1908 : Lansing’s Porter Hack and Livery Burns

February 20, 2018 all-day


A Porter coach at the front of the Union Depot, which would later be converted into Clara’s Restaurant.

Back in the day when you arrived by train, you would have taken a horse-drawn coach from the station to your final destination. Lansing was no different and the largest livery in the city was the W.H. Porter Omnibus Hack and Livery. The business was established in 1866 by John C. Adams. In 1880 William C. Porter purchased half of the company from Adams and two years later bought Adams out. The livery was located on the south west corner of Washtenaw Street and Capitol Avenue, where the Cooley Law School Center is today. In 1906 the business had forty-two horses and operated two omnibuses, two baggage wagons, twelve hacks and twenty-five assorted vehicles, i.e. phaetons, surreys, stanhopes (?), etc.


The Porter Livery at 300 S. Capitol

But the business would not last.   On February 20, 1908 a disastrous fire struck the Porter Livery, tragically thirty horses died in the blaze. The Lansing fire department battled the fire even though the wailing of the horses unnerved many of the firefighters. Orry (Orla) Rolland (Rowland) who was staying at the Octagon House entered the back of the livery and at the risk of his own life rescued several of the horses that were stabled there. William’s son, James also attempted to rescue a horse owned by Oscar Downey, but was kicked by one and barely escaped the fire. Oscar himself, entered the livery to rescue his horse and two others. The firemen were supported by Little Downey, Uneeda Lunch Room, Mrs. George Potter and the Lawrence Bakery who served hot coffee and food to the firemen who battled the blaze. (LJ 2/21/1908 and SR 2/21/1908) In 1916 the site was redeveloped as an Automobile salesroom. (LSJ 4/1/1916)


Source : “Life Before the Automobile“, Reposted from Lost Lansing, August 1, 1916.