The Origin of Lansing’s First Park, 1878
So just what IS the name of that Lansing downtown park on S. Capitol Avenue, a couple of blocks south of the capitol building? Third Ward Park, Central Park, or Reutter Park?
Yes to all three....sort of.
It started out as a mucky “three-acre swamp with a hummock of dry grass in the center” (City Pulse). After the patch of land was handed over to the city, Lansing residents began planting trees and flowers. It became the city's first and only park in 1878, and dubbed 'Third Ward Park'. A while afterward, it was decided that 'third ward' wasn't too impressive a name, so it was renamed 'Central Park'.
J. Gottlieb Reutter was mayor of Lansing from 1912-1918. When his wife passed away in 1928 he decided to erect something in her memory: a $30,000 fountain smack in the middle of that park (by today's inflation, that would be around $464,696). The fountain was installed in 1929, with (as reported in City Pulse) “eleven water jets that shoot 30 feet high spumes of spray in constantly shifting patterns, augmented by 30 multi-colored lights”.
In 1944, the city decided to again re-name the park; this time, it was changed to 'Reutter Park', after their former mayor. Luckily, Reutter didn't have to pass away before he was honored. He died 10 years later in 1954 at the age of 86. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Check out some photos and old postcards below, from various years when the park was called “Third Ward”, “Central”, and Reutter”.
GALLERY OF THE PARK