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.

ALBION CHEMICAL WORKS

Morning Star, August 14, 2005, pg. 4

With the recent purchase by the City of Albion of the property on the west side of N. Clinton St. north of the Kalamazoo River all the way to Michigan Avenue for possible future use, we thought our readers might like to know some of the history of this land. We’d like to focus on the northern part, where the two billboards sit today. If you look under the billboards, you’ll see the foundations of an old building. This was a prominent industrial site in the early 20th century, closely tied to Albion’s involvement in the auto industry which helped make Albion a factory town.

An industrial structure was erected here in 1902 as the site of the Olds & Hough (Wallace Olds and David M. Hough) engine works, a manufacturer of gasoline engines. Although this firm was located here only a short time, the building it left behind served as an ideal place to locate a business. In October 1905, the Union Steel Screen Company moved here from Jackson, and this was the original Albion site of Union Steel until it moved to N. Berrien St. in 1907.

At that time the building was purchased by the Albion Chemical Works, which had a dual address of 201 W. Michigan Avenue and 215 N. Clinton St. The firm produced oil and grease compounds, sweeping compounds, liquid soap, disinfectants, house and barn paints (which at the time would have contained lead), and stock and poultry foods and remedies. President of the firm was Bruce M. Warner; Edward Beebe was vice-president; Adrian Cooper secretary and treasurer; with Harold B. Weeks serving as plant superintendent.

One advertisement stated, “Why send to foreign parts for Automobile oils and greases and pay the middleman’s profit? Direct to You from us. Drive right up to our door, corner Michigan Ave and Clinton St. We will fill your gallon, 5 gallon, 10 gallon can or sell you a 1/2 barrel or barrel.”

To the west of the main plant was another building, presumably the main office. This also served as the site of Albion’s first Pentecostal church, the Albion Assembly of God, in 1918. See the September 24, 1995 edition of this column for that information.

After the end of World War I, the Chemical Works folded. At that time, the Albion Bolt Works moved to the building from its former N. Clark St. location. This company was originally started in 1916 as an offshoot of the Hayes Wheel Company, also located on N. Clark St. At that time the auto industry desperately needed bolts and nuts As orders increased, they became cramped at their original location. The Albion Realty Company and the Albion Chamber of Commerce arranged for the plant to move to this new location on N. Clinton St. in the former Chemical building.

By the early 1920s, it was employing 125 persons, with an annual payroll of $260,000. It was one of the largest such concerns in the auto industry, and produced 125 million bolts in 1922. President of the firm was Mark Merriman, with C.B. Hayes as vice-president. W.D. Brundage served as the general manager, with Cleve C. Watson as the factory manager. In 1922 the operations expanded and the company purchased the Albion Iron & Metal property of Norman H. Wiener to the south.

In 1927, the Albion Bolt Company was moved back to the Hayes Wheel (then Kelsey-Hayes) plant on N. Clark St. In August of that year, some of the equipment at the old Albion Bolt site was purchased by the Decker Screw Products Company and moved to their new building it was erecting on N. Clark St. The old Albion Bolt building remained vacant after that. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1931, and only the foundation by the billboards remain which remind us of the industries that were once located here.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the south side of the Albion Bolt Company building circa 1920. There apparently is a well being drilled, as we can see the drilling truck and equipment in the foreground. Notice the fresh, clean water pouring out of the small drilling hole. We wonder what one would find if drilling occurred there today?


The Albion Bolt Company building circa 1920

Next: RUSSELL FURNACE FOUNDRY


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