Old Town (Lansing, Michigan)

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Old Town
Dickens Village 2008 019 (Small).jpg
Coordinates: 42°44′49″N 83°8′35″W / 42.74694°N 83.14306°W / 42.74694; -83.14306Coordinates: 42°44′49″N 83°8′35″W / 42.74694°N 83.14306°W / 42.74694; -83.14306
Country United States
State Michigan
County Ingham
 • Total 0.44 sq mi (1.1 km2)
Elevation 860 ft (262 meters) ft (228 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 1,654
 • Density 3,708.5/sq mi (1,431.9/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 48906
Area code(s) 517
FIPS code 26-80700[1]
GNIS feature ID 1615125[2]
Website http://www.iloveoldtown.org/
North Lansing Historic Commercial District
Location E. Grand River Ave. and Turner St.,
Lansing, Michigan
Area 11 acres (4.5 ha)
Architectural style Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Late Victorian, Vernacular Commercial
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 76001029[3]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 30, 1976
Designated MSHS June 18, 1976

Located in the northern end of Lansing, Michigan, Old Town overlooks the Grand River and a winding bike trail. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the North Lansing Historic Commercial District, the district was established in the mid-19th century and it is the oldest of the three original villages of what is now present day Lansing. This area contains the first home built in Lansing[citation needed], by pioneer James Seymour and his family in 1843. After a long decline brought about by economic changes in the area, Old Town has emerged in the last twenty years as a center of arts and culture for the greater Lansing area.

Historical timeline[edit]

1843: wooden dam built by John W. Burchard; area's 1st settler

1844: saw mill was built by workman on the payroll of James Seymour

1847: main bridge across the Grand River and stores as well as hotels emerged along Grand River Ave between N. Washington and Center Street and North on Turner Street

1850: Pearl Mill site, which was 3 stories, produced Pearl Flour

1864-1865: Presbyterians organized themselves and completed the building of their church

1874: Union Block, a 5 Italianate storefront, housed grocery store, saloon, and harness shops

1879: Methodist erected their 1st church called "first Methodist church"

1880: Grange Hall was built, at first housed a general store then became the State Grange Building

1881: Michigan School of the Blind moved to Lansing

1860-1880: city population rose over by 5000

1876-1917: North Lansing Depot served as the passenger and freight depot and grain elevator for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad.

1960s and '70s: Economic downturn begins to force North Lansing's Old Town into a trend of urban decay

1970s: City officials start determining preservation methods for Old Town

1980s: The Reagan era cuts in funding for urban areas slightly slows down the redevelopment of North Lansing

1984: Old Town Business and Art Development Association is Formed

1992: The Old Town Business and Art Development Association is changed to the Business and Art Development Association of Historic North Lansing

1994: The name of the Association is again changed to OTBADA - Old Town Business and Art Development Association

1994: First annual OctoberFest

1995: First annual Lansing JazzFest

1996: Old Town Main Street Program established through Old Town Commercial Association

2000: First Annual Festival of the Sun

2003: OctoberFest is transformed to BluesFest

2003: OTBADA is awarded the 18th annual ArtServe Michigan Governor's Award for Arts and Culture in the Business Honor Roll category.

2004: Old Town awarded the Statewide Arts Award from the Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies.

2004: First Annual Festival of the Moon

2006: Old Town named a Michigan Street Program Area under Governor Granholm's Cool Cities Initiative

2006: Old Town Oktoberfest reestablished as an authentic German Oktoberfest in celebration of rich German heritage in the Old Town district.

2006: First Annual Music Extravaganza

2008: Old Town wins IKEA Small Business Big Dreams Makeover

2009: Old Town Sesquicentennial

2009: First Annual Old Town Scrapfest

2009: Old Town Commercial Association erects City of Lansing's first Community Build Playground in Burchard Park

2011: Old Town Main Street receives Great American Main Street Award


The economy of Old Town took decades of development to get in its current state, much of which was done through grassroots programming such as the Old Town Main Street program. Previously considered the "red light" district of Lansing[citation needed], Old Town is a thriving center of commerce, being the home of nearly one hundred businesses. The economy is 45% service based and 24% retail. The district is a thriving shopping district. Old Town is also known to be a center of the arts with 20% of all businesses arts based, one of the highest concentrations in the state of Michigan. Old Town is the home of some notable businesses and associations such as:

The district hosts over 111 festivals and events throughout the year and is also the trail head for Lansing's River Trail, one of the longest urban river trails in the country. Between Old Town's location at the head of the River Trail, and its well attended weekly, monthly, and annual events, over 120,000 visitors enjoy the district each year with 50% coming from outside Ingham county.

