from the MSU Archives will discuss their Civil War online website and some of the more interesting documents in the collections. The MSU Civil War website was created during the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and features diaries, letters, and photographs from this period of American history. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fifty Years of Journalism with Berl Schwarz, Lansing City Pulse

50 Years of Journalism with Berl Schwartz
Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 7:00 p.m.
Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave.

 Berl Schwartz, publisher of the Lansing City Pulse, will discuss his 50-year career in journalism with HSGL. In his newspaper career, Schwartz has interviewed hundreds of newsmakers and entertainers, including the late Muhammed Ali and John Lennon. He will weave into his stories how journalism has changed dramatically over 50 years. This fall, the Lansing City Pulse will also reach a milestone celebrating 15 years of publishing.

Schwartz started as a copy boy at the The Blade (Toledo); was the executive editor of the York (Pa.) Daily Record; managing editor of The Knoxville (Tenn.); and a Washington correspondent for several other publications and news services. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

Read more about Schwarz's career in this week's Lansing City Pulse.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Riverside Cemetery Tour

Riverside Cemetery Tour
Sunday, September 17, 2016 - 2:00 p.m.
Riverside Cemetery, 2389 Hamilton Rd., Okemos

Dead men (and women) do talk.

The names of those emblazoned on tombstones at Riverside Cemetery in Meridian Township are a roll call of the area’s pioneer settlers.

Williams, Burcham, Marsh, Gretttenberger, Proctor, Bray, Hamilton and Gibson are among the families who are buried in this forlorn, but historically important cemetery.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a walking tour of Riverside Cemetery 2 p.m., Sunday September 18. The Cemetery is located on Hamilton Rd. just off the south side of Grand River, over the viaduct and right before Baryames Tuxedo Shop and Playmakers. Park at Playmakers and bring/wear bug spray. 

Tucked between Hamilton Rd. and the Grand River, the Cemetery is mostly forgotten since very few burials have occurred since 1935. The earliest grave in the Cemetery is 1842. Many of the gravestones have toppled or are unreadable, but those left leave a history of hard work and dedication to building a successful community.

The Riverside Cemetery, once called Riverbend, is located on a 2.8 acre site surrounded by quaint fieldstone and iron fences. A number of the graves are marked with white bronze (zinc) markers which were ordered from a catalog.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September Events

An Evening with Scrabble World Champion Peter Morris
Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 7:00 p.m.
Lansing City Hall, 124 W. Michigan Ave.

Twenty-five years ago this fall, young gamer and MSU graduate student Peter Morris was on the lookout for just the right word on his way to win the first ever World Scrabble Championship in London.

Morris, who is considered one of the best writers on the history of baseball, will kick off the HSGL's fall lecture and event series on September 8 in the lobby of Lansing City Hall when he talks about how he won the Championship. Artifacts from that championship match, including the world championship trophy, are among the items on display in the HSGL exhibit "Lansing Has Fun" which looks at what Lansing residents did to have fun over the last 100 years.

Riverside Cemetery Tour
Sunday, September 18, 2016 - 2:00 p.m.
Riverside Cemetery, 2389 Hamilton Road, Okemos
*Plan to park in the nearby Baryames Tuxedo in Okemos

HSGL's annual cemetery tour will be at Riverside Cemetery in Okemos.
Riverside Cemetery can be called a “forgotten “cemetery as it is tucked between Grand River Ave and the Red Cedar River. It sits on 2.9 acres and approximately 411 burials marked by headstones along with about 100 graves that are not marked are present representing some of Okemos’ early families including Hamilton, Grettenberger, and Bennett.

There are six Civil War veterans, one Spanish American War veteran and two WWI veterans buried in the cemetery. The earliest burial is 1842 with very few burials after 1935. The cemetery has a quaint field stone wall and its original iron fences.

Riverside Cemetery is located just over the viaduct on Grand River Ave (going east) and is located on the south side. Parking is available at Baryames Tuxedo Shop or Playmakers.

50 Years of Journalism with Berl Schwarz
Thursday, September 30, 2016 - 7:00 p.m.
Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave.

Another man who has a way with words, Berl Schwartz, publisher of the Lansing City Pulse, will discuss his 50-year career in journalism. In his newspaper career, Schwartz has interviewed hundreds of newsmakers and entertainers, including the late Muhammed Ali and John Lennon. He will weave into his stories how journalism has changed dramatically over 50 years. This fall, the Lansing City Pulse will also reach a milestone celebrating 15 years of publishing.

Schwartz started as a copy boy at the The Blade (Toledo); was the executive editor of the York (Pa.) Daily Record; managing editor of The Knoxville (Tenn.); and a Washington correspondent for several other publications and news services. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

Monday, August 8, 2016

"Whatcha Got?" Evening of Antiques Fundraiser

HSGL and Wonder Women Estate Sales Present

"Whatcha Got?" Evening of Antiques Fundraiser
Thursday, August 25, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
108 E. Grand River - Lansing's Old Town
$20.00 per person

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Wonder Women Estate Sales Gallery are hosting a summer fundraiser for HSGL at Wonder Women's new estate sale outlet at 108 E. Grand River in Lansing's Old Town on Thursday, August 26, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Admission is $20.00.

