Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 15, 2001, pg. 6
A reminder: We’ve just added more Historical Notebook articles to our internet site at: www.albionmich.com. Click on the Albion History Directory and navigate your way to some interesting articles and photographs about Albion’s rich history.
It was interesting to read recently of the $250,000 in loan funds designated to purchase properties for redevelopment in the W. Porter St. "corridor" as it has been called. This is one of the historic blocks in our downtown district that has certainly seen better days. The entire north side of the 100 block of W. Porter St. was once owned by the prosperous Eslow family, which erected several buildings there. Champion (1815-1880) and his son James C. (1836-1918) Eslow were pioneers of our community, and it was written in 1908 that the father and son had built more buildings in Albion than any other person or firm. In addition, the wood from their lumber yard and sawmill (present site of the Albion Meat Locker in the Market Place) was used to build numerous houses throughout the community.
Most significant of course was the four-story Eslow Block erected in 1868 on the NW corner of W. Porter and S. Superior Sts. It stood as Albion’s tallest downtown building until a fire in 1919 resulted in the elimination of the top floor. To the west was their "Commercial Hotel" building (present site of the Moose Lodge) which included a catwalk that connected the two buildings. The hotel went by various names throughout its history before being closed at the end of World War I. There is so much history regarding these two buildings that we won’t even delve into that subject in this column due to space limitations.
Also erected by the Eslows on W. Porter St. were the Albion Post Office (now demolished) on the corner at S. Clinton St., the "Airdome" outdoor theatre (present site of a parking lot), and the Lottie Eslow building which is still standing. The latter was erected in memory of Lottie (Pierce) Eslow (1840-1871), an 1860 graduate of Albion College and first wife of James C. Eslow. This building was not erected until the late 1890s, but has an historic past. From the end of World War II until its closure in 1995, the building housed a laundry, which went by various names under successive owners: Albion Self Serve Laundry, Two-Hour Laundry, and Tina’s Laundry.
The first merchant in the building was shoemaker Alexander Simpson, whose name appears in the 1897-98 city directory. For most of the 20th century however, from 1917 to 1945, the first floor of the Lottie Eslow building at 110-112 W. Porter St. was the location of the Frank F. Bennett (1888-1945) tavern and pool room. Bennett was one of only two African-American businessmen in downtown Albion at the time, the other being Moses Union who operated a barber shop across the street at 107 W. Porter St. The upstairs of the Lottie Eslow building contained apartments, and the Bennetts lived there at 112˝ W. Porter St.
From our Historical Notebook we present an unusual photograph from the late 1890s showing of the erection of the Lottie Eslow building. Work has progressed to the second story windows. Bricks are stacked in front, and trees line the street. To the right is a sign stating "Hotel Callahan." John H. Callahan was proprietor of the hotel from 1895 to 1897. Notice the quaint balcony on the third floor of the hotel.
* Photo Credit Information Below
The Lottie Eslow building
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic
"Albion Historical Society Collection / Local History Room / Albion Public Library Collection"