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Alleyway tours will return to downtown Lansing

Back alley located near S. Washington Avenue
Posted at 11:40 PM, Sep 03, 2021

LANSING, Mich. — Lansing, get ready for a blast into the past. The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is partnering with Downtown Lansing Inc. to bring back the “Back Alleys” tour.

The tour will make its return on September 8 at 7pm, and guests will walk through about four different alleyways in downtown Lansing.

One of the alleys that will be toured is the one located behind the buildings on S. Washington square.

"There was a bakery here, at one point in time, there was a tailor shop, there was the printing business, there were also a number of clothing stores that came in and out of this block," said Valerie Marvin, Vice President of The Historical Society of Greater Lansing.

The tour is meant for people to learn about the history, structure, and unusual activities that have occurred in the downtown Lansing's alleys.

"We'll talk about what family life was like for people who lived about the businesses. And we'll also talk a little bit about some of the special events that have happened in alleyways over the years," she explained.

Back alley located near S. Washington Avenue
Back alley located near S. Washington Avenue

One of the special events Marvin told FOX 47 News, was the Westside Story play hosted by a director tied to LCC in the 1970's.

"Instead of doing it in a theater in a traditional setting, he did it in alleyways in downtown, which, of course, is very much where the play takes place," Marvin said. "As you look at those fire escapes, you know, think about West Side Story. That's where Maria is singing to Tony, when they first meet."

If you attend the tour, you'll learn that these were more than just fire escapes, they represent community. When you walk down S. Washington square, right above those local storefronts-- were family apartments.

"These were places where people would hang laundry out, this is where, you know, kids would have played, they used to be social spaces where we would interact with one another," Marvin said.

If you’re interested in the structure of downtown Lansing’s alleys, how they were used for back door deliveries, and now as a canvas for murals, the “Back Alleys” tour is free. Just go to the front of Lansing City Hall on Wednesday at 7 pm and Valerie will lead the way.

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