East Lansing & MSU: From the 1840s to 2000s
The following is just a brief synopsis of East Lansing's extensive history.
The seeds of East Lansing were planted in the 1840s. The land which we now know as a Top Ten campus loaded with luxurious trees and foliage, along with a heavy strip of eateries and shops down Grand River Avenue, began as nothing but woods and swampland with scattered farmland.
In 1847, the town of Michigan, Michigan was named the new state capitol, taking the title away from Detroit. The town name was less than satisfactory, and was re-named ‘Lansing’ after Lansing, New York, the original home of one of the area’s first settlers.
In the 1830s there was a plank road that went from Lansing to southeast Michigan. A portion of that road is now known as Grand River Avenue that cuts straight thru East Lansing. In the gallery below you'll find a picture of Grand River Avenue when it was a dirt road.
According to Kevin Forsyth’s excellent research, in 1855, the “Agricultural College of the State of Michigan” was established, the first one in the country. This prompted the first row of housing, called ‘Faculty Row’, today known as West Circle Drive. In 1857, classes began with only five teachers taking care of 63 students in three halls (now demolished).
In 1887, with the college well underway, an area was platted and named “Collegeville”. There was also a “College Farm Station” located by the railroad, as you’ll see in the map below.
Over the years, MSU went thru a good number of name changes:
State Agricultural College (1861)
Michigan Agricultural College (1909)
Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (1925)
Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science (1955)
and finally…..Michigan State University (1964).
The college and the town grew up together, practically becoming one entity – one could hardly exist without the other. When you think of one, you think of the other.
East Lansing, Michigan was finally made an official city in 1907 and there is no stopping it, over 100+ years later. Now take a look at the gallery!
Vintage Photos of East Lansing
MORE TO EXPLORE: Lansing Then and Now
MORE: Remembering Lake Lansing Amusement Park