POSTCARDS: Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens – A Delightful Oasis In Lansing

There is an oasis of quiet green in the heart of Lansing. Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens is a public park with trees, plants, flowers, and history. While it is a popular wedding venue, it remains one of the best-kept secrets in Lansing’s downtown.

Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens is a favorite spot for wedding photographers and other creatures who enjoy scenic greenery.
All photos by Jeanette Gladstone

Lansing’s Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens

The public park of Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens is located along the north side of the Grand River in downtown Lansing. It is nestled between the GM Lansing Grand River Assembly plant and the Board of Water & Light’s (BWL) central substation. It is also near the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame.

Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens were glowing with peonies when area photographer Jeanette Gladstone visited the park in early June.

Location – Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens

The address is 125 W. Malcolm X Street – at the corner of Malcolm X and S. Washington Ave. Because of its strong connection to Lansing history – and its location – the park contains a number of historical plaques that outline its past. Plaques also showcase the Lansing Board of Water & Light, General Motors, and the Grand River itself.

The Scott Sunken Garden/s was relocated in 2018 when BWL’s central substation was constructed.

The park is owned by the City of Lansing and contains two gardens – the Cooley Gardens and the Scott Sunken Gardens. Admission to the park is free to the public, although weddings require a reservation fee.

Cooley Gardens
Looking out on Cooley Gardens from within the site’s pavilion.

Cooley Gardens

The “Cooley Gardens” portion of the park was originally planted almost 100 years ago. It was rescued from neglect decades later. It includes a pavilion, park benches, picnic tables and archways that create a pleasing background for any event photographer.

It is planted with a wide variety of plants – including shrubs and perennials. It is well-maintained by those with some seriously green thumbs. For you photographers out there, the landscaping provides some great options for framing and some lush backgrounds.

Lush garden scenes await anyone taking some time to explore Cooley Gardens and Scott Sunken Gardens in downtown Lansing.

Wine Festival Coming Up in August

The Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau (GLCVB) will host its second annual “Rosé All Day wine festival in the gardens on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 11 am to 4 pm.

Prepare for the most Instagram worthy event of the year as you wander through the gardens while tasting from more than a dozen Rosé wines, accompanied with live music, local artisans and boutiques, food trucks, and drag performances by Michigan’s greatest entertainers!

– GLCVB

For more information on the wine festival, visit GLCVB’s website.

Several informational plaques can be found in the gardens, providing summaries of the site’s history.

Scott Sunken Gardens

The Scott Sunken Gardens are part of the park. Constructed in 1934 by Richard H. Scott, former president of REO Motor Car Company, the garden was originally located directly on the corner of Malcolm X St. and S. Washington Ave. – over the foundation of the former residence of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Edward Cahill.

Relocated – Scott Sunken Gardens

Renovations were made by Lansing’s garden club in 1985 and 1992. When BWL’s central substation was constructed on the site, the sunken garden was moved to its current location in 2018. Its architecture is unique and highly photogenic.

Scott Sunken Gardens
Scott Sunken Gardens was originally located on the foundation

Weddings – Cooley Gardens & Scott Sunken Gardens

Outdoor weddings, and wedding photographs, are the gardens’ main draw. The setting is unique, scenic, lush, and has an intimate feel. Weddings at both gardens can be booked in advance by contacting Lansing’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Lansing’s public park featuring Cooley Gardens and Scott Sunken Gardens is a lush getaway in the heart of Lansing.

Hours of Operation

The gardens are open seven days a week – from 7 am to 7 pm. The park, with an adjacent parking lot, is located at 125 W. Malcolm X St. in Lansing. For more information, call (517) 483-4277.


Jeanette Gladstone, born and raised in Lansing, took all the photos for this article. She a long-time fan of both photography and finding cool spots to explore in the great state of Michigan.

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