Moon Remembered

By Faith Rach

Copyright 1997

1997 marks the 150th birthday of the City of Lansing. The city received its momentum in 1847 when this site was selected as the new state capitol. Since the early times, "housing a growing population has always been an important problem that had to be met."(1) The architects and designers of local buildings were not nationally well known, and with few exceptions, they were generally local builders and carpenters, self-taught and with little training. Regardless, many grand homes were constructed in the Lansing area to house auto and lumber barons and successful businessmen and their families. In recent years, we have witnessed the gradual destruction of most of Lansing's historical architecture evident in the unique local building styles.

During the many years I've lived in the Lansing area, I've witnessed with dismay the near destruction of almost all of Lansing's architectural history. During the last 20 years, many similar, industrial, mid-western cities have attempted revitalization efforts achieving a re-birth in cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and Milwaukee. Much of the success in these efforts included a focus on and restoration of the historic buildings in these communities either for homes or business. However in the City of Lansing, the revitalization effort is still struggling. Since the 1960's over 3000 historical structures have been destroyed despite the change in city administration, and this destructive trend continues.

One historical structure that was removed was the family home of Ransom E. Olds, a very prominent figure in the history of Lansing. This formidable residence stood in the 700 block of S. Washington Avenue and was destroyed in order to build the I-496 freeway. Many historical structures have been replaced with large vacant lots which serve as parking lots and blockhouse style architecture, reminiscent of Albert Speer's architectural program during the height of Nazi Germany. These new buildings serve predominantly as office space. There has been very little or no effort to maintain architectural continuity. Historic structures have been destroyed simply to make room for new buildings and parking space.

In light of the current, struggling, revitalization effort in Lansing, I felt compelled to become involved in some manner with this effort. I chose Darius Moon as the topic of my research because there are still a few of the structures he designed and built, intact, and functional in the community and are truly representative of historical architectural vernacular in this area.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the architectural work of Darius Bartlett Moon. 264 structures throughout the Lansing area have been attributed to D.B. Moon.(2) Sadly, there are very few survivors. In this writing, I will focus on D.B. Moon's family home, which still survives, after numerous renovations and restorations efforts. My methodology involves a biographical and historical approach. I will provide a brief biographical overview of the life of Darius B. Moon, and explore his residence now located at 216 Huron Street, focusing on exterior and interior construction elements. My research involved an analysis of local history collections and an interview with the current owners, Thomas Stanton and Carol Skillings.


D.B. Moon had a significant impact on the architectural identity of this area. He not only designed and built the homes for the mighty and the rich but also built barns, garages, sheds, fences, schools, factories and churches as well. "His building career lasted approximately 62 years, 1860-1922."(3) Darius Moon was born January 24, 1851, in Cataraugus County, Near Buffalo, New York, to Sands and Mary Moon. He was the youngest of eight children. Sands Moon operated a large family farm in the east and enjoyed substantial stature in the area. In 1853, Sands Moon disposed of his monetary interests and moved to Delta Center, Eaton County, Michigan. In 1854 his family followed. Sands established a successful family farm and remained in Delta Center until his death.

Darius attended local public schools and helped run the family farm. He left home at the age of 16 years and worked with a local carpenter to learn a trade. "He worked as an apprentice for three years. His building skills developed and by his third year in apprenticeship, he was engaging in contracting for himself."(4)

His first building contract was a house which netted him a profit of $300. He used these earnings to purchase a scholarship at the Lansing Commercial College where he attended classes during the winter of 1871 and 1872, and the rest of his income was utilized for clothing and room and board. This was the only formal training Moon received and for the most part he was a self-taught designer and architect.

Moon moved permanently to Lansing in 1877 and began contracting building projects. In 1878 he erected a home for himself at 110 S. Logan Street. "For the next 18 years he continued contracting in this city and other parts of the state, preparing himself for the profession of architect. Raymond Spice is listed as Moon's draftsman who lived at 419 Cherry Street in the 1906 City Directory. He prepared many of the drawings Moon used for projects. Moon also prepared many drawings for projects as well." (5) In 1888, he gave up contracting and concentrated his energies solely on architectural work.

