Situated in thick woods and swamp lands at the confluence of the Grand and Red Cedar rivers, Lansing grew as the commercial center for the central Michigan farming area, as an automobile manufacturing center, and as the state capital.
In 1835 two timber cruisers in Ingham County created Biddle City, a sixty-five-block plat, and sold lots to sixteen farmers in Lansing, New York. After struggling with their heavily wooded and flood-stricken new land, only two farmers remained. But, in 1847, with the selection of Lansing as the site of the state capital, the community achieved stature and development ensued. Growth was aided by the completion of the Lansing and Howell Plank Road, which connected the capital with Detroit. The founding of Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University; IN17) in 1855 at East Lansing and its support under the 1862 Morrill Act facilitated growth in the Lansing area. Between 1863 and 1873, five railroads reached Lansing, the population doubled, and industries were established. Ransom E. Olds launched the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897, and within seven years it was the largest producer of automobiles. In 1904, Olds began the REO Car Company, and in 1908 William C. Durant and General Motors acquired the Olds Company. General Motors phased out Oldsmobile in 2004 and closed its Lansing Car Assembly plant in 2005, slashing jobs and reducing operations.
Although Lansing has benefited from the diversity of its three primary employers, the absence of a major philanthropist, to some degree, accounts for the city's relatively small number of architectural monuments.
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