Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, June 22, 2003, Pg. 5
Can you believe that it has now been one decade (10 years) since our downtown Superior Street was rebricked? The $1.5 million project was a major event in Albion’s history which affected the entire community. It included detours throughout the city, the construction of a new bridge over N. Superior St., a modernized railroad crossing, and the laying of new underground utility wires. Work began on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 11 with the demolition of the N. Superior St. bridge, and the following morning workers began removing the bricks along the length of the street.
A coordinated group of local officials, the Albion Chamber of Commerce, MDOT, and others assisted with organizing, scheduling, and helping people and businesses cope with the disruption. A project coordinator, Jenny Kelly, was hired to act as a liason to all affected businesses and interested parties. Her office was located in the Albion Volunteer Service Center.
As part of a positive marketing ploy to keep customers and businesses in downtown Albion during the disruption, a slogan and logo was adopted: “Albion--Paving the Way for a Superior Future.” There was even a special commemorative postmark placed on envelopes and cards by our local postoffice with that slogan/logo. These are collectors items today. Decorative address numbers were attached to the rear of buildings, and many remain there today. Various events and promotionals were held throughout the summer months to help support the downtown businesses. One event that brought the community together was the Great American Car Race on Tuesday, July 6. These antique autos were the first to officially ride on the new pavement, and Albion garnered alot of positive pubicity and an award for showing the most enthusiasm.
As part of the project, the bricks were extended from Erie southwards to Ash St. and a new base laid so the entire length of downtown Albion would be brick. This was the result of a $331,000 grant from the Federal government and $66,200 in matching MDOT funds. Of course with a proper base, this block has since weathered the best. Compare that block today with others where the old 1940-laid cement base was kept.
It was in this added block that the rebricking first began at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, June 18. Workers began their bricklaying appropriately in front of the Albion Chamber of Commerce. Work progressed rapidly, and this 1-block section was opened to general traffic on Thursday, July 8. The section between Erie and Porter Sts. was re-opened on Friday, July 23. The part of the project that took the longest was the delicate demolition and reconstruction of the N. Superior St. bridge. From an engineering standpoint, that had to be accomplished without collapsing the adjoining buildings over the Kalamazoo River which shared the same beams and foundations with the old bridge. With the completion of the new bridge, the entire street was finally reopened on Thursday, October 14. The overall project was handled by Milbocker & Sons of Allegan, while the brick-laying was sub-contracted to the Seidl Company of Newburyport, Massachusetts.
For the record, around 400,000 Glen-Gery Bricks were used in the project. The red “K & W” colored bricks were produced at the company’s Bigler, Pennsylvania plant. They arrived in Albion on Monday, June 14, in cubes of 470 each, and measure 4 x 8 x 2¼.” The white bricks bear the company color of “W32.” For safety considerations, the new bricks had a porous texture instead of a smooth surface the 1940 bricks had. This was to help keep pedestrians from slipping. The 1940 bricks were transported to the “tree dump” on Brownswood Road where they were sold to eager buyers at 10¢ apiece.
Then-current regulations resulted in a minimal loss of some parking spaces. The parking areas were marked with white bricks, as well as pedestrian crossings and the center line. Controversy arose when the state covered over the center white brick line with double-line yellow peel-off reflective tape. In recent years the parking area has been set back even further away from the intersections at W. Center and W. Porter Sts. A traffic signal light was installed on May 6, 1993 at the intersection of S. Eaton and W. Erie Sts. to handle the increased detour traffic. This light was allowed to remain after the project and remains there today to help the traffic flow.
The project was officially ended on Sunday, October 31 with a ribbon cutting ceremony held at Bournelis Park. It was attended by a wide variety of persons associated with the project, and local citizens--all whom were thankful that the project was now over. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the first 1940 bricks being removed early in the morning on Wednesday, May 12, 1993 at the Superior and Erie Sts. intersection. How many of our readers remember the 1993 rebricking project?
The first 1940 bricks being removed
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic