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Lansing, Michigan in Old Photos & Film

Lansing Michigan

Take a step back in time with a selection of old photos and vintage films of Lansing in Michigan.

In the winter of 1847, Lansing in Michigan was just a hamlet of 20 settlers, surrounded by dense forest. Today it’s Michigan’s fifth largest city, with a resident population of over 117,000 people and more than half a million in the wider metropolitan area. 

It’s an area which has seen great change over time, even in the last twenty or thirty years.

Frandor Shopping Center Kiddie Rides In The 1960s

Posted to YouTube by Perry Mcdonald


A Drive Through Lansing 1968/69

Posted to YouTube by Matt Borghi

In the early 2000s, Chad Hunter made an ebay purchase of three reels of S8mm unidentified orphaned amateur film of East Lansing, Michigan and Michigan State University. He donated it to the Center for Home Movies. It was subsequently uploaded to The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Matt Borghi then digitised this fascinating vintage film of Michigan’s capital city filmed half a century ago. He’s also gathered insights and knowledge about the locations shown, from people who remember them first hand.

It starts on Clifford Street, goes down Kalamazoo Street, At 1:40, the car turns south on Cherry, into the old Oldsmobile plant along a stretch of Lansing that shows I-496 being built, and then through old downtown Lansing, north on Washington.

Washington Avenue was known as ‘the gut’.

The final section of I-496 opened in December 1970. It was still under construction in this film. 

Also, the Michigan Theatre appears to be playing The Boston Strangler, with Tony Curtis & Henry Fonda, released in October 1968. So it’s reasonable to date the film to 1968/69.


A Quiet Street in Lansing in the 1970s

Posted to YouTube by Kyle Pierson

A quick clip of two boys having fun in a quiet Lansing street in the 1970s.


A Quick Look At Lansing In 1984

Posted to YouTube by C.W. Burgers

In 1984, an older couple from the Netherlands came to visit their adult child’s family in Lansing. 

They filmed a drive down Michigan Avenue, with views of the Michigan State Capitol. Then they stopped to film an outdoor event run by the Michigan Restaurant Association. There are lots of people on screen, some running the stalls, and many visiting them. Finally, we see people hanging about by the Capitol steps.

Although the footage only lasts for one minute, you get a sense of the 1980s city.


A Drive Through Lansing In 1987

Posted to YouTube by Andrew Mackoul

With six minutes of footage digitized from a VHS tape, take a drive through Lansing back in 1987. Includes E. Saginaw Street towards Frandor and Michigan State University.


Trains of Lansing MI – June 1991

Posted to YouTube by Dan Cluley

Dan’s video captures trains operating around Lansing on June 25, 26 & 28 back in 1991.


The History of Lansing Auto Production

Posted to YouTube by cadlvideos

This 45 minute video includes a photo of 1897 Lansing in the year the auto industry started here, along with the 18 mile per hour horseless carriages first produced.

The Detroit facilities opened shortly after. Timekeeper James Brady won $5 in December 1900 for winning a competition to name the new auto model. He suggested the name ‘Oldsmobile’.

A year later the Detroit factory burned down, so Lansing offered the vacant state fairgrounds land as a suitable site for the company to build its new production centre.

Packed full of information and image, this video brings the city’s auto production history to life.

The Lansing plant was the longest-operating automobile factory in the United States when General Motors closed it on May 6, 2005.

Lansing Car Assembly Body Plant: Last Car 2005 – Posted to YouTube by cadlvideos

You might also like to see this amphibious truck built for the military in the 1950s by Reo Motors of Lansing, Michigan: 

Posted to YouTube by industryfilmarchive


Closing the Curtain: A History of the Lansing Theatre District

Posted to YouTube by Michigan Humanities. This is a Picturing Your Community in America program developed by the Michigan Humanities Council in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Michigan Television.

At one point, Lansing was home to nine theatres, in and around Washington Avenue. The Capitol Hall Theatre opened in the 1860s. The Strand opened in 1921, joining the Bijoux, the Colonial, the Empress, the Garden, the Orpheum, the Vaudette, the Plaza, and the Gladmer. They featured vaudeville and motion pictures. The first talkie, ‘The Jazz Singer’, opened at the Capitol Theatre in 1927.

One of the comments states that The Gladmer was not formerly Mead’s Hall, as is implied in the film. It was known as Buck’s Opera House, and had been empty for many years when it was demolished in the 1970s.

Students from Lansing Everett High School researched and produced this short film about the Lansing Theatre District. It’s illustrated by many fascinating old photographs.


Remembering Knapp’s Department Store

Posted to YouTube by WKAR

The historic J.W. Knapp Company Building in Lansing, Michigan was completed in 1939, and extended in 1949. It was a five-story, 190,000-square-foot (18,000 m2) Streamline Moderne building. 

In 1970, all branches of the Knapp Department Stores closed. The building was redeveloped and repurposed in 1983, and again in 2010.

The landmark Art Deco architecture meant the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 21, 1983. During the 2008–2009 academic year, the Michigan State University interior design program used the redevelopment of the building as the basis for its senior thesis.

This 1996 look back at the popular department store Features memories from Barb Sutton, Sherri Wiegman, Helen Grimes, Evalyn Gidner, June Johnston, Sylvia Duda, Olivia Letts, Richard Letts, Tom Shiels, Linda Wegryn, Roger Boettcher, Delma Lopez, Betty Price, and George Petroff.


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