Originally constructed shortly after the middle of the 19th century, the Turner-Dodge House was enlarged and altered during the first decade of the 20th century. Certainly one of the earliest major residential structures in Michigan's new capital city, it was the home for 100 years to several generations of a pioneer family who had a profound impact on both local and state history. It is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a building of considerable cultural and architectural significance.

Designated as a Cultural Center by the City of Lansing, the house is administered by the Cultural Arts Section of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. In 1989 a contract was awarded to Ralph Calder & Associates, Inc. to lead a master plan team which included ideology, historical context, site planning, interior finishes, interpretation, engineering and marketing, in addition to architectural preservation. It was the intent for this team to guide the building's preservation, interior adaptation, site development, and public program use.

The philosophical foundation for this team effort was ideology, the study of ideas on which the future of the Turner-Dodge property would be based. This included the selection of a theme of presenting Lansing history (1895-1945) through the Turner and Dodge families with an emphasis on the 1900-1910 period. Also a goal of utilizing historic preservation to provide a living history program was established. This was supported by objectives that focused on restoration of the historic house as an interpretive house museum with a new adjacent building to serve as an educational and community support facility.

With the concentration on the "Carriage House", as the new structure was named, the focus of the master plan had been diverted from the historic house itself. Late in the summer of 1992, Richard C. Frank FAIA was asked to join the planning team to help redirect attention back to the plan's original purpose, the preservation of Turner-Dodge house.

There never has been a question that some level of restoration of the house is necessary. Therefore, historic rehabilitation has been identified as the most appropriate preservation treatment. By definition from the Secretary of Interior's Standards, this will allow preservation of the property's significant architectural features while offering the opportunity for varied contemporary uses.

Because the carriage house development is not economically possible at this time, an interim role for the house must be considered. In recent years its use as a community center for guided tours and special events has been very successful. Therefore a decision has been made to continue and improve this mode of operation. With a restored interior, these functions can still take place with the added benefits of authentic period surroundings and enhanced interpretation. Also the original goal can still be achieved at any time in the future when the carriage house can be built to reduce the load on the historic structure.

This report combines diverse disciplines to provide a cohesive basis to allow the City of Lansing to positively preserve this historic property. It must stand the test of peer review and be defendable to citizens of the community, as well as its government. And finally, this master plan must encourage implementation. It must be a tool for the City to protect and enhance the valuable historical character of the Turner-Dodge House and its site for future generations.
The following excerpts are from the Turner-Dodge House Preservation Master Plan of March 1993. Upon request, the Secretary can loan a copy of the Master Plan.

Historical Context

...For an authentically founded preservation master plan, it is mandatory that as much as possible is known about the cultural and architectural history of the Turner-Dodge House and its site. Simply put, the reason for preservation and development of this property is its history. The record of this significant past must pervade all facets of the entire report.

...The National Register of Historic Places accepted the application for special designation of the house on September 11, 1972. It is filed in the Michigan Bureau of History's preservation unit as the Dodge Mansion.

Although much of the original house of c1853 pictured on the Geil Topographical Map of Ingham and Livingston County, Michigan (1859) is nearly obstructed by the re-structuring completed in 1903, considerable physical evidence exists. Foundation stones, interior wood trim, window design, patterns of brick and the like are conspicuous. Brick of the addition is laid in stretcher courses. The original outside wall has headers every sixth course. Open panels of metal ceiling reveal fragments of wall paper, and intrusions through plaster in the old part of the house expose split pine boards. A broken window in the addition leaves shards of one-quarter inch plate glass. Refuse sites on the bank of the nearby Grand River include slate removed from the roof.

...Photographs collected by Josephine Nicholson Dodge McLean and in the State Archives relate mainly to persons and activities.... A print in the Wiskemann collection illustrates a view of the house during the re-building shows Darius Moon, local builder/architect, at the site. This also shows the bulkheads, commonly referred to as the outside cellar doors, on the lower east side.

...Slides and candid photographs in the archives of the Great Lakes Bible College document land use, a fire stair at the northeast corner of the north porch, interior oak trim painted white, and an exposed sprinkler system on the first floor. A view of the 18-room carriage house is included.

...Oral tradition that the renovation during the Dodge family residency was completed in 1903 is supported by tax assessment increases from $2,100 valuation in 1900 to $6,000 in 1906. This tradition says that Fred Stoll was the carpenter. Stoll built houses in the neighborhood on North Street.

...Newspapers of the time report Mrs. Turner was a supporter of the hospital maintained by women; membership in history-related societies; social events; and personal notes. The latter mentions that Eva Dodge was "training the choir of the Franklin Street Presbyterian church" (1895).

