History of Lansing
The Lansing area was first explored in 1790, however at the time it did not seem appropriate for settling or even purchasing. In 1835, two brothers from Lansing, New York ventured into the area and plotted a piece of land just south of present-day downtown Lansing. The land was frequently flooded and it certainly wasn’t good for settling, but the brothers still came back to their home town, told their friends and fellow residents about this great new city and sold a lot of plots. When the new owners came, they realized they were victims of a fraud, but remained in the area nevertheless, settling in what is today Metropolitan Lansing, naming the area after their hometown back in New York. The new town was small and had only 20 residents but its fate changed in 1847, when it was decided that the state capital should be moved from Detroit to a safer location in the central part of the state, away from Canada. Several large cities were considered for the capital, but when the consensus could not be reached, the frustrated state representatives chose Lansing, surprising and aggravating everyone.
Naturally, after it became the capital of Michigan, Lansing experienced a sudden boom. New settlements emerged and formed a larger township, focused around three key points: Lower Town (present-day Old Town), Upper Town (present-day REO Town) and Middle Town (present-day downtown). The city was incorporated in 1859 and it soon got its first railroad, a plank road and the capitol building.
Lansing became what it is today mostly thanks to the foundation of Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897. The company changed name to REO Motor Car Company in 1905 and was quickly joined by other automotive companies, such as Clarkmobile. Over the course of the 20th century, Lansing became a major industrial center, especially for automobiles and car parts.
Geography and Climate
Lansing is located in central Michigan, a region often called Mid-Michigan, at the south central part of the peninsula. It was founded near the confluence of Grand River and Red Cedar River. The Grand River, which is the largest river in the state, runs through downtown Lansing and the Red Cedar River flows through the Michigan State University campus. Lansing area has two lakes: Park Lake and Lake Lansing. The elevation in the city ranges from 890 feet to 805 feet.
The city has a humid continental climate, typical for a Midwestern city and influenced by the Great Lakes. The summers are warm to hot and humid, while winters are cold, with a lot of snow.
Lansing is divided into four sections. The Eastside is the most ethnically diverse and has the most foreign-born citizens. The Westside is the most socio-economically diverse part of Lansing and it contains the downtown area as well as a number of residential neighborhoods. The Southside is the largest, the most populous and mostly suburban. The Northwest side is the smallest, mostly suburban and partly rural as well.
The largest racial group in Lansing are Whites (61.2%), followed by African Americans (23.7%), Hispanics or Latinos (12.5%), Asians (3.7%), Native Americans (0.8%) and Pacific Islanders (0.4%).
In the past, the automotive industry has been the number one economy sector in Lansing. Today, the economy is much more diversified, with the most important sectors being state and local government, education, healthcare and insurance.
General Motors has a strong presence in Lansing and its metropolitan area. Insurance companies with headquarters in Lansing include Jackson National Life, Accident Fund, Auto-Owners Insurance and Michigan Millers Insurance Company. One of the large employers in the city is also Quality Dairy, a locally owned chain of convenience stores.
The city also has a number of companies from the fields of biotechnology and information technology, such as Neogen, Emergent BioSolutions, Liquid Web, ACD.net, IBM and others.
Sparrow Hospital and McLaren-Greater Lansing Hospitals are two major teaching hospitals in the Lansing area. Michigan State University located in Lansing, with the ninth-largest campus in the USA, is one of the Big Ten Conference. It has 200 study programs and fourteen schools and colleges.
Another important institution of higher education in Lansing is the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the largest law school in the United States. Other colleges and universities include Lansing Community College, Western Michigan University, Davenport University, Central Michigan University and Great Lakes Christian College.
Culture and Attractions
Lansing has several smaller, specialized museums, most notably the Michigan Museum of Surveying, R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, the Turner-Dodge House, Impression 5 Science Center and Michigan Library and Historical Center. As for the theatre, the city has a number of companies (most notably the Peppermint Creek Theatre Company) and theatrical venues. It also has a ballet company and a symphony orchestra.
Some of the large festivals held annually in Lansing include Old Town BluesFest and Lansing JazzFest, as well as the Common Ground Festival, Oktoberfest and Blues on the Square.
Other attractions in Lansing and its greater area include farmers’ markets, the historic Potter Park Zoo, the Library of Michigan, Lansing Art Gallery, Wharton Center for Performing Arts, Abrams Planetarium, the MSU Museum and Kresge Art Museum.
The largest airport in the city is Capital Region International Airport. Major highways in and around Lansing include I-69, I-96, I-496, Capitol Loop, US 127, M-99 and M-43.
Passenger air service is provided by Amtrak on the Blue Water Line (Chicago-Port Huron). Greyhound provides inter-city bus routes while Michigan Flyer provides service to Ann Arbor, Jackson and Detroit Metro Airport. Public transit in the city, which consists of buses, is provided by Capital Area Transportation Authority.