Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 9, 2000, pg. 19
In a few weeks the latest crop of Albion College seniors will receive their diplomas, and Collage will be out for the summer--after they are counted here in Albion for the U.S. Census, of course. Thanks, students, we need you. Another milestone is occurring regarding the College however, of which our readers (and even the College) perhaps might be unware.
The year 2000 is the 100th anniversary of the Albion College athletic field. This field has been extensively developed through the years, of course, and the large cement wall around it stands as a local landmark. It reminds us of the many College and community sporitng events that have been held here, including Albion High School football games through the 1960s.
In April 1900, John Winter and Dr. Oliver Lau of Detroit each supposedly gave $1,000 towards the purchas of 13 acres of land owned by the estate of Albion College’s 19th century agent, William H. Brockway. College president John P. Ashley made the announcement at the daily Chapel on Wednesday, April 25, 1900. Soon more money was pledged by various fraternities, sororities, and professors to develop the complex. This included a wooden fence around the property, installation of baseball and football fields, and other improvements. The original name of the complex was “Winter-Lau Field.”
The local paper declared, “The new field should be of great benefit to the city as well as the college, since arrangements are to be made for its use by the city baseball players during the summer and early fall. This arrangement will be particularly appreciated by the local admirers of baseball who have been deprived of seeing good games in Albion for the last few years on account of the lack of suitable grounds.”
The land was quickly developed, and Winter-Lau field was officially opened and dedicated on October 6, 1900. Albion Cllege played the Michigan Agricultural College and won 29-0. The ceremonies included a festive parade down Hannah Street with the College band, the College president, and Albion Mayor Charles W. Dalrymple riding in an open carriage.
On a sour note, the Brockway family was irked that the field was named Winter-Lau Field instead of Brockway Field. They had allowed the late Dr. Brockway’s valuable property to be sold to the COllege for its athletic use and felt they were shortchanged when the field was not named in Brockay’s memory. When interviewing a family descendant in the 1980s, this story was related to this writer. Ironically on another sour note, the Winter-Lau “gifts” turned out to be promissory notes loaned by the College itself, and both men defaulted in 1902.
From our Historical Notebook we present an early 1920s photograph of the front entrance shortly after the cement wall was constructed. Notice the built-in ticket booths. These, of course, stood for many years. In the foreground is a railroad track. No, this is not the track that is there now. This is the Interurban electric track which once ran just outside the wall where the driveway south of the regular railroad track is today. The Interurban tracks ran through what today is the Albion College Nature Center. These tracks were removed in 1932. Special thanks to Dorothy Dickerson for supplying this week’s photograph.
Perhaps Albion College could arrange for a 100th anniversary celebration of its athletic field this fall in conjunction with one of its football games. The “Michigan Agricultural College” that they played 100 years ago is now Michigan State University. Let’s invite ‘em back for a 100th anniversary rematch.
Winter-Lau Field, Albion College
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic