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Ransom and Metta Olds’ house, completed by 1904, was located in Lansing, at the corner of South Washington Avenue and Main Street. It was within easy walking distance of the Oldsmobile plant and the soon-to-be-constructed Reo Motors plant (Olds left Oldsmobile to form Reo that same year.). The Olds lived near several other prominent Lansingites. One notable neighbor was Eugene Cooley, a founder of the Lansing Gas Light Company and son of famous judge Thomas Cooley. The Olds residence was also close to the elaborate mansion built by Lansing attorney, entrepreneur and one-time mayor Orlando M. Barnes.
The Olds house was an L-shaped structure consisting of two and a half stories. Ransom Olds biographer George S. May described it as “typical of the homes of the well-to-do being constructed during the Victorian Era. The exterior walls were of buff-colored brick, trimmed with red sandstone. The hip roof was covered with green slate, and in the corners were towers; these were removed in 1952… The interior was impressive, with its paneled walls, its paneled or decorated ceilings, and its marquetry floors with three- and four- tone borders.” (See George S. May’s R. E. Olds: Auto Industry Pioneer. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977, pg. 205)
May notes that the interior included an “automobile room.” More elaborate than modern day garages, this completely finished off and heated room took up one thousand feet of floor space. Features included a vehicle turntable, which enabled Olds to drive outside without backing up his car!
Despite such comforts, George May asserts that Olds’ home was actually modest compared to those of other automotive industry heads. May points out, for example, that Henry Ford’s house cost ten times as much as Olds’! May states that Olds’ mansion cost $25,000. According to the web site “Inflation Calculator” (Click Inflation Calculator for this site.), this would be roughly equivalent to $514,000 in 2005.
Ransom and Metta Olds’ residence no longer stands. It was demolished in 1971 to make way for I-496, the highway that currently traverses the City of Lansing.
Lansing’s R. E. Olds Transportation Museum spotlights Ransom Olds and the auto industry in Lansing. Click Olds Museum to access their web site.