Moon was responsible for building many area homes for the wealthy. "He was best known as the architect of Lansing's turn-of-the-century rich."(6) He was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks and the Knights of Pythias. In 1877 he married Ellen M. Sprague and they had four children. "In 1891 Moon began construction of his family home located at 116 S. Logan. Moon retired at the age of 72 and continued to live in his S. Logan residence for 48 years until his death in 1939."(7)


In 1980, Moon's boyhood home was saved from destruction by the Eaton County Historical Society. The log cabin was built between the years 1860-1862 by his older brothers while his father was away from home to join the Union Army. This structure is considered to be the oldest surviving residence in Delta Township. The Moon family home stood on Canal Road between Mt. Hope Highway and Millet Highway, the current site of the Oldsmobile Diesel Plant. The log cabin was moved to Woldumar Nature Center in 1980 where it stands today. "Woldumar received $5,000 from the Gannett Newspaper foundation for replacement/restoration of the house. The structure was used as a training site for local unions in building skilltrades."(8) The Moon Log Home is now used as part of cultural history programs.

In 1966, Lansing Community College purchased a "Moon" house located at 528 N. Capitol Avenue. Moon designed and built the Victorian Queen Anne style house in 1891 for Lansing attorney and real estate speculator Herbert M. Rogers. The home was acquired by M. R. Carrier, a local merchant in 1903. The house has been listed on the State Register of Historic Places as a "19th century Queen Anne brick and limestone, turreted home."(9) Lansing Community College altered the landscaping that surrounds the exterior significantly in an attempt to make the structure handicapper accessible. Trees were planted that border the entire south side of the building. Much of the structure is hidden behind tall pine trees and the large field stone block foundation was buried altering the exterior aesthetic of this Queen Anne structure. The building is currently being used as administrative office space yet still retains much of its original appearance.

On May 19, 1983, the Trinity United Methodist Church, located at the corner of St. Joseph Highway and Canal Road, in Eaton County, was destroyed. Moon built the church structure 1873. A larger church was added onto the original Moon structure and later church officials decided to take down the Moon structure in order to provide more parking for church parishioners.(10)

In 1903, Moon was contracted by Frank Dodge to renovate and construct an addition to his historic home now referred to as the Turner/Dodge Mansion located at 102 E. North Street. The structure was originally built in the year 1850. The original structure followed a federal style and was very unlike Moon's well known Victorian Carpenter/Gothic style. The addition and changes made to the facade of the structure were in the popular Greek Revival style with large round columns and grand balconies on every floor. The third story addition contains a ballroom and smaller rooms. Two Chimneys were added which provided fireplaces on all three levels. Moon added pointed gables with roof cresting and added porches on all three levels. Large Greek revival columns are topped with ionic capitals. There is inlaid leaded decorative glass in the first story windows. Decorative inlaid wood was added to the front and rear portals. Many of the decorative details found in this structure are repeated in other Moon buildings.(11)


In 1975, a group called "Save the Moon House, Inc." was formed to save what was once Moon's family residence from destruction when the Logan Street corridor was planned for widening.(12) In 1969 the Moon house located at 116 S. Logan Street, was listed for sale by Moon's daughter Princess Adams.(13) In 1971, the second floor was damaged extensively by fire. The house remained vacant for four years and was declared unsafe by City officials. A public hearing was held to propose its destruction. Save the Moon House, Inc. was successful in obtaining a stay for six months in order to work on the preservation of the buildings. Stan Kasuda and Karen Wood-Kasuda purchased the house for $1 and the structure was moved to its present location at 216 Huron Street. The move cost $7,000(14) and moved approximately four blocks. The Kasudas made extensive renovations and added an addition to the west end of the structure.(15) In February 1997, the house was purchased by Thomas Stanton and Carol Skillings who are restoring the house to its original condition as much as possible.


