On East North Street in Lansing stands a national historic center, grand in its Classical Revival architecture, scale and rich history of Michigan pioneer families. The Turner-Dodge House and Heritage Center (Turner-Dodge House) was built in 1858 by James Turner, who helped establish Lansing as the capital city.
Today, the Turner-Dodge House is maintained for tours, weddings and extraordinary events; within the city of Lansing’s Parks & Recreation Department, one special woman has been pouring her love of history, storytelling and the legacy of Turner-Dodge into the building since 2014.
“The history of this house was beyond my belief when I got this job. In fact, not a lot of people in Lansing know the story of Mr. Turner, especially,” said Barbara Loyer, the Turner-Dodge House’s program and event manager. “He was so key to everything: the railroads, the schools — he influenced, in many ways, bringing the capital here … he was a pillar in every sense of the word.”
Across almost every factor in growing the foundation of today’s Lansing, the Turner and Dodge families envisioned a city of peace, diversity and progression, inspiring everyone who walks through the heritage center’s doors, Loyer included. A native of Linden, a city south of Flint, Loyer was motivated, throughout her educational career, by the histories of Native American, African American and Latino cultures. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan’s satellite campus in Flint and her master’s degree from Michigan State University.
“It’s inspiring to know you come from a place that has values like that, but it’s also inspiring in the sense of, ‘What can I do? How can I make a difference?’” Loyer said.
When Loyer gave birth to a son, she was plagued with extreme, chronic-fatigue: a toll she pays for being a busy-body, empowered by passion. But challenges like these have recalibrated her focus and her vision. Instead of staying idle, Loyer chooses to leverage her talents and create paychecks “out of thin air,” with the support of her loved ones.
“Little by little, I got involved in promoting alternative health. I pieced my health back together and became an event planner — a community relations person, a marketing person — in the process,” said Loyer. “Then, when my son was six, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Loyer’s ability to rise above life’s obstacles via her passions has led her through an incredible career. And that career has guided her to Turner-Dodge House, where she’s become an active piece of Lansing’s rich history, bringing her knowledge to the forefront for visitors and enthusiasts alike.
“Through all the challenges I have faced in my life, I have spent time in mediation and prayer to understand, at my core, what it is I want to contribute — that’s the way I’ve made my living,” said Loyer. “If you have that vision … you can survive all types of challenges if you’re living your vision.”
Using her skills, resources and creativity to bring joy to people, Loyer has never forgotten where she comes from to make the life she wanted for herself happen. And at the Turner-Dodge House, she’s right where she wants and needs to be to bring happiness, knowledge and growth to the Greater Lansing community.