The event will feature a talk by noted author and nationally recognized antiques expert Harry L. Rinker.  Rinker has authored more than 20 books on antiques and collectibles. He also hosts a syndicated call-in radio show, "Whatcha Got?" that airs on Sundays from 8:00-10:00 a.m.

In addition to talking about what's hot in antiques, Rinker will interact with the audience in a live version of "Whatcha Got?" 

Attendees can each bring a small antique (it must be able to be held in your hand) and ask Rinker, "What is it?" and "What's it's value?"

In addition to the presentation, staff from Wonder Women and HSGL will be stationed around the store to tell specific stories about some selected unique antiques that are for sale during the fundraiser.

This is a special event co-hosted by Wonder Women. Specially selected antiques will be available for sale during the event. Rinker's books will also be available. For more information on Rinker visit

Light summer desserts and refreshments are included. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Moores River Drive Walking Tour

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a historical and architectural walking tour of Moores River Dr., 7 p.m., Thursday, August 4. The tour is free and meets near the sign marking the entrance to the Lansing Country Club. Please park on city streets or at Frances Park--not at the country club.

Valerie Marvin, who will act as tour guide, said the Moores River Dr. area is considered the first major suburban development in the Lansing area.

Marvin said, when James Henry Moores, a Lansing businessman and timber baron, built his summer home there in 1907, it was for recreation and relaxation.

"Moores lead many of the early efforts to improve and develop the area, including donating two parks: Moores Park, and Frances Park. He also wanted a golf course - and in 1908, The Lansing Golf Club - the parent organization of today's Lansing County Club - was formed as a result," Marvin said.

She said the design of the road itself represents James Moore’s desire to live the “English Dream.”

“Moores's development quickly caught the attention of many successful Lansing businessmen who would build their mansions on or near Moores River Drive. Many of the early homes were heavily influenced by English architecture. These American titans of lumber and industry built themselves homes that resembled English country manors - an interesting juxtaposition of old and new."

Moores River Drive was also considered a prime location for recreation. Many of the homes enjoyed easy access to the river. And in those days, even the act of driving on a beautiful, meandering, tree-lined street was considered a pleasure activity.

Homes that will be discussed on the tour are the Moore’s summer home at 2126 Moores River Dr.; a home built in 1916 for Harriett and Wallace Olds (R.E. Olds’ brother); a home built for Norman and Florence Cove, president of Cove Lumber and Finishing; a grand Arts and Crafts bungalow; and a split-level home built for Lynn and Phyllis Kestenholtz, the son of a barber, who rose to become president of Lanco Electric Supply Co.

Marvin called the neighborhood "a virtual textbook of every major American residential architectural style popular between 1900 and World War II."

"It's the greatest collection of early 20th century homes in the Lansing area."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oak Park Walking Tour on Saturday, July 23

Oak Park Historical Walking Tour
Saturday, July 23, 2016 - 10:00 a.m.
Tour meets at the parking lot across from the Neogen Administrative Offices - 620 Lesher 

The creators of Pokemon Go probably didn’t know that their app would lead gamers to the location of a former Lansing cemetery where it’s been rumored ghosts played in a wading pool.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a walking tour of Oak Park and the adjoining eastside neighborhood 10 a.m. Saturday, July 23. 

The tour is free and will meet near the parking lot across from the Neogen Administrative offices at 620 Lesher Place. The 16 acre historical park is accessible off North Pennsylvania on Linden place or off Shiawassee on Durance St.

Oak Park, also known as East Side Park, was once a cemetery which was moved in the late 19th century to Mt. Hope Cemetery. In 1900 the site became Lansing’s second park and it featured a wading pool which attracted thousands on hot summer days.

In the center of the pool was a large cast iron fountain which served as a launching point for youngsters.

The park was immensely popular and hosted numerous youth pageants which would attract upwards of 10,000 viewers. Today, it used for soccer and softball and has a popular children’s playground.

The tour also will include the Oak Park School (now Neogen) and the 1929 Lansing Children’s Home adjacent to it. A short walk away on Pennsylvania Ave. are two Darius Moon homes which will be viewed and discussed.

Today, Oak Park is just as likely to attract Pokegon Go followers Bill Castanier, president of the Historical Society, said.

“The tour delves into a period of time when outdoor recreation was at its height and there were daily summer programs at the Park for neighborhood youth,” he said.

“The kind of fun children had in the early twentieth century is an amazing contrast to today’s search for Drowzee and Vulpix, two Pokemon Go characters which can be found in the Park, among others,” Castanier said.