Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 15, 2006, pg. 6
The summer-long patching and painting of the huge building housing Sanders Furniture on the corner of S. Superior and E. Erie Sts. certainly was a big undertaking. It has been good to see the investment made in downtown Albion this past summer by several merchants who have been fixing up their buildings. The Sanders building has seen many uses over the years. It’s most prominent period, however, was in the first three decades of the 20th century when it was known as Bullen’s Big Busy Store. This was a multi-floor department store which was very popular and attracted shoppers from all around Southern Michigan. It was operated by George T. Bullen (1867-1933), a very prominent citizen who served as president of the Albion Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Michigan Retail Dry Goods Association.
Bullen purchased the “Brockway Block” as it was originally erected, in October, 1903. After remodeling over the winter, a “Grand Opening” was held in March, 1904. The local paper reported, “Bullen’s Opening. The opening to the public of Bullen’s new store was a great occasion not only in a social way, but also as indicating an important landmark in the commercial progress of our city. Still at the opening hour of 7:30 there was a great crush about the door as if an exhibition of most unusual interest was to be open. The 400 carnations were gone in about four minutes it seemed...The front show windows are a foot longer than any in Detroit.” All four floors (including the basement) were utilized, each measuring 115 x 45 feet. The store closed during the Great Depression. Eventually the A & P grocery was in the building for many years before it moved to its S. Eaton St. quarters in 1954.
The Brockway Block was originally brick. How and when did it get the “plastered” look to hide the bricks it now features? This occurred from October 31 to December 13, 1921, when local plasterers, Trine & Sons, (Lewis, Clarence, Clyde, Dayton, Floyd, and Leon) applied “Kellastone” to the George Bullen Company building. This is the same surface that was recently repaired and repainted.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present the classic photograph of the Trine workers on scaffolds, preparing to apply the Kellastone to the brick Brockway Block. George Bullen is standing below in the center. Notice the large storefront windows on both the first and second floors, and the windows elsewhere which helped give the building decorative character. Today, they are all boarded up. Oh, there was once also one of those “fire escape” stairways mounted to the side of the building; this was removed in the 1960s.
The Trine workers on scaffolds, George Bullen is standing below in the center.
Next: LOUISA BLODGETT McGEE
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic