In 1849 when D. Robert Burcham settled in this vicinity, Chippewa and Ottawa Indians lived along the Red Cedar River. Burcham journeyed here on the Indian trail that became the Grand River Road, also known as the Lansing-Howell Road. In 1855 the state legislature founded the Michigan Agricultural College (present-day Michigan State University) on one square mile of woodland. By 1857 seven campus buildings and seven farmhouses, located within a two mile radius of College Hall (where Beaumont Tower now stands), constituted the community. In 1887 Professors W. J. Beal and Rolla C. Carpenter platted the first subdivision, naming it Collegeville. The area is now bounded by Michigan Avenue, Harrison Avenue, Oak and Beal streets. In 1884 the community's first post office, Agricultural College, Michigan, was established on campus.
A half-century after the Grand River plank was built in 1850, street cars and interurban railroads linked the state capital to the Michigan Agricultural College. The end of the streetcar line formed a wye (turn-around triangle) at the intersection of Ann, Albert and M.A.C. streets. In 1907 a committee, led by Agricultural College postmaster Charles Collingwood, proposed a charter for "College Park" to the state legislature. On May 8, 1907, following
extensive debate, legislators chartered "East Lansing." The city's first paved road, Michigan Avenue, was completed in 1916, and the police and fire departments were established in 1921 and 1924. East Lansing experienced its greatest growth between 1950 and 1960 when its land area tripled and its population increased by 50 percent.