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.

CITY HALL BUILT ON DONATED LAND

Morning Star, March 15, 2009, pg. 13

Albion will soon have a new fire station, built to replace the one erected in 1933-36. Albion’s present City Hall/Fire Station complex was built at a cost of $225,000. Albion Mayor Norman H. Wiener aggressively secured Federal “stimulus” Depression-era funds from the C.W.A. (Civil Works Administration), the E.R.A. (Emergency Relief Administration), and the W.P.A (Works Progress Administration).

City Hall was built on land donated in 1933 by Harry Parker, president of the Albion Malleable Iron Company. The Malleable was originally located on the site and Mr. Parker retained ownership of the land even after the company moved to N. Albion St. in 1898. The Parker-Kessler Block on the corner of Superior and Cass Sts. had been erected in 1900, and the City Hall site was what was left of the original Malleable complex.

Excavation began on November 23, 1933 and work continued into the following year. In mid-1934 however, the CWA turned the project over to the state ERA, and the money ran out in early September of 1934. Mayor Wiener persuaded the workers to work without pay for a few days while negotiations with the State of Michigan continued. In an interesting sidelight, the limestone used for the exterior at City Hall was also used for the exterior at St. John’s Catholic Church, erected during the same period.

Although funding and work was resumed, Albion’s City Hall project became a political target in the 1934 elections. The Detroit Free Press published an article in October of that year depicting the project as an example of wasteful government spending. The article charged the construction was defective. More importantly, it predicted that the high retaining wall separating the building from the Kalamazoo River would collapse, sending City Hall into the River with it. The wall had been constructed in October, 1933 by local contractor Perry T. Sharp. Note: Seventy years later, the wall, and City Hall, I might add, are still there, at least the last time I looked. In an interesting sidelight, the site donor, Mr. Parker worked out an agreement with the City to share the new boiler at City Hall to help heat the Parker-Kessler block next door.

On December 28, 1934 funds ran out again and work was again halted. Mayor Wiener then spent the next several months lobbying the WPA for more funding while the project lay idle. He finally gained their approval, and completion work began on October, 30, 1935. The first “office” to open at City Hall was the jail cell block. It was used for the first time on January 25, 1936. I wonder who the first prisoner was? The rest of City Hall opened on Thursday, May 7, 1936 at which time a dedication ceremony was held.

From our Historical Notebook we present a late 1930s-era photo of City Hall and the Fire Station on the west side.


1930 era: City Hall and the Fire Station

Next: FIRE STATION SERVED DIFFERENT SIZE TRUCKS


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