Moon began to build his two and a half story Victorian style house in 1891 and completed it in 1893. The original structure's "richly sculptural Eastlake exterior detailing includes chamfered and turned woodwork, paneled and patterned shingle gable trim, bracketing of various types and galvanized tin roof cresting."(16) The house has been defined as Victorian Stick style, Queen Anne style and Carpenter Gothic. Although the structure displays elements of all three styles, features of the Victorian Stick style are most prevalent. Moon designed and built many houses and it is fairly clear that he consulted pattern books that were very popular at this time when choosing floor plans and decorative detailing. The structure followed a typical balloon construction on an open frame with no interior barriers or metal sheathing. A hole made in the exterior wood, would come directly into the interior wall. In 1978 all the plaster was removed and replaced with blue board with a plaster wash.

Exterior Stick Features

Stick features that are prevalent in the house include a square tower which is elaborately decorated with a separate, extended gable. This type of gable detail carried into the Queen Anne style as well. There are decorative trusses at the apex of all gables throughout the structure. There are wide, overhanging eaves, many with a wide flare or a decorative layering like that present in the main, front gable. There is wooden wall regional clapboard interrupted by patterns of horizontal and vertical stickwork boards, some are raised from the wall surface in order to prevent the appearance of a flat surface. There is a secondary cross gable on each side of the house which form the shape of a transept, very similar to the shape of a transept found in gothic churches. A decorative finial is original and later a weathervane was added on top of the tower making it the highest point on the house. A square tower was a common feature in the Stick style and this one has a separate extended gable supported by decorative cornices and bracketing with decorative treatment in the apex.

The entire exterior has elements of horizontal and vertical boarding. The extreme elongation of the narrow windows was also a common Stick feature. Note the continuity of cladding that runs in horizontal bands under the windows. In many of the horizontal bands, decorative detailing was added. One notable feature can be seen under the original dining room window located on the north side of the house. A thin band of vertical cladding surrounds each window like a decorative frame. Layered panels can be seen in the main front apex. "The stick style is a transitional style which links the preceding Gothic Revival with the subsequent Queen Anne; all three styles are free adaptations of Medieval English building traditions. The later polychromed sub-type of the Gothic Revival, like the Stick style, emphasized patterned wall surfaces, but was executed in masonry rather than wood. Because of this emphasis, the Stick style is considered by some authorities to be simply the wooden version the polychromed of High Victorian Gothic."(17) The American stick style has been deemed a celebration of timber.

Exterior Queen Anne Features

The Moon house has a steeply pitched roof of an irregular shape. This is most notable when viewing the north side of the structure. The house also contains a dominant front facing gable. The hipped ridges run from front to back and from side to side over the cross gables. All ridges are covered with a decorative tin roof cresting.

The porch displays gingerbread ornamentation. The one-story porch construction includes a front entrance extending halfway across the front and wrapping around to the north side of the house. There are two stairways leading onto the porch. The porch has four double sets of square chamfered porch columns and spindlework ornamentation with decorative, cast iron capitals and one single column. (Spindlework detailing is repeated in the porch railing which runs in a frieze like pattern around the porch). Each corner above the spindles contains a lacy decorative bracket. Each of the two gables on the porch have an inlaid decorative gable ornament. The ceiling of the porch is sloped on both sides and is covered with the original tin plating. All parts of the original porch are still present. (The original floor decking was covered during remodeling in 1978. This process raised the porch so that part of the original railing was chopped and removed. One decorate curl is missing and there is a modified curl at the corner. (Unfortunately, the original sub-floor decking is rotting under the new floor decking installed in 1978.)

The Queen Anne style features wall surfaces utilized primarily for decorative treatments. This includes using varying wall materials to create a variety of wall textures, overhangs and wall projections. These features are present in the Moon house particularly, in the decorative treatment of the front gable In many other structures, this projection was extended further into a balcony another feature common in the Queen Anne style.

