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.

INTERURBAN OFFICE BUILDING 100 YEARS OLD

Morning Star, March 16, 2003, pg. 5.

One could now write a book about all the things that have happened to Albion over the last two years. The unfortunate closing of Save-A-Lot at 3 pm on Saturday, March 8 after their lease expired continues that saga. Many Albionites remember when this was once the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A & P) Grocery store that opened its new “supermarket” on the site in 1954. We once again turn to our city leaders to see if a wrong can be righted. Many are suspiciously watching to see how this unexpected closing will “play out” in the months to come, and who or what will end up owning the land and building. In the meantime, it admittedly looks like some people will now be driving (if they can) to other towns to do their bargain grocery shopping.

It was exactly 100 years ago this month (March) that the Interurban office building was erected. This building is still standing today along the north side of Austin/Michigan Avenue just west of 27 Mile Road. It bears a metal roof which probably saved it from earlier deterioration, and is surrounded by overgrowth.

It was in the spring of 1903 that the electric Interurban railway officially began operating through town. Originally known as the Jackson, Battle Creek Traction Company, this was a railroad that was powered by electric wires overhead, or by a live “third rail” out in the country. The tracks through downtown Albion ran right down the center of Erie and Superior Sts. This past fall the remaining wooden ties and spikes were removed from the 100 block of E. Erie St., having been placed there 100 years ago when they were installed in 1902. The tracks still lie buried underneath Austin Avenue from a point just west of Bilicke’s Auto, out to just past the Holy Ascension Orthodox Church.

During the month of April 1903, workers were busy finishing up the brick car barns, where the interurban cars were repaired, maintained, and painted over the next two decades. Side tracks ran from the main line to the repair buildings. The 20 acres of land had been purchased in December, 1902 from farmer John J. Hurley. The overall facility became known as “Taylorville,” named after the superintendent of the operations there, Robert Taylor. The long, slender building that remains today that is the subject of this week’s topic served as the office, and supply facility for the operations on the site.

The first interurban rail passenger car passed through Albion on Monday, March 30, 1903. This “first ride” was actually powered by a steam engine, as the electric apparatus network had yet to be completed. The car operated daily between Albion and Marshall for several weeks due to legal reasons in order to keep the franchise in Marshall, until the details for completing the line were finished. The first car to run on its own electric power ran through Albion on Saturday evening, May 16, 1903 in an attempt to see if everything was in proper working order. It was. Later that same evening a car was successfully run from Albion to Battle Creek, and regular service officially began. A car regularly left Albion for Battle Creek and back once an hour. Later that year the interurban rails to Jackson were completed. There were numerous daily round trips between the cities, by either “local” cars which stopped at numerous points along the way, or by “limited” cars which stopped at only a few points, thus decreasing travel time.

With the advent of the automobile, people used the interurban less and less in the 1920s, and passenger service was discontinued on November 30, 1928. Freight service ended on June 1, 1929, and the tracks were torn up in early 1930 over most of the route. The “Taylorville” facility was closed, and other businesses used the site in subsequent years.

Somehow, the Interurban office building has survived. Although abandoned today, this building stands as a reminder of a popular mode of transportation from a century ago. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a recent photograph of the old Interurban Office building erected 100 years ago this month. It’s too bad that something positive couldn’t be done with this historical building. Any ideas?


Interurban office in 2003

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