History of Lansing: tidbits of trivia

History of Lansing Sparty

In the history of Lansing, there has been no mascot so beloved as Sparty. But where is the original statue? (photo: Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal)

DealChicken spends a lot of time hunting and pecking around the Lansing area in search of the best daily deals. So it’s no surprise he’s come across more than a few interesting facts. The history of Lansing is peppered with colorful tidbits of trivia. Here are some fun facts that even your favorite fine-feathered know-it-all didn’t know until recently.

Every child knows that Lansing is the capital of Michigan but that wasn’t always the case. Originally located in Detroit, the state capital relocated in 1847 due to the city’s riverfront locale, which made it more vulnerable to attacks from British troops stationed in Windsor, Ontario. The first capital building in Lansing was a hastily constructed wood structure that housed the state government until a more permanent building was erected in 1879.

“Sparty” the Spartan, Michigan State University’s prolific mascot, has long been immortalized via a monument located on the university’s campus. While a symbol of pride for the school, the current statue is a bronze copy. No, this wasn’t part of an elaborate plot by rival Michigan but rather a move by MSU officials to preserve the original “Sparty.” Now safely located inside the stadium, Leonard D. Jungwirth’s 10.5 foot high terra cotta statue (the world’s largest freestanding ceramic figure) will no longer be vulnerable to paint attacks from the wolverine faithful.

While it’s widely known that Henry Ford was father of the assembly line, Ford actually only improved on the invention of a fellow automobile manufacturer and Lansing native Ransom Eli Olds. Olds, the founder of two local automobile companies, created the assembly line in 1901 in order to keep up with the demand for horseless carriages. However, Ford stole his thunder when he added conveyor belts to the process in order to speed up production of his Model T.

Not to be outdone by Hollywood, Lansing’s newest attraction, the Michigan Walk of Fame, honors past and present residents throughout the history of Lansing. Located in the heart of the city’s commercial district and made up of bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk, this is the first walk of fame in the nation to pay tribute to the contributions of residents on a statewide basis. Recent inductees include state librarian Mary Spencer and hockey legend Gordie Howe.

Lansing is perhaps best known as the home of Michigan State University, however the school didn’t always go by this moniker. At its founding in 1855, the school was known as Michigan Agricultural College, the first of the nation’s land-grant universities and the prototype for this entire system. MSU’s name continued to change until the institution finally decided on the current title in 1964.

Blast off with the Planet Walk in downtown Lansing. Beginning at the Impression 5 Museum and stretching to the Potter Park Zoo, this out-of-this-world experience features a completely scaled down version of the solar system accurately depicting planet size and the distance between them. Taking roughly 45 minutes to complete with each step representing a million miles, visitors travel faster than the speed of light.

Founded in 1973, the Michigan Women’s Studies Association was charged with the task of changing what was thought and taught about women, particularly Michigan women, in all educational institutions. As part of this task, the organization established a museum dedicated to women’s history, the first of its kind in the nation. Also created was a women’s hall of fame, which includes such inductees as Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin and Governor Jennifer Granholm.

The tuba’s roots trace back to the Roman army in 500 B.C. Today, the tuba holds a place of honor in Lansing history too, specifically at Travelers Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum. While known for serving a variety of cuisines, the restaurant is overshadowed by the many examples of the horns adorning its walls. The museum got its start when restaurant proprietor William White (a.k.a. Tuba Charlie) began leaving horns to play with visiting musicians, and after enough of the instruments began piling up, he decided to start an exhibition.

Lansing locals know the importance of starting their day off with a hearty breakfast and for the past 40 plus years, that means filling their stomachs at the Golden Harvest Restaurant. Located in the Old Town district, the small diner continues to impress patrons with its friendly service and reasonable prices: every item served is under $6. If you chose to start your morning off in traditional Lansing fashion, be sure to bring a little patience, as the restaurant only seats 33, and paper, as they only take cash.

If you’re searching for a rare reptile or unique pet, then look no further than Michigan’s largest family-owned and operated pet store, Preuss Pets. The Old Town pet shop boasts a river of fish, a colorful assortment of furry critters and an exotic bird area that should satisfy any animal seeker. Breeding thousands of fish and hundreds of species of corals, Preuss Pets is definitely a destination sought out by locals and visitors alike.

Did you already know about the history of Lansing? Get a grasp on Grand Rapids.