Lansing Business University history

Copied from the 1986 book – Lansing: Capital, Campus, And Cars – Pages 139 & 140.

Lansing Business University history

In 1867, Lansing was a bustling capital city of nearly 10,000 people. State government was expanding and industry such as carriage manufacturing and mill work was developing. However, many of these men wanted more than these laboring jobs, but work in state government required skills.

That year Henry P. Bartlett and E. P. Holbrook opened the Lansing Commercial College in the Lansing Academy, located in the old Benton House at the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and Main Street. The Benton House was Lansing’s first “fine hotel”, but it was being converted to apartments and commercial use. The school was started to “train young men for positions in the counting houses,” by means of courses in bookkeeping, penmanship, commercial arithmetic, commercial law and business correspondence. By 1880 Bartlett, who taught most of the classes himself, was also offering courses in grammar, algebra, and geometry. He also changed the name to Bartlett’s Business College. Bartlett sold it to W. A. and C. E. Johnson in 1887, and the brothers changed the name to Interlake Business College.

In 1898 Herbert J. Beck purchased the school, naming it Lansing Business University and adding A. C. Wessel in 1904 as a teaching partner. Competition appeared in 1905 when the Central Michigan Business College was incorporated. Competition between the two schools was intense, but they settled their differences in 1907 with a merger. In 1914 Charles E. Ebersol took over and combined the operation with the Lansing Commercial Institute.

William Dowden acquired the school in 1920, broadening the curriculum and in 1923 moved the school to 130 W. Ionia Street where it remained for more than 30 years. He continued as president and manager until his death in 1932, and he was succeeded as president by his wife. Mrs. Dowden continued until 1951 when she sold the school to Robert Sneden of Grand Rapids.

In 1961 Clark Construction Company built an eight-story building at Capitol Avenue and Ottawa Street to house the school and other offices. In August 1977 the school moved to its own building at East Kalamazoo Avenue and Cherry Street. In 1979 the school was acquired by Davenport College of Business, a Grand Rapids institution that grants two-year associate business degrees, and the name was changed to the Davenport College of Business.


Additional Information that I have gathered:

– According to a September 6, 1887 Lansing’s Pride article, the proprietors – Johnson Brothers acquired it December 1886 and was known as the Capital City Business College. Contradiction to the above article.

– In a February 22, 1893 newspaper ad, L.B.U. was located in the Baird & Hudson Building, corner of Washington Avenue and Washtenaw street.

– From a program that I have, LBU graduation exercises on April 22, 1952 were held in the Hotel Olds Ballroom.

– About May 2000, Davenport College became Davenport University.

– Main Street’s name was changed to Malcolm X Street in 2011.

– And in the Summer of 2013, Davenport University moved to 200 S. Grand Ave. at Allegan St.


photo from Aug. 2013

photo from Aug. 2013


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