LCC to polish the gem of a Darius Moon home on Capitol Avenue

Dawn Parker

In his career as an educator, Lansing Community College President Steve Robinson has been many things. One of them, however, has not been a historical curator – until now.

It’s a role he enjoys learning, as the college begins an effort to properly restore the exterior of the Rogers-Carrier House at 528 N. Capitol Ave., also known as the “Moon House” in l honor of architect Darius Moon, the self-taught genius whose works dot the middle of Michigan. Last June, the directors approved an estimated amount of $600,000 for the project.

“I think it’s a big part of who we are,” Robinson said. “As a university, we’re an important part of Lansing’s history, and we’re also doing a lot to preserve Lansing’s history. So that’s exciting for me.

Moon’s notable commissions at Lansing include the Turner-Dodge House. Many of his other homes are long gone, including the RE Olds mansion, which stood at 720 N. Washington Ave.

Work shall include cleaning of existing masonry surfaces and application of a coat of sealer, replacement of spalled (broken) bricks and junction joints, installation of new perimeter sealant to exterior windows, installation of new exterior windows, installation of new exterior siding, exterior painting, replacement of existing eaves and gutter system, and replacement of existing shingle roof.

The project will also relocate an existing flue from an exterior window through the roof.

The Rogers-Carrier House, built in 1891, is considered an excellent example of the Queen Anne architectural style. The style is identifiable by touches like gingerbread, flourishes and ornamental turrets.

Robinson said there was once a building housing the college’s lecture hall between the Moon House and the Hermann House adjacent to the 520 N. Capitol, which was restored by Robinson’s predecessor, Brent Knight, as a residence. Of the president. The two houses and the meeting hall building between them have been jokingly nicknamed the Hermann Conference Center.

“As a university, we’ve really kept (the Moon House) a historical landmark in the area,” said David Siwik, an LCC history professor who immersed himself in LCC history.

Several departmental offices were once housed in the two houses.

The college has owned the Moon House since 1967 and briefly used it as a bookstore and office space. Along with the Moon and Hermann Houses, the college has another historic house, known as the Beck House and has long been the headquarters of the Michigan Sheriffs Association. The Beck house is opposite the other two houses.

Siwik said that at the time the college purchased the Rogers-Carrier house, the neighborhood was not the best.

“For a house like that to survive…there aren’t many houses nearby like that anymore,” Siwik said.

Although LCC does not use the house, the property has been scrupulously maintained.

The upgrades would keep the house “in good shape,” Robinson said. The goal is to forge partnerships with other historic preservation groups in the area.

“We’ve had very specific conversations with the Greater Lansing Historical Society,” he said, in an effort to house administrative offices and a small “pocket” museum with exhibit space.

It’s unclear how long it will take to complete the upgrades, given the difficulty of finding craftsmen with the necessary skills. Robinson said he thinks the work could be done in a year, but that will depend on the price of building materials and the cost of construction.

Fundraising for the work inside would be done by the Historical Society. “We’re not there yet,” Robinson said.

Society President Bill Castanier said the two groups have been meeting regularly over the past six to eight months.

The company would occupy the house as a tenant, Castanier said, noting that it would renovate the ground floor to include both offices and exhibition space.

Part of the first floor would house a research facility to benefit Lansing area students. teachers and staff.

“It’s part of the relationship with LCC that everyone agrees is probably the best idea,” Castanier said.

It’s also full of exhibit ideas, including the grand opening, which would detail the origin stories of everyday residents of the Lansing area. (Think of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.”)

Such an exhibition would naturally include family heirlooms.

“If we were talking to someone, we would ask them, ‘Did your family ever pass on anything to you that they brought with them wherever they came from?'”

Members of the Historical Society, he continued, could work with students and help create projects that would be real challenges. Castanier was already dreaming of how the two groups could collaborate.

“They could do video. They could do audio,” he said. “We hope to work with as many student groups as possible.”

In a career that spanned more than 60 years, Moon designed homes for some of Lansing’s best-known residents, including menswear retailer Henry Kositchek and Edward D. Sparrow.

Robinson called Moon “an incredibly important architect” for Lansing. As for the house, “there really isn’t a better example of this Queen Anne architecture in the city.”

Moon’s impact was felt throughout the metropolis of Lansing, including a house originally known as Woodbury House, now the Co-op Howland House at 415 MAC Avenue in East Lansing.

Another work by Moon, a two-story brick house, is near the entrance to the LCC’s West Campus at Mt. Hope Road and Sanders Drive.

A recent tenant, Siwik said, was an architectural firm.

The college, Castanier said, have been good stewards of the Moon House. Robinson told a story about the house’s previous owners, who decided the distinctive “witch’s hat” shaped turret was dated and unattractive.

The turret went to the dump, and the price it brought to the then owners at the scrapyard is unknown. Robinson picked up the story in the 1980s.

“Our welding students and teachers made the one that’s up there now,” he said. “It’s a great story of LCC faculty and students making this their own.”

How does the replacement compare? “They absolutely succeeded. It looks exactly like it did in the 19th century,” Robinson said.

“We’re really proud to own it, and I think working with the Historical Society is a really natural fit.”

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