Architectural History

The following is from the Turner-Dodge House Preservation Master Plan of March 1993. It was update in August 2004.


The original portion of the house was built by James Turner in the Classical Revival style popular during the first half of the 19th century. Often identified as Greek Revival (which was the most prevalent interpretation of Classic Revival at that time), original detailing lacked the strong identity for which that sub-style has become known. It nevertheless was a distinguished representation of architecture for its time.

The center portion of the house was two stories in height and three bays wide, with the entrance offset to the east. The exterior walls were solid masonry with brick facing bonded to the inner wythes every sixth course. The foundation was constructed of field stone and raised up from ground level sufficiently to provide windows for the basement. First and second floor windows were double-hung, four-over-four, and shuttered. Identical one story wings were slightly set back on each side of the center portion and were two bays wide, containing a door and a window. Both had a narrow porch with steps facing the street.

Little is known regarding changes during this one-half century. Apparently few changes took place, with the possible exception of colors or finishes altered to suit [the] personal taste of the owners.


Following Turner's death in 1869, his son James M. Turner occupied the house. Upon his death, the house was sold to James M's sister, Abbey, who had married Frank Dodge. In 1900 Dodge retained Lansing architect Darius Moon and by 1903 a massive remodeling and addition has been completed. Moon's design was also stylistically Classical Revival. However, the 20th century interpretation of this style was very different from the original design.

One story was added to the center portion of the house, and one-and-one-half stories added to each wing. In addition, a two-and-one-half story wing was added to the west. A major two story porch was constructed on the front of the center portion and the original wing porches were replaced with a deeper design. A one story porte cochere was also added on the rear of the house toward the river. Apparently it was during this same construction period that the large carriage house was built to the west.

The remodeling and additions constructed at the beginning of the 20th century all but obliterated the original 19th century design. With the exception of exterior masonry walls, all that remained were the first floor doors and window openings at the front and rear elevations of the house's central block. However, Moon's work remains basically intact today and it is from this that the building derives its current architectural significance. Until the house finally left family ownership in 1958 it remained essentially unchanged with the exception of occasional cosmetic modifications.


Abby Dodge's daughter, Josephine (Dodge) MacLean, lived in the house until 1958 when it was acquired by the City of Lansing, who subsequently sold it to the Great Lakes Bible College for their campus in Lansing. At that time, the estate consisted of the house, and apartment building created from the eighteen room carriage house and a garage on an eight and one-half acre site. During the time the College maintained their facilities here, they added three additional temporary buildings.

During its tenure the College added a complete sprinkler system to the House. Codes required a change in the swing of exterior doors, and other interior doors were undoubtedly re-swung or removed. Of course, maintenance required interior painting which further disguised original finishes.

However, amazingly, the physical layout and details of the house remained unchanged. Credit should be given to the College for not eradicating much of this building's architectural detail, something that would have been relatively easy to do.


The College moved to a campus in Delta Township in 1972. It was at this time that the house and its site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property remained on the market until 1974, when the City of Lansing repurchased it as an addition to their extensive park system. It remains today under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Shortly after the purchase, the City demolished the original garage and carriage house and removed the temporary buildings located on the site by the College. This left the Turner-Dodge House, as it was then identified, as the only structure remaining on the site. During the past nearly two decades, the City with its limited resources was only able to accomplish what was necessary in the house to assure it was brought up to code and was usable.

Voluntary work was solicited and the Lansing Jaycees responded by coordinating much of the physical renovation accomplished at the house during its early years of City ownership. In 1979 the house was outfitted for a Decorator's Showcase and each room was superficially remodeled and furnished by a separate decorating firm. None of this was done with authenticity in mind. During the past eighteen years paint has been removed by volunteers funded by a federal program and a handicapper ramp constructed at the rear of the house. Also, exterior masonry has been cleaned and new storms added to the windows. A new interior stair was constructed to provide emergency egress from the second and third floors, and the sprinkler system removed from the first floor.

The City of Lansing and the Friends of the Turner-Dodge House have been good stewards of this historic site. While limited funds have not allowed comprehensive restoration, most work done has been undertaken with care and sensitivity, as if waiting for the day when the task can be completed. For the most part, the house is structurally sound, in good physical condition, and true to its 1900-1903 renovation period.


The Friends of Turner-Dodge House, Inc. was incorporated in June 1981 and became a key to further restoration and development of the Turner-Dodge House and Park. In 1989, a contract was awarded to develop a master plan which included ideology, historical context, site planning, interior finishes, interpretation, engineering and marketing, in addition to architectural preservation.

In 1994, the restoration of the Turner-Dodge House & Heritage Center was included in the Parks and Recreation Department's Five Year Plan and Phase I, the restoration of the exterior of the house was initiated in 1994 as part of the Parks & Recreation millage.

In 1999, the Friends initiated a study of the wall coverings and finishes on the first floor as a preliminary step to Phase II, the restoration of the interior of the house to the 1903 period, when Abby and Frank Dodge renovated the house as it stands today. Long term plans called for the rebuilding of a carriage house on the property that would also be used as an interpretive center.

The major portion of the $360,000 restoration of the house interior was completed in 2002 with a grant from the Department of Consumers and Industry and matching funds from the Friends of Turner-Dodge House and the City of Lansing Parks Millage. The restoration included the replacement of the antiquated fire suppression system.

In 2003, the 1902 Women's Christian Temperance Union fountain was placed in the Heritage Garden and the brick path was installed to recognize donors to the Friends' Restoration campaign.

The following is from the Turner-Dodge House Preservation Master Plan of March 1993:

Functional Analysis Notes

  • Interior uses and furnishings of the house are to be addressed as it might have appeared upon its expansion by the Dodge family in 1903.
  • This was a prominent Lansing family that traveled to eastern states and abroad. They valued tradition and were active culturally, socially, and politically in their community. They invested in the future (invention) and retained the best of the past (furnishings were eclectic, reflecting the early family period and collections from their travels). The house was elegant, but never furnished in Victorian style.
  • The family hosted significant visitors to the house, from statesmen and businessmen to inventors and artists. Weddings, receptions, recitals, lectures, teas, dinner parties, business meetings, births and funerals took place here.