A catalogue of Springdale Farm offered by James M. Turner and Frank L. Dodge, proprietors, in 1892 described the stallions and dams available for producing Standard bred light harness and trotting horses.

...James Turner's first home in Lansing was without doubt a tent. He is credited with building the first frame house in the city on Turner Street near present-day Grand River Avenue (late Franklin) and Cedar Street. Secondary sources say the materials were made from timber on the site and brought from Mason. It appears in photographs and sketches as a North Lansing landmark until [the] 1920s.
The following is from the Turner-Dodge House Preservation Master Plan of March 1993.

The Home of Two Lansing Families

by Geneva Kebler Wiskemann

The Turner-Dodge House reflects the changing lives and fortunes of two families pioneering in every facet of the community. Their names are associated with land titles, subdivisions, streets, houses, parks, a memorial window in the Central Methodist Church, and many fraternal and civic organizations.

The Turners

The Turners of Lansing trace their beginnings to personalities in early New England genealogy. Their descendants are described as "being famous among political and professional lines for generations in colonial and revolutionary times of Connecticut and Massachusetts where they settled first in Scituate, Massachusetts in 1626." Francis Stiles Turner (Humphrey, John, Jonathon, Jonathon, Paine, Jonathon), father of James, was born in New London, Connecticut, August 26, 1776.

Francis was an East Indies sea captain who for 28 years sailed out of New London. After residence in Cazenovia, New Your, he came to Lima Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan in 1834 with his wife, Deborah Morton, and family. Their children were Elisha (1804-1880), John A. (1806-1848); Francis (1809), George (1810-1822), Marshall B. (1811-1861), Mary Ann (1816-1897), Richard (1818-1888), James (1820-1869), Charles (1824-1901), Ester (1827-1895), and George 2nd (1820-1865). Francis died soon after arrival in Michigan. Many members of the family are buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Lansing.

James was in Mason in the early 1840's. He is recorded as a merchant and land agent for Horatio Seymour, Governor of New York, and other eastern financiers. James administered several of the family estates, as well as those of Lansing's earliest settlers. When his brother, John A., died in 1848, James' address was Mason, but most accounts locate him in Lansing in 1847. James became executor and guardian of John A.'s nine children; the youngest was under six months old.

Land transfer records, 1847-1853, document his buying and selling land in Livingston County, and in Vevay, Locke, Leroy, Lansing, and Delhi Townships of Ingham, as well as Michigan, Michigan. He also owned parcels in Clinton and Gratiot Counties. His holding on the north and east of the town totaled nearly a hundred acres. Many parcels were purchased with his wife, Marion, and his brothers. Others were with James Seymour and H. H. Smith.

Smith, Seymour, and Turner were contractors for the construction of the Lansing and Howell Plank Road chartered in 1850. They are described as merchants who made payment for much of the labor in store goods. The road opened in 1853, making Lansing more accessible.

The inventory of his final estate lists "1 share of Lansing & Howell P R stock" valued at $20. Auction and private sale of his personal property brought $448.73. The total value of his estate administered by Marion M. Turner and John Longyear in 1870 was $16,642.83. (What cost $16,642 in 1870 would cost $230,700 in 2005.)

A list of household furniture and personal property selected by Marion M. Turner, James' widow, included a Good Samaritan cook stove valued at $30; one extension table, $10; 12 dining chairs, $15; 2 dozen ivory handled knives and forks, $6; one black walnut bedstead, $17; two hair mattresses, $25; one set of silver plate ware, $25; one rocking chair, $1.50; 7 urns and basins, $9; one bookcase, $10; six feather beds, $30; one milch cow, $30; and like items.
Daniel L. Case, with whom James operated a store and purchased land, filed a claim listing kind of merchandise and value. Sugar was 16 cents; one pair of calf boots, $2.13; 5-1/2 pounds of butter, $1.27; 2-1/2 packages of whitefish, 23 cents; one pencil, 6 cents.

Tax assessment rolls show James owning lots 10 and 11 of block 10 in the Town of Michigan valued at $50 in 1847. His tax was 92 cents.

Only two years before, local government had reassessed the 1839 taxes on Biddle City, which would become Michigan, Michigan, and finally, Lansing. Biddle City consisted of blocks 1 through 65 and was owned by Jerry and William Ford. It is described in the roll as "situated on the Grand River at the foot of the Upper Rapids and head of steamboat navigation and 81 miles west of Detroit 84 miles east of Lake Michigan 75 miles north of the state line and 67 miles south of Saginaw Bay and water power is twice that used at Rochester, New York . . ." The tax is set down in cents and mills.

A legal description for Richard Turner's [James' brother] land in the "Town of Michigan" in 1847 lacks the detail we expect today: ". . hence northerly along the bank of the Grand River at high water mark."

