|LINCOLN SCHOOL/LINCOLN COMMUNITY
LANSING SCHOOL DISTRICT
The Lincoln Community Center was founded in 1937 as a part time Center. It became an integral part of the West
Side Lansing community. Each day, following the Lincoln school formal educational program, Lincoln Center
functioned as a recreational and educational community center. The Lansing Schools Board of Education supported
the program and agreed to furnish the physical facilities. The Community Chest (United Way) and the Recreation
Department of the city of Lansing shared equally in the other costs. Miss Nell Bloodgood, principal of Lincoln
School, was the first Director of the Center and the prime force in initiating and developing the programs.
Its origin was unique, the brain child of Mrs. Richard Hackett, who was interested in the welfare of the
neighborhood and who had a special concern for children. Reportedly, she provided, assisted with volunteers,
recreational activities in her home.
In the beginning, the Center operated under a Citizens' Recreation Association with the membership open to any
person at an annual fee of $1.00. The purpose of this organization was the promotion of recreational, cultural,
educational, welfare, social and civic activities, to serve all ages and both sexes. In addition, the purpose was to
develop interest and participation in character building programs for community betterment. It aimed to serve and
cooperate with all recreation agencies, departments, and civic, welfare, and health, educational, municipal and
social agencies in developing its work. It was non-partisan, non-sectarian and operated for public benefit and not
for financial profit.
The Lansing State Journal on Friday, February 23, 1940, and on Thursday, January 1, 1942 printed articles
pertaining to the programs and activities of Lincoln Center. Lincoln Community Center Seen as "Ounce of
Prevention" and "Lincoln Center Is Busy Place," respectively.
"Interesting and wholesome programs, covering almost everything from basketball to homemaking classes, are
carried on throughout the year at the center, under direction of Miss Nell Bloodgood." (Feb. 23 LSJ 1940) "Programs
and activities for the youth include: Brownies, Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts, Hi-Y, Gra-Y, instrumental music, (Si
Jenkins), social dances, and recreational games and sports. Adult classes, both cultural and recreational,
(conducted by Herschel Irons and Norman James). Men's and boy's activities are directed by Harold Jackson, and
Girls and Women's activities are under the direction of Miss Bloodgood, assisted by Mrs. Ina Majors.
Some of the Civic groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) the
Youth Council and the Cooperative Council for Negro Affairs, carry on constructive programs both educational and
social. The home-makers' clubs, mothers' club and sewing classes, meet regularly." (LSJ January 1, 1942).
In 1944, Morrison L. Ryder, was appointed Executive Director of the Center. A native of Pontiac, MI. He was a well
respected gentleman in the community, as well as throughout the state of Michigan. Morrison attended West
Virginia State College on a music scholarship, graduating in 1934 with a degree in music and social work. He was a
violin soloist and had been the concert master of the Pontiac High school Orchestra. In addition to directing the
programs and recreation at Lincoln Center, he taught music to many of the youth who came to Lincoln Center. Mr.
Ryder believed that although the Center was a source of recreation, it could function as a tool for bringing young
people together to study, to resolve the problems of youth and to get to know each other. A HUMAN RELATIONS
CENTER. Mr. Ryder retired in 1969.
Dorothy Toomer Kennedy, a local resident of Lansing, who celebrated her 100th birthday in 2008, was Director of
Girl's and Women's Activities.
Richard Letts, a native of Lansing, who had conducted many of the recreational and male programs at the center,
was Recreation Director in 1949, serving until 1965.
Names of other early employees at the center are: Gene Merchant, Dorothy Nichols, Dorothy Wilson, Horace T.
Fletcher, Jennie Washington, Mr. and Mrs. Percy Washington, Winsom Amos, Aggie Lipscomb, Jane Rhodes, Ruth
Ann Tomanica, Claudia Blake, James Kennedy, Calvin Sharp, Fred Johnson.
In addition to the three supporting entities, the Center was controlled by an Executive Board, consisting through
the years of prominent community leaders including: Dr. Wm H. Harrison, Frances M. Logan, Roberta Vann, Dr.
Clinton Canady, Mr. Morgan Carter, Mr. Bud Adams, Mrs. Walter Beauchamp, Alderman J.K. Reed, Attorney Paul
Watzel, Mrs. Don Seaton, Mrs. Osceola Jackson, Mr. Ollie Cross, Mrs. Andrew Roberts, Mrs. Ruth Richardson, Mr.
Harold Bauerle, Mr. E. H. Wildt, William H. Thompson, Mr. Herbert Kipke, Mr. George Ross, and volunteer leadership
of Gamma Tau Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (MSU).
The Center proudly sponsored winning athletic teams: (Males) Sandy Nichols, Murphy Rogers, Richard Carew,
Willis Nichols, John Seaton, Billy Coleman, Raymond Hill, Vernon Jones, Eugene Frazier, Linton Stewart, Tom
Merchant, Douglass Reed, Richard Hegmon, Sammy Rhodes, Donald Jackson, Hulon Benson, Vernon Vennerson,
Hayward Howard, and Lowell Beauchamp. (Females): Drucilla Moffatt, Lonnie Walker, Patty Rhinehart, Jackie
Porter, Ellaine Bruce, Jo Ann Adams, Ula Harris, Doris and Louella Benson, Agnes Hall, Lucille Turner, Elizabeth
Kennedy, Jean Nelson, Estella Ewing, and Betty Rogers.
In later years extended programs were held at Main Street School and in an Annex which was on the property of
Lincoln School at 907 Â½ William Street. Annex programs included year around programs such as a Parent Study
Club, Ingham County Health Department Immunization Clinic, Girl Scouts and Neighborhood Councils.
Expansion of the General Motors Oldsmobile Plant lead to the buildingâ€™s purchase and the Lincoln structure was
leveled. The City of Lansing constructed a new facility on 1220 West Kalamazoo Street to house and continue the
popular programs of the Lincoln Community Center. This building was later named the Letts Community Center.
Sources: Lincoln Community Center Archives (Circa 1944-1950), Lansing State Journal.
Photo: Capital Area District Library Archives
Contributors: Dr. Olivia Letts, Mary Jane McGuire
The School was closed circa 1965 due to local industrialization, a declining enrollment and a movement toward integration.
Researched by Jesse Lasorda, â€œThe History and Growth of the Lansing Public Schoolsâ€�, Vol. 1 1847-1944 by Frederick C. Aldinger
Contributors: Dr. Olivia Letts, Mary Jane McGuire
Photo: Capitol Area District Library Archives
|LAAAGS Celebrates Lansing's 150 Years
|LINCOLN COMMUNITY CENTER
1023 WILLIAM STREET
|Children at play at the Lincoln School and Community Center