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Friday, February 12,2010

Eye Candy! of the week

by Amanda Harrell-Seyburn

Property: Station 47, 629 N. Jenison, Lansing
Owner: City of Lansing
Assessed: $0


Owner says: It’s a historic gem that only cost $25,575 when it was built. It is also known as Lucky 7’s Engine House.
Architecture critic Amanda Harrell-Seyburn says: This Lansing Fire Department station is exemplary of the character and charm associated with fire stations of the early 20th century.


Early fire station style varied and was often designed to fit in with a specific context. Station design changed mid-century and more recent fire stations are utilitarian and often lack the character of older fire stations. To learn more from Harrell-Seyburn, see this story at www.LansingCityPulse.com


An architectural treasure of Lansing’s Westside Neighborhood, this station was built in 1925 and is the oldest in the city. Functional yet appropriately scaled for its residential surroundings, it is an asset to the neighborhood and a pleasure to live near.


The station is located along busy Saginaw Highway, but faces east along Jenison and could be mistaken for any number of the historic old homes in the Westside Neighborhood.


Take the time to explore your neighborhoods to discover other charming public buildings that Lansing has to offer.


A Lesson on Neighborhood Civic Architecture by Amanda Harrell-Seyburn:.

Fire Stations are an integral part of the community for protecting safety and welfare. Fire stations store the necessities for firefighting and provide living and work spaces for the firefighters, but they are civic buildings that connect people within the community: a gathering place. Also, as Station Number 47 demonstrates, the architecture of the civic structure can directly relate to the neighborhood in which it resides complementing the character and scale of its residential surroundings.

Fire stations truly shine at the neighborhood level. A fire station offers a place for neighborhood gatherings to occur. Fire Stations, such Station Number 47, sponsor numerous events within the community like pancake breakfasts, pasta dinners, and historic neighborhood tours.

Fire Stations that are not part of an established neighborhood have a greater challenge in the role of a community gathering place. People are less inclined to attend an event at a fire station that they cannot feel a strong connection or walk to.

As a civic structure, neighborhood fire stations fulfill a role that contributes to a healthy neighborhood dynamic. Neighborhood fire stations were essential prior to the middle of the last century because mobility was limited. Horse drawn fire wagons could only service a limited area of a community. In a community the size of Lansing, most every neighborhood had its own fire station. As mobility increased due to the automobile, neighborhood fire stations were no longer a necessity. Fire fighting services were consolidated to larger facilities that could service a number of neighborhoods, thus reducing the role of the fire station in individual neighborhoods.

The Westside Neighborhood is fortunate to have a fire station that participates within the neighborhood as a civic gathering space and a such is a source of community pride.  Though Lansing's Eastside Neighborhood does not have a fire station, the one on Michigan Avenue has been appropriated in a space for the Lansing Civic Players. The Eastside fire station is an excellent example of adaptive reuse of a civic building into another civic use that continues the tradition of the building's use as a community gathering place.

Healthy neighborhoods are a mixture of uses including residential, commercial, and civic. Too often the only non-religious civic building in a neighborhood is the fire station. Once no longer in use for fire fighting purposes the building is either appropriated for a non-civic use or torn down and the neighborhood loses a vital component.

DO: As a community, celebrate civic buildings in your neighborhoods. Protect their uses for civic purposes. (It is sometimes appropriate to allow a civic building to be appropriated to non-civic use if there is another civic structure(s) within the neighborhood satisfying the neighborhood's civic needs.)

DON'T: Let your community make the most common error by allowing your neighborhoods to lose their civic structures, undermining the health of the neighborhood.


“Eye candy of the Week" is our weekly look at some of the nicer properties in Lansing. It rotates each with Eyesore of the Week. If you have a suggestion, please e-mail eye@lansingcitypulse.com or call Neal McNamara at 371-5600 ex. 17.

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