When the census was enumerated on June 1, 1850, James' lots 10 and 11 on block 10 were valued at $1,000. The whole of block 9 was valued at $80. Lot 3, block 24, valued at $100; lot 8 through 13, block 23, $400; and personal estate, $1,225. Taxes were $1,631. The entire township was valued at $530,000. Lansing population of 1,229 included saddlers, sawyers, cigar makers, students, a secretary of state, surveyors, teachers, farriers, teamsters, turners, wagon makers, a government guide, innkeepers, physicians, and potters, according to the census.

Early in his career James was in business with his brothers in an iron foundry/machine shop which sold agricultural implements and hot air furnaces in Lower Town (North Lansing). In addition to the plank road construction, he was involved with the Lansing and Ionia Railroad and city horse-drawn trolley system. In 1863 he was one of 12 directors and treasurer of the Jackson and Lansing Railroad. He was also identified with the land office of that road. He is described as "Big Jim," a man concerned about children. In 1851 he began a life membership on the board of education, and taught Sunday school for many years.

James M. recounted in a speech that his father met Marion Monroe (spelling varies with individuals and time) about 1840 when as a school moderator he interviewed her for a teaching job. Marion was born in Amhurst, Erie County, New York, December 8, 1818. The oldest of 11 children, she came to Eagle Township, Clinton County, Michigan, with her father, Jesse Monroe, in 1836. One sister, Eliza, married Charles Turner, brother of James, and located first in Mason. Later he had a store in Grand Ledge, and practiced medicine in DeWitt. Another sister married John M. Longyear, a lawyer.

Marion married James October 1, 1843. Thomas P. Emerson, clergyman of the Marshall Presbytery, conducted the service in Clinton County. In the federal census of 1880 she was keeping house with real estate valued at $7,114 and personal estate valued at $1,000.

Four years later the Michigan census gives her occupation as "real estate owner." The household included Eva, 27, Abby, 22, and Augusta, a servant.

The Great Lakes Bible College

The City acquired the site, including the house, in 1959, and subsequently sold it to the Great Lakes Bible College. The estate offered the house, an 18-room apartment house created from the carriage house, and a ?-stall garage.

The house and carriage house were used mainly for dormitories, and the sprinkler system was installed in the main house at this time. The College moved to Lansing from Vestaburg in the fall and began adding metal Butler buildings for a library and classrooms. Food services were in the carriage house. The enrollment for the 1959-1960 school year was 82. The College in 1968 purchased the Fred Huxtable farm in Delta Township for the site of a new campus. The College also owned houses at 119 and 127 West North Street and 1107 Capitol Avenue.

In August, 1972, the City proposed that the Lansing Fine Arts Council conduct solicitations for 50 percent of the purchase price. The other 50 percent would be federal funds for multiple uses that would benefit Model Cities neighborhood residents.

The Great Lakes Bible College property for sale consisted of 8.5 acres approximately, with 725 feet frontage on North Street and 762 feet on the Grand River. The area between Dodge River Drive and the Grand River had been filled with first class aggregate solid waste. The six buildings included the house, three floors (5,484 sq. ft. 1st floor), five fireplaces, two bathrooms, new gas steam heating system, chandeliers, a sprinkler system, and an electrical system meeting city code requirements.

The cafeteria and dormitory consisted of two floors; the library building was a brick and metal Butler building (1,820 sq. ft.); the office building was two story without kitchen facilities and in excellent condition; a one-family four bedroom, two-story building (1,560 sq. ft.) total; and a two-story, two family building.

The City of Lansing

In 1974 the City purchased the 8.2 acres for $189,000 with matching funds made available in 1972. In spite of protests from citizens and the historical community, the City razed the carriage house and garage after moving the temporary building placed by the College.

The Lansing Jaycees leased the house for two years on June 30, 1975. They initiated work with volunteers. They agreed to furnish materials and perform services for altering, restoring, renovating, repairing, decorating and improving the house to standards approved by the Michigan Historical Division of the Department of State. They were to assist the City in obtaining grant funds for the restoration pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Volunteers from the United States Department of Agriculture's Green Thumb program spent thousands of hours removing paint. Another group voluntarily constructed the handicapper access ramp on the river side of the house in 1981. Congregation Shaarey Zedek held a Decorator Showcase as a fund raiser [in 1979]. The house benefited by wall coverings, the downstairs half-bath and similar tangible items.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing held annual Arts Fete events on the grounds. Profits were directed to the purchase of an official State of Michigan historic site marker in 1980. Many culture-related events and program created and successfully executed by the Parks and Recreation Department staff member assigned to the house have attracted thousands of visitors. The Friends of Turner-Dodge House, Inc., supports the use of the house for cultural programs, and contributes to its continuance as one of Lansing's few remaining grand houses.