Another Queen Anne feature includes using large planes of glass surrounded by smaller planes of stained glass. This feature can be seen in the upper half of the front bay window. The upper window is divided by mullions into separate leaded glass compartments. There is a row of stained glass that runs down the center and at each end. Ms. Skillings, the current owner, believes the stained glass may be the original judging by the texture of the glass.

Interior Features

There have been renovations and changes to the interior, though many of the original Eastlake features still exist. The oak woodworking in the stairway follows a pattern very similar to patterns advocated by Charles Eastlake, a English furniture designer, artist and critic in the mid-nineteen century who was very influential in establishing design precedents in interiors and exteriors. Eastlake's designs called for utility and function. His work represented clean lines with repeated rectangular and square woodworking patterns. He advocated utility as well as beauty. This design philosophy was also advocated by arts and crafts pioneers William Morris and John Ruskin who founded the movement in England during the later part of the 19th century. This philosophy was later carried to America and in the hands of American pioneers like Gustav Stickley, the philosophy developed into something uniquely American.

Original oak woodworking is evident throughout the house. The woodworking in the stairway, stairway banisters, railings and built in wood shelving units were all representative of arts and craft styling. Lines are elegant, simple and beautiful. The stairway is constructed in a series of vertical and horizontal inlaid wood pieces of polished oak, creating small box-like shapes. Originally, there was a full wall of square paneling with a full size grand father clock built in. This design is in keeping with traditional arts and crafts styling elements. The bannister is a long, uninterrupted line of two horizontal railings. At the end of the of the stairway is built-in wood shelving. An extended bay in the living room also contains built-in wood shelving. Each of the two windows that flank the shelving extend nearly the entire height of the wall. The windows in the extended bay and front parlor window all have small window seats.

An area where the Eastlake influence can be found is in the window treatment of the front bay located in the parlor. The parlor, located at the east end of the house still has the enormous bay window where a row of intricate dentil creates a horizontal frame above the window molding. There are also decorative inlaid wood surfaces applied to each corner of the window. (This same motif can be found in the decorative elements added to the main portal leading into the Turner/Dodge Mansion mentioned earlier).

According to Ms. Skillings, Moon indicated that he built a secret compartment into every room. One of the compartments is located in the top of the front bay window frame. The parlor now contains a intricately carved oak, Greek revival period fireplace that was added when the Kasudas renovated the house. Moon later added a fireplace on the first floor which was removed. Gas was utilized for heating and lighting and would have been more efficient and up-to-date at this time.

Greek revival styling is evident the backdoor which is not original but a reproduction. The door contains three horizontal recessed areas. At the bottom of the window, a wooden bracket protrudes. Above the bracket there is a horizontal line of wooden beadwork. To each side of the window, stands two intricately carved columns toped with ionic capitals. Above the window runs a horizontal pediment with inlaid wooden beadwork. This woodworking is intricate and a good reproduction of a period door.

Although there have been alterations to the interior, many parts of the house still remain intact. Moon started working on an efficiency apartment in the back of the house, above the kitchen and built a stairway at the back of the house. Probably during the late 1930's, Moon's son-in-law, Mr. Adams, converted the upstairs to an apartment. The living room on the first floor remains much the same as when Moon built it. Changes exist in the current dining room which was originally two rooms, Moon's bedroom to the south and the original dining room to the north.(18) Moon and his wife added mirrors to the original walnut wainscoting in the dinning room.

The Kasuda's added a two story addition on the western portion of the house. The new addition includes a large, L shaped kitchen which is surrounded on three sides by full length windows. Moon purportedly built the house "with all the modern conveniences," though its not clear if that means bathrooms. The house now has four.

The second story sustained extensive fire damage in 1971 and the Kasuda's made many changes. The current owners are hopeful that they can restore as many of the original features as possible.

