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.

G.A.R. HALL DEMOLISHED IN 1960

Morning Star, September 9, 2012, pg. 11

I am looking forward to seeing everyone at my Albion History Booth at the Festival of the Forks in front of Citizens Bank on Saturday, September 22. I'll have my Albion history books and other materials available. Hope to see you there!

With the Moose building being demolished, another landmark in downtown Albion is being removed. That building got its start in the 1860s as the Commercial Hotel, and lasted over 140 years. I wonder what building will be next for demolition? There was one demolished building in particular in downtown Albion that I wish could have been saved.

Union veterans of the Civil War formed a national organization called the Grand Army of the Republic following that War. Posts were established across the country, including here in Albion. The E. W. Hollingsworth Post No. 210 of the GAR was organized here in Albion on December 26, 1883 with 29 charter members. Soon over 200 veterans joined the local Post. Large Decoration Day parades were conducted by the local GAR for many years and ceremonies were conducted by them at Riverside Cemetery. Soldiers' graves were decorated by the GAR and the Woman's Relief Corps of the GAR with flowers and markers.

Our local GAR met twice monthly above 317 S. Superior St. for many years in the late 19th century. As its members became older however, they complained about having to climb the long flight of stairs up to their meeting room. So a fundraising campaign was held, and the GAR erected a building of their own in 1901-02 with first-floor headquarters. The new GAR Hall was located at 114 E. Erie St.

The GAR rented out the second floor of the Hall during the 1910s and 1920s as an income producer, to fledgling churches and for special meetings. For example, the December 5, 1912 Albion Recorder newspaper reported that the Free Methodists were holding meetings there.

As the members became older and were physically unable to carry out their traditions, the local practice of a Memorial Day parade was handed over to Spanish-American War veterans, and to the Boy Scouts. The duties were subsequently handed over to our local American Legion, and continues so today. The remaining members of the local GAR sold their building to the Methodist Church in 1929 and thereby disbanded. The Church used it as an annex until moving to the new church in the Goodrich Chapel complex in 1958.

With the move to the new church in 1958, the old GAR Hall thereby became vacant and was boarded up along with the adjoining old church. What to do with the old deteriorating church and GAR hall became problematic. On September 16, 1959, Cecil A. Runyan came to the rescue and announced that he had purchased the old church and GAR hall for $27,000 as the site for a new Southeastern Michigan Gas Company building. Runyan was president of SEMGC. The gas company proudly announced they were going to erect a new building on the site which would have included a demonstration kitchen and a small auditorium. The auditorium was to be available for public meetings when not in use by the company.

Wrecking operations occurred several months later, in April 1960, and the old GAR Hall was demolished along with the church. Strangely however, no SEMGC building was ever erected on the site. The site remained vacant for several years. Hmmm. Instead, Maple City Auto constructed a very small building in 1967 as a car sales site and turned it into an auto lot. That building is still on the property today, but Wolf's Auto Repair was constructed in front, on the site of the old GAR Hall in recent years.

Not too many towns have GAR halls remaining today. Neighboring Marshall is fortunate to have saved theirs from demolition, and it is used as headquarters for their area Sons of the Union Veterans. It's too bad Albion's GAR Hall was demolished. From our Historical Notebook we present an April, 1960 photo of the old GAR hall (on the right) being demolished, along with the old Methodist Church (on the left). How many of our readers remember these buildings?


April, 1960 photo of the old GAR hall being demolished

Next: RECOLLECTIONS OF PIONEERING ALBION


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