Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, January 31, 2016, pg. 3
There are several significant 100th anniversaries in Albion this year. One of them is our local Post Office building at 307 N. Superior St. Prior to that time, beginning in 1900, our Post Office was located in the Parker-Kessler Block on the corner of Cass & Superior Sts. That’s the building that is presently being remodeled by Albion College.
Our time-reference date for this week’s article is the cornerstone-laying ceremony that was held on Friday, April 7, 1916. Site preparation and construction had begun in late 1915 by the Callahan-Mandl Construction Company of Chicago under the direction of Superintendent Roland Remley. He resigned in January 1916 to become Albion’s first City Manager, and was replaced by August Behling. The cost of the building itself was $59,000, while the property acquisition and the demolition of the F. M. Manning home and the Van Atta Hotel on the site cost $11,000. The total sum of $70,000 had been procured a few years earlier by Albion’s Congressman, the Hon. Washington Gardner (1845-1928), in one of his last bills before he left office. For many years a large portrait of our revered Congressman hung on the wall at our local Post Office.
Also involved with the construction was Lowell W. Baker (1869-1933) who was the U.S. Government consulting engineer for the project. At that time Mr. Baker was the only black person to ever hold the rank of Government consulting engineer. He moved to town in 1916 and stayed here until the Post Office was completed in June, 1917. Baker subsequently continued with his career supervising the erection of other Federal buildings. He was killed in 1933 after falling from the roof of the new Federal building in Terre Haute, Indiana while he was supervising its construction.
The local