Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, March 25, 2001, pg. 10

It is interesting to study the history of our downtown buildings. One building that is going to undergo extensive remodeling in the near future into a children’s museum is the old the J.C. Penney store at 301 S. Superior St. That national retail chain was located at this site from March 26, 1930 until its closure in 1981. Did you know, however, that this building used to be brick and was three stories tall? Penney’s chopped off the top floor in the fall of 1954 as part of an extensive $50,000 remodeling project. It covered the brick with large ivory-color porcelain tiles, and placed mosaic tiles in the entranceway and front window display areas. The new "modern looking" store opened on March 3, 1955 and the appearance of the building has remained practically the same since.

The building was erected in 1879 as the Dalrymple Block, named after its owner, Charles W. Dalrymple (1838-1907). Dalrymple served the longest on the Albion Public School board for a record 39 consecutive years, and was a local dry goods merchant. He was Albion’s Civil War postmaster 1861-1866, and our post office was located in two previous wooden buildings on this site from the 1850s to January 1, 1867.

Dalrymple rented his two first floor storefronts to various merchants, the first being a grocery store operated by Nathaniel Davis which opened on October 1, 1879. Long-time downtown merchant George Bullen operated his dry goods store in the south half briefly in the late 1890s before moving to his permanent location on the corner of Superior and Erie Sts. In the early 20th century through the 1920s, the first floor housed the Albion Gas Light Company (301), and the Albion Confectionary (303) run by Greeks Spera Andritsakes and Nicholas Kostianes. The third floor of the Dalrymple Block was used for storage. The building was eventually acquired by furniture dealer Thirza A. Roudenbush, who rented the building to Penney’s beginning in 1930.

Of interest for our readers this week however is the second floor. For many years it was the headquarters of various photography studios, beginning with Julius A. Ball from approximately when the building opened in late 1879 to 1885. He was followed by Frank H. Nix in 1885-86, then McIntire & Richardson (1887-1890), and finally photographer Burgess from 1891 to 1897. If you’ve got old family photographs with the names of these photographers on them, they were taken in the Dalrymple Block.

During the early 20th century the second floor was the meeting place of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal Lodge that was popular from the 1880s to World War II. The local chapter No. 57 was formed on June 4, 1885, and the uniform rank Apollo Company No. 23 was formed a year later. The group often dressed in their regalia and performed competitively as a drill team. There also was a Phythian Sisters chapter, the Superior Temple No. 87 which was organized in 1910. For many years there was a decorative sign bearing a large letter "K" that was mounted in the front of the Dalrymple Block just outside a second story window.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1907 postcard photograph of the Dalrymple Block, with part of the Opera House building on the left which we are showing to compare the sizes of the buildings. Notice the stores all had awnings in front. On the left of course in the Opera House Block is the H. H. Sheldon Drug Store. Next in the Dalrymple Block is the Albion Gas Light Company, and then a Wallpaper firm (which preceded Albion Confectionary). Notice the ornamental gas lights in front of the Albion Gas Light Company.

Dalyrmple Block 1907


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