It’s a little known fact that Lansing’s birthplace was actually in REO Town. It’s an even less known fact that Lansing’s founders were actually a pair of con-artist brothers from New York. In late 1835 these two brothers, Jerry and William Ford, laid claim to the area south of downtown Lansing and named it Biddle City. They proceeded to sell plots of land in what is now known as REO Town which, unbeknownst to purchasers, was entirely under water! A group of 16 men from Lansing, New York purchased property in what they thought was a bustling metropolis. When they moved to Biddle City and realized they’d been scammed, many stayed and settled a few miles north in the area now known as Old Town. Eventually, they named the community ‘Lansing’ (after their hometown in New York). Lansing officially became the Capital of Michigan in 1847, though at that time less than 20 people actually resided in the region, which was still densely forested.
The REO Town area receives its name from automobile visionary Mr. Ransom Eli Olds and is considered to be the birth place of the commercial automobile in the United States. Mr. Olds was an automobile pioneer for whom both the REO and Oldsmobile brands were named and was also the first entrepreneur to employ the assembly line in automobile manufacturing, greatly reducing the cost of and expanding the market for automobiles. After leaving Olds Motor Works, the company he founded in 1897, Mr. Olds built a factory in modern day REO Town and started the REO Motor Car Company in 1905. The company is now famous for several models including the REO Speed Wagon. The business officially ended all production in 1975. It’s heritage, however, lives on.
Since 2001 the REO Town Commercial Association has been working to renew the energy introduced to the area by these early pioneers. Between business recruitment and retention, event planning and promotion, and guiding the implementing the overall look of our historic district our team of volunteers is always hard at work. Interested in joining a committee and helping out? Please reach out!
The REO Town Commercial Association Board of Directors:
Ryan Wert, Elm Street Recording (Executive Director)
Jeff Barker, Riverpoint Resident (President)
Ariniko O’Meara, AA Creative Corridor (Vice-President)
Hillary Walilko, Riverpoint Neighborhood Resident (Treasurer)
Ryne Weber, Riverview Church (Secretary)
Ken Jones, Studio Intrigue Architects
Paul Trowbridge, Cuttin’ Up Barbershop
Paul Schmidt, UnoDeuce Multimedia
Suban Nur Cooley, Moores Park Neighborhood Resident
Tom Edminston, Cinnaire
Calvin Jones, Lansing Board of Water and Light
Dylan Rogers, Robin Theatre
Matt Gillett, Saddleback BBQ
Tashmica Torok, Firecracker Foundation