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Darius Moon's own house: his final legacy to Lansing

Darius B. Moon house from Huron Street
Darius B. Moon house from Huron Street
Photo by the author

No discussion of Darius Moon's architectural legacy to the Lansing area would be complete without a study of his own domicile. Located just west of the central downtown complex, it serves as a lasting monument to his flair for escapism in his work. Since so much of his corpus has already been lost, it also gives added impetus to the local preservation movement in this community. It at once summarizes his typical preference for the Queen Anne and Stick Shingle styles and isolates his dwindling remaining structures as candidates for special honors in any architectural inventory. As will be seen, it bears an uncanny resemblance to his greatest lost masterpiece, the Ransom Eli Olds mansion, built for Lansing's first citizen.

A tale of two houses

There is an uncanny resemblance between Moon's own residence and that which he designed for Olds. Moon's house, the older of the two, is still in existence and was completed in 1893. It seems to soar beyond its actual three story height, and this effect is enhanced by a pitched roof and his familiar Queen Anne with Stick Style embellishments. All add up to a strong vertical emphasis. Quite incredibly, this house originally stood at 116 Logan Street (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard), but was actually moved intact several blocks to the west and deposited at 216 Huron Street! It today survives as it was in Moon's day. The Olds mansion originally stood on Washington Avenue and was completed in 1904. It was a large L-shaped structure in buff colored brick trimmed in red sandstone with a green slate roof. It was also three stories tall and had strong vertical accents. Inside, it had lavish appointments fit for an automobile tycoon, including a turntable for vehicular turnaround instead of the usual garage. This splendid house was demolished in the late 1960's to make way for the I-496 connector expressway, fittingly named the Olds Freeway. It is ironic yet somehow appropriate that the house was sacrificed for the expansion of the automobile age, as Olds had done so much to put his community on wheels.

Moon's last years

Moon's last years were spent in his own residence surrounded by family and memories. Some of his family members predeceased him, but his final days were generally filled with the satisfaction of seeing his works spread over much of downtown Lansing. The demolition of many of them came only in the 1970's to make way for rapid state office building construction, accompanied by vast parking lots. His remaining structures therefore constitute a precious legacy to mid-Michigan and it can only be hoped that they will be preserved in the coming years. (See previous articles on Moon at www.examiner.com).