EL Rewind: Howland Co-Op
Photo Courtesy of MSU Student Housing Cooperative
Howland Co-op is hard to miss. As current resident Kerra Whitmill noted, “It's definitely a conversation piece.”
The large Victorian house on M.A.C Avenue demands the attention of passersby with its brightly colored exterior. Though it now serves as the home to 24 Michigan State students as part of the MSU Student Housing Cooperative (SHC), this local attraction has had a few prior incarnations.
Originally the home of Lansing businessman Chester D. Woodbury and his wife Mary, this building used to stand at 110 W. Grand River Avenue. In 1911, the Woodburys sold their spacious home to a local fraternity called the Hesperian Society. The East Lansing Development Company then bought the house in 1926 and moved it to 323 Ann Street, where it was used as a women's dormitory until Mary Mayo Hall was built on campus for this purpose in 1931. (For a detailed history of the house with photos, visit "A Brief History of East Lansing".")
The house was finally established as Howland Co-op in 1948. It was moved to its current location at 415 M.AC. Avenue in 1984 after being threatened with demolition in anticipation of the redevelopment of the large lot that now houses the East Lansing Marriott at University Place. Although it is missing some of its original features, including a full wraparound porch and a brick veneer, the house is one of the last surviving examples of the Queen Anne style of architecture in East Lansing.
The importance of the building's history is not lost on its current residents. When asked about what makes Howland unique among co-ops Whitmill explained, “The history of it is what's most important to me.” The architecture certainly makes the house stand out among the colonial style seen in many East Lansing homes.
The cooperative style of living has contributed to a valuable and rewarding experience for those who choose to make Howland their home, which is clear in Whitmill's description of her own involvement with the co-op: “I've learned and grown a lot more than I would have anywhere else. I've had so many experiences. Living with 20 other people gives you so much opportunity to learn from each other. It has impacted my career goals (I work for the SHC as well) and has given me a lot of connections. There is much more available to me. The best part of the coops is the people and what they provide (friendship, networks, skills, etc). As a co-oper I've learned to be resourceful, respectful and hard working.”
The positive impact of Howland, and of the student housing cooperative as a whole, is not limited exclusively to residents. As Whitmill informed me, “the SHC works a lot with the community. We work with the CRC, the food co-op and more. We are working on expanding our relationships and making more of a name for ourselves. The SHC is currently still the "hidden gem" it's always been, but the more we branch out and the more people know about us, the better their college experiences will be. With our 200+ members, there's a way we can significantly utilize ourselves in the community.”
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