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.

BASEMENT BUSINESSES

Morning Star, September 15, 2013, pg. 14

This coming Saturday, September 21 is our annual Festival of the Forks. Yours truly will have his Albion history booth in front of First Merit Bank at 205 S. Superior St. Be sure and stop by and see what I have to offer, and to let those visiting from out-of-town know about my booth, too. I'll have copies of both "Growing Up in Albion," and "Albion in Review" available. I also hope to have a big surprise at my booth but it is premature for me to make any official announcement yet and to get my autograph pen out. Drop by and find out.

When we think of downtown Albion, we think about all the businesses that once were open there. In looking at each building we can even imagine some businesses or offices being located on the 2nd floor above the merchants. Many "office" type businesses, particularly doctors and dentists, once dotted the 2nd floors of downtown Albion. This past year the Albion Community Foundation moved from the 2nd floor to the main floor. Did you know however that downtown Albion once had a handful of basement businesses?

Many years ago when Albion was booming and space was at a premium, some entrepreneurs set up shop in the basements of downtown buildings. They were accessed by an outside stairway from the sidewalk.

Two particular locations that had basement businesses were across the street from one another. In the huge Eslow block in the basement was the barber shop of Frank M. Pierce (1872-1955) at 216 S. Superior St. It was located below the Kroger store which was on the main floor. Many Albionites remember the protective top railing that had sharp points on it to keep people from sitting on the railing. Mr. Pierce operated his barber shop at this location for 20 years before retiring in 1949.

Across the street at 300 S. Superior St. in the basement was the Albion News Agency, run by Alfred J. Marble (1886-1962) beginning around 1920 to 1954. The 1923 Albion City Directory cleverly lists the address as 300 . This firm had a long history. In the 1917-18 Albion City Director it was called the Daines Brothers Newspaper Agency, run by Leo and Ralph Daines. They apparently sold it to Clyde Bacon, who sold it to Mr. Marble. The Albion News Agency handled the local delivery of various newspapers such as the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Times, the Battle Creek Enquirer and News, and the Jackson Citizen Patriot. It also offered magazines and subscriptions. Imagine carrying newspaper bundles up-and-down the steps every day to prepare them for local delivery. Marble sold the business to Oscar D'Haem in 1954, who continued to operate it through 1960 at that location.

As Albion entered the 1960s, the City of Albion made a determination to eliminate the underground coal "bunkers" under Albion's downtown sidewalks during its new sidewalk project in 1962. This also included filling in the outside entrances to the basement businesses. Thus ended their existence.

From our Historical Notebook we present a 1940 photograph taken during the brick street reconstruction. It shows the news agency sign painted on the side of the building at 300 S. Superior St. where the steps were that led to basement business on the W. Porter St. side. How many of our readers remember the basement news agency located here?


1940s Newspaper Agency during brick street reconstruction

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