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.

COMPANY HOUSING, Part 2

Morning Star, October 18, 2015, pg. 12

Continuing with our topic of "Company Housing" from last week, the 1939 survey and report by George G. Fassnacht entitled "Home Hygiene and Sanitary Survey in Albion, Michigan," was sponsored by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the Calhoun County Health Department. It contains some very interesting information about the condensed "Foreign Settlement" located just north of the Albion Malleable Iron Company on the site which later became the Company office and parking lot (1944) and McAuliffe Park.

Fassnacht’s description of the sanitary situation there gives us an understanding of the conditions that existed at that time for people living there before public housing became available. Printed here for our readers are some excerpts from the report.

Fassnacht writes (Pg. 10): "The Albion Malleable Iron Company owns twenty-nine houses in the district covered by this survey. They are built on company land. They are all frame structures constructed from the same plan. The present tenants are mostly negroes from the lower pay brackets, although old country whites (Polish and Russian) occupy some of the dwellings."

"These houses by no means constitute all of the poor hygiene conditions, but they are typical of the worse classes. The company would like to get rid of them. They are a nuisance and are hardly a moneymaking proposition. But under present conditions there is no pressure to have the buildings razed, and there is no chance of sale. Furthermore, there is no other place where the tenants can get homes."

"In practically all of these six room houses the shed on the back has been converted into a kitchen, and in many the two upstairs rooms are used for housekeeping by a second family. None of these upper rooms have running water. At the present time twelve of these homes have their water furnished under pressure from the Company well. The others get city water, it if hasn’t been turned off for non-payment."

"Any self respecting house that was not fortunate enough to have a sewer connection would at least expect to have a cesspool, but not so in this territory. House after house discharged sink wastes and slop at the back door. Some houses, where a family co-occupied the second floor, were equipped with a kind of downspout to help direct the water. At other houses which were not so well supplied, liquid wastes were thrown from the nearest window, and let the spray fall where it might."

"Sewage disposal for these Company houses is in pit privies. All other wastes are spilled on the ground. The privies are in poor shape and by no means sanitary, but the Company does see that the pits are cleaned out. It is in this type of home where we still find kerosene lighting. More than 10% of the homes visited do not have electricity. Many homes that are wired still do not use electricity. At least two houses are using stoves without benefit of a chimney."

"The housing shortage in Albion seems to be such that a tenant cannot tell his landlord to fix it up or he will move. Even men in the salaried class who are willing and able to pay more rent cannot find suitable houses when the landlord refuses to fix a sewer that backs up into the basement."

From our Historical Notebook this week we present two photographs from this discourse. The first shows a Company house and is captioned: "Company house showing shed kitchen and privy. By virtue of location and use, this view shows the front of the house." The picture, dated August 2, 1939, identifies it as House No. 15. The 1939 Albion City Directory lists Roosevelt Williams as the occupant of that structure.

The second photograph shows a pipe carrying sink slop waste flowing on the ground on the left side of an unidentified Company house.

These Company houses were demolished when a new Malleable office building was erected on the site in 1944. In 1945 trailers were placed just north of there, but eventually they too were removed in 1949 and McAuliffe Park was developed on that site in the early 1950s. How many of our readers remember the "Company houses" on N. Albion St. or along Austin Avenue?


Company Housing August, 1939. No. 15. Roosevelt Williams home


Company house showing shed, kitchen, and privy.

Next: THE ORIGINS OF THE ALBION PUBLIC SCHOOLS


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