Cultural events[edit]

  • Old Town Festival of the Moon and Sun: a two night festival that celebrates the beginning of summer in June with style. The first evening is full of delicious food, music, and beer. The second evening is filled with fine wine, brewed beer, and great cuisine. Both events are for adults 21+ and if you volunteer you receive discounted admission and a free T-shirt. Thus far this festival has been going on since 1999.
  • Old Town Oktoberfest: a two-day festival celebrating Germany at its finest. Live polka music, dancing, and German food are among the best parts of this event that takes place in October. Beer is of abundance for those 21+ years of age. This event is a major fundraiser for the Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA). Children are allowed at the event during the day, but at night it is strictly an adult themed festival.
  • Old Town Renegade Festival: Three days of free theatre showcased in Lansing’s most artistic district, featuring a wide range of performance styles from comedy, puppet shows, musicals, improv, staged readings and more!
  • Taste & Tour of Old Town: A strolling event showcasing urban living in Lansing's arts & culture district. The event is typically held the first weekend in April and features a dozen or so private lofts and samples from many of Old Town's bars & restaurants.
  • Old Town Scrapfest: Old Town Scrapfest started in 2009 as an answer to how to incorporate a nearby scrap yard into Old Town's arts brand. The event is a two-week sculpture competition where teams of artists have one hour to collect 500 lbs of scrap and two weeks to build. The sculptures are then on display at Festival of the Sun & Festival of the Moon in June and auction off to raise money for the Old Town Commercial Association's public art programming.
  • Pickin' In the Park: Hosted by the Old Town Commercial Association, this weekly jam session is located in Burchard Park and is open to all ages and skill levels.
  • First Sunday Gallery Walk: A long time tradition of the district, the first Sunday of each month galleries, creative service and retailers alike open their doors to celebrate the arts in the Old Town district.
  • Chalk of the Town: Thousands flock to Old Town Lansing for this all ages, all skill level chalk art competition held in conjunction with the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau's Be a Tourist in Your Own Town. The Old Town Commercial Association welcomes dozens of artists to compete to win prizes with entertainment and children's activities throughout the district.
  • Old Town BluesFest: a two-day free blues music festival. This festival takes place in September of each year and vendors all around Old Town are open with beverages and food. There is optimal seating in front of all stages and the BluesFest continues rain or shine. It started in 1994 and has featured artists like Kid Rock and Marcy Playground. It is sponsored by radio station 94.9 WMMQ.
  • Lansing JazzFest: a two-day free jazz music festival. This festival takes place in August of each year and began in 1995. Lansing's jazz radio station is the main sponsor: 89.7 WLNZ. Jazz artists are asked to play at least one song that has not yet been played for audiences at the festival, which truly makes it living history. Featured artists in years past have included: TS Monk, Mose Allison, and Tim Cunningham.


There are no schools located within the Old Town borders, but the school-aged children of the area attend schools in the North Lansing area.

  • % of people 3 yrs and older in K-12 schools: 24.1%
  • % or people 3 yrs and older in undergrad colleges: 5.4%
  • % of people 3 years and older in grad or professional schools: 1.9%
  • % of students K-12 enrolled in private schools: 8.2%


The area of Old Town is approx 6.157 square miles (15.9 km2) with the population of approx 15,000, which has a population density of 2,500 people per square mile. Some of the popular and main roads in Old Town are E Sheridan Road, W Sheridan Road, N Logan Street, Wood Street, E Grand River Ave, Turner Street, and Lake Lansing Road. Conrail Railroad, Abandoned Railroad, and Cxs Railroad run through the Old Town area. Though the Old Town borders are sometimes disagreed upon between neighbors, the neighborhood is roughly between Pine Street and Larch Street (West to East), and between North Street and Oakland (North to South). The Grand River runs through this section of Lansing. It runs from the Southeast to the Northwest, right past the Turner-Dodge House and Heritage Center. The Lansing River Trail runs along the river as well.

Old Town Population Chart 2000 POP. 11,400 1990 POP. 12,100 PERCENT DECLINE. -6%

Demographics % OF POP. (2000)

  • WHITE 47%
  • BLACK 14%
  • ASIAN/PAC. IS. 2%
  • LATINO 15%
  • OTHER 19%



  • MEXICO 39%
  • CUBA 12%
  • LAOS 10%
  • AFRICA 9%
  • CHINA 5%
  • OTHER 20%


  • MEXICO 72%
  • CUBA 2%
  • OTHER 23%


  • GERMAN 17%
  • ENGLISH 11%
  • IRISH 10%
  • POLISH 4%
  • DUTCH 4%
  • FRENCH 3%
  • OTHER 51%

Notable residents[edit]

(NOTE: This list seems to refer to Lansing rather than Old Town itself)

  • Jim Cash (screenwriter of Top Gun and other films)
  • Rashad Evans (UFC fighter)
  • Magic Johnson
  • Chris Hansen (Dateline NBC correspondent)
  • Ryan Miller (NHL player)
  • Greg Raymer (2004 World Series of Poker Champion)
  • Debbie Stabenow (US Senator)


External links[edit]