Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 6, 2007, pg. 6
It is interesting to see the work being done on the Kalamazoo River Walk through town. It weaves its way through some historic areas that go back to the beginnings of our community. One common denominator walkers will be able to observe is the Kalamazoo River wall.
This amazing feature is not a natural deposit of rocks formed by a receding glacier during the ice-age, but rather, was man-made. The wall was one of numerous “make-work” local programs funded by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression of the 1930s. These programs put local men to work, and there were numerous such projects accomplished here in town.
The local impetus and leadership for Albion’s Depression “building boom” was none other than Mayor Norman H. Wiener (1891-1962), once dubbed as “Albion’s Most Go-Gettingest Mayor.” Mayor Wiener had a knack for securing state and federal funds for our town when others couldn’t--making him the envy of mayors across the state who wondered how he consistently did it. I heard one story of how Wiener waited patiently on the steps of the State Capitol in Lansing until an influential legislator walked out the door so Wiener could persuade him to approve funding legislation for Albion. That might not be a bad idea to try again today.
Some of the projects built during Wiener’s years as Mayor included the river wall, the Victory Park Band Shell, the tennis courts, the 1940 brick Superior St., and his most prominent funding-secured building project, City Hall. How many our readers had parents or grandparents who were employed at some time working on these projects during the Great Depression?
The Kalamazoo River wall was a masterpiece. The wall was carefully laid throughout town, beginning from the S. Superior St. bridge by Riverside Cemetery, all the way to just west of N. Eaton St. The centerpiece of this practical boundary-setter was the intricate work done in Victory Park. If you look closely, you’ll see smaller stones used for some of the decorative sidewalk bridges, and the small “lovers’ lane” pond adjacent to the waterfall. In fact, the beautiful scene at this point was pictured on the front cover of Albion’s pictorial promotional book produced in 1939.
I took a walk recently along that stretch of river wall, and found the date of March 30, 1938 etched on top with the initials “LDS.” Up and down that same stretch, the paw prints of some wayward canine have also been immortalized in the cement.
Alas, the Kalamazoo River wall has seen 70 years of wear and tear, to the point where sections have caved in or are missing stones, even in highly visible parts by City Hall and by the new N. Eaton St. bridge by the Gas Company. It is too bad that the funding for the River Walk didn’t include repairing the River wall. It really needs repair all through town. Could that project be taken on by some civic minded club(s) who could volunteer to work on a particular section if the cement was supplied? From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of a missing section of river wall in Victory Park. When will this be repaired?
Finally, as people walk the River Walk, they’ll be able to view many of Wiener’s Depression-era funded accomplishments. Wouldn’t it therefore be most appropriate if the River Walk was named after Albion Mayor Norman H. Wiener? It would be a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for Albion and whose work is still with us today as it parallels the Kalamazoo River walk. Speak to your Albion City Councilperson about this, or at a Council meeting.
The river wall in Victory Park on April 23, 2007
Next: MALLORY STREET
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic