The State Constitution of 1835 fixed the capital at Detroit until 1847. In the late 1830s and early 1840s it was understood that following along the Old Territorial Road from Detroit, Ann Arbor was to get a university, Jackson a state prison, and Marshall would become the state’s capital. A large area of land was financed locally and set aside for “Capitol Hill.” The capitol building was to face Marshall Avenue, where the B. E. Henry Building now stands, at 615 S. Marshall Avenue. A “Governor’s Mansion” was erected in 1839. Lots around Capitol Square were sold for fantastic prices.
In 1847, the House set about selecting a permanent capital for the State of Michigan. Twelve towns were voted on and the top six were Lyons (30), Marshall (29), Albion (27), Byron (27), Eaton Rapids(27) and Jackson (27). In a subsequent vote, the undeveloped land that was later named Lansing was chosen by the House (35 to 27) and the Senate (12 to 8). There were two main reasons for this choice, the almost central location and the fact that it was undeveloped at the time meant that a wholly planned city could be created from the ground up.
Today you can visit the hill that almost became the Michigan Capitol Complex, much of which is now the Calhoun County Fairgrounds. In 1971 and 1972 State Historic Markers were installed by the Mary Marshall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution at each of the three historic sites around the square.
NOTE: Capital is written with an “a” in all instances except when referring to the actual building or group of buildings, then it is written with an “o” as in “Capitol Building.” Washington D.C. is the capital of the US, but Congress meets in the Capitol Building.
3 MUSEUMS along Capitol Hill Walk
Governor’s Mansion (612 S. Marshall Ave.) The Greek Revival dwelling never housed a governor, but the man who built it did serve as Michigan’s third governor. The signature Doric columns were constructed in Detroit and hauled by oxcart to Marshall. Since 1966 the house has been owned and restored by the DAR. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Capitol Hill School (602 Washington St.) The Capitol Hill School is a slice of bygone Americana showcasing education in the days before computers and magnet schools. Located near the anticipated site of the Michigan state capitol, it was built in 1860 and served as a school for 100 years. The Marshall Historical Society- owned museum hosts hundreds of area schoolchildren each year for hands-on demonstrations of the classrooms of yesteryear.
Calhoun County Fairgrounds (720 Fair St.) Michigan’s oldest fair, the Calhoun County Fair, began in 1839. Floral Hall, built in 1860, is the oldest fair building in the state and underwent extensive restoration in 2011. The Old Maple Grove Church was built south of Marshall on L Drive South in 1901 and moved to the Fairgrounds in 2006. Houston School (pronounced “how-stun”) dates to 1836 and was moved to the fairgrounds in 2006. A collection of fair related artifacts is included in the Calhoun County Fair Museum.