I have included illustrations of other houses attributed to Darius Moon. These represent only a fraction of the important houses Moon built. Moon also built the family home for Ransom E. Olds, Edward Sparrow and B. F Davis, only a few of the very influential citizens of the Lansing community during this period. It is easy to believe that there was wealth, opportunity and promise in this community during this period. Many people immigrated to the Lansing area from the state of New York. Lumber was a booming industry during this time in Michigan and many of those who made their fortunes located their families in the new State Capitol. However, due to urban flight of the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's coupled with questionable judgement on the part of City planners, a lot of the historical architectural fabric has been lost. I am however, hopeful that with hard work and sensitivity, the remaining historical architecture, will be preserved, and interest in the past architectural styles will be rekindled in the residents who live here now.

1. 0see Moore, Charles, History of Michigan, vol. 3, p. 1717, 1915.

2. 0For a complete listing of works attributed to D. B. Moon, see illustration No. 1, Darius B. Moon Projects, which provides a chronological order of each project. In most cases, the list provides the location of the project and whether the site has been destroyed. However, the project list does not indicate whether Moon designed one feature or designed the whole structure. In some cases, Moon was making repairs, adding a decorative treatment, or as in the case of the Turner/Dodge Mansion, renovating and adding an addition. The list was prepared by Diana Reedy, who was the Chairwoman of the organization "Save the Moon House," established in 1975. See also illustration No. 2 which shows a Tabulation of Buildings designed by D.B. Moon.

3. 0See Moore, pg. 1717

4. 0ibid. pg 1718.

5. 0ibid. pg. 1718. See illustrations No. 3 - 5. These advertisements would have most likely been placed in local trade magazines. The selections came from the Local History Collection, housed at the Lansing Public Library.

6. 0Thomas, David, Grand Ledge Independent, November 27, 1981,

p. 13A.

7. 0Castro, Manuel, Metropolitan Quarterly, "Darius Moon: Creator of Victorian Splendor", 1984, pg 18-19.

8. 0Frazier, Dick, Lansing State Journal, January 6, 1980, p. B-6. See illustration No. 6.

9. 0Frazier, Dick, Lansing State Journal, February 18, 1984. See illustration No. 7.

10. 0Photos and information from: Douglas, Karen, Lansing State Journal, May 19, 1983. See illustration 8.

11. 0See illustrations No. 9 and 9a.

12. 0Diana Reedy helped to form the group and served as Chairwoman. The group was composed of area residents who were interested in helping to preserve the Moon House and aid in its restoration. Ms. Reedy has compiled a large amount of documents and a fairly comprehensive list of Moon structures, (listed earlier). The collection resides in the Local History Collection, Lansing Public Library. Ms. Reedy is currently suffering from a very serious illness and I was not able to contact her for additional information. (Ms. Reedy passed away January 1998).

13. 0see illustrations 10-11.

14. Jahnke, Pamela, Lansing State Journal, may 23, 1988. See illustration No. 12 and 13. Illustration 13 shows the original Carriage House which was not moved with the home.

15. 0see illustrations Nos. 14-17. Note illustration No. 14 shows the south side of the structure. Moon had constructed a conservatory on the opposite end of the extended bay as a music room for his daughter Florence. The conservatory was torn down before the structure was moved. The photo shows debris being carried away.

16. 0See Eckert, Kathryn-Bishop, Buildings of Michigan, Society of Architectural Historians, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, p. 298. See illustrations No. 18 and 19.

17. 0McAlester, Virginia and Lee, A Field Guide to American Houses, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1995, p. 256.

18. 0See illustration No. 20. I don't know the date of this photo but judging from the gas line suspended down from the ceiling, it probably occurred around 1900. This picture was taken from the parlor looking into the living room and beyond into the dining room. You can see that the dining room was divided into two rooms at the time. If you look to the right you will see the built in bookshelf that was at the foot of the stairway. The Kasudas added glass shelving and glass doors. It's interesting to note is that during this period people would push their belongings and pictures so that they could be viewed in the picture. To the left of the picture, behind the woodburning stove is where Moon added a conservatory at about 1894 for his daughter Florence's piano which could not fit into the house. The conservatory was torn down before the house was moved and was not salvageable.