Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 22, 2007, pg. 8
As the new N. Eaton St. bridge nears completion, people have been asking what that big round cement slab is just north and west of the bridge. That was once the site of a manufactured gas storage tank which supplied our town with “coal gas,” used in cooking and heating. Natural gas wasn’t available yet and so we had to produce our own before World War II.
The site housing the maintenance yard of SEMCO Energy at 216 N. Eaton St. was originally the production plant complex of the Albion Gas and Coke Company, organized in 1898. Coal was used to fire the ovens used in making manufactured gas. The company obtained a franchise with the City of Albion, and after some ownership changes, became known as the Albion Gas Light Company.
The original plant along the east side of N. Eaton St. was replaced with a larger one on the same site in 1927 which opened in March, 1928. A history of the firm declared, “This consisted of a unit type oven plant of 12 ovens, a new process in the gas industry, a 300,000 cubic foot all-welded holder, a double district governor, a new brick boiler, condenser, wash room and works office building. There were installed two 70 horsepower boilers, a double condenser, 2 exhausters, tar extractor, scrubber, 3 section purifier and a positive rotary meter.” The following year (1929), increased demand for gas resulted in the new plant being enlarged.
In 1944, the Albion Gas Light Company was purchased by Cecil Runyan and Dr. Arthur Dewing. Runyan was made vice-president and general manager of the Albion site. Through his leadership Albion switched completely over to natural gas, and abandoned the old manufactured gas process. In 1950 the Southeastern Michigan Gas Company was formed in Port Huron, and the Albion facility was merged into that in December, 1953.
Last year (2006), contaminated soil from the former manufactured gas plant grounds at 216 N. Eaton St. had to be removed in conjunction with the N. Eaton St. bridge project. From our Historical Notebook this week is a photograph circa 1930, showing the Albion Gas Light Company gas manufacturing plant site. The view looks northeast from N. Eaton St. Notice the large gas storage container on the right. This had an adjustable top, which moved up and down to provide adequate gas pressure for the gas lines. On the far left is the original brick office building, now scheduled for demolition. Just left of center is a 90-foot high brick smokestack. It was demolished in 1969. The empty space in the foreground is where the business office building was later erected. Here customers paid their bills and ordered repairs until it was closed in March, 1998.
In the distance can be seen the old Union Steel Products, Albion Chemical Works, and Albion Bolt Company building which was destroyed by fire in 1931. During last week of March this year, City of Albion workers removed the foundations of that building, located just south of the two billboards along Michigan Ave, as part of a landscaping project. For a history of that building, see our article entitled “Albion Chemical Works” of August 14, 2005, now published on the www.Albionmich.com website.
The Albion Gas Light Company Gas Manufacturing Plant Site
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic