LANSING, Mich. — If you are driving east on Saginaw Street in Lansing toward East Lansing, you probably have noticed this Memorial Arch in the Southeastern corner of Durant Park.
There’s a 101-year-old story about this property that is significant to Lansing’s history.
This week’s Good Neighbors are passionate about ensuring that story gets told.
To understand why let's go back time to 1920 when one of the wealthiest men in town purchased this property.
Lansing resident William Durant started as a wagon maker at the turn of the century but soon joined the automotive movement and made a fortune.
He was instrumental in the startup of several companies, including General Motors, Buick, Chevrolet, and the one that took his name, Durant.
He also was a philanthropist, and in 1920 he bought this whole part parcel of land for $100,000. He had a professional landscaper transform the property into an urban park for a cost of $50,000.
His only request was that it be named Durant Park.
Diane Sanborn is part of the non-profit group, Friends of Durant Park and knows the park’s history well.
“The city was so grateful to him for what he did,” says Diane. “They closed the businesses in downtown Lansing, and they held a big luncheon for him at the hotel, one of the old hotels that used to be downtown. And then they had a parade here to the park.”
Lansing also paved West Saginaw Street and built roads and sewers to the new Verlinden plant, where Durant automobiles were manufactured.
1924 the city raised funds to construct the Memorial Arch.
101 years later, Durant Park is still a popular gathering spot.
Lansing resident Lori Lanspeary is a frequent visitor.
“It’s a great community asset, a gathering place for neighbors and visitors even that come into the city. It's got a playground and multiple trees. It's just a great oasis in this urban atmosphere.
Diane Sanborn lives next to the park and says the park is a big part of Lansing’s history, and the Friends of Durant Park are charged with ensuring the park continues to be a place people want to visit.
“The city maintains it, and we just do the flowerbeds and things like that,” says Sandborn. “We get grants through the City of Lansing through their parks are blooming. And so, they'll give us the flowers and the mulch and that sort of thing.”
The group also raised funds to build a live music and performance stage near the famous Arch which was dedicated last month.
Friends of Durant Park board member, David Palme, says the park is a valuable city asset.
“The idea here is to make this a park as a destination here in Lansing. That could mean they are musicians or come to watch music, play, walk in the park and bring their dogs. This is one more star in Durant Park. We are looking forward to having music events of all kinds.”
Lori Lanspeary agrees.
Friends of Durant Park have worked very hard in this park. And I think that's a great, great organization to give money to. It's giving back to the community and it's just important.
We agree and want to thank the Friends of Lansing’s Durant Park. They are instrumental in keeping a significant part of Lansing’s history alive. You are this week’s Good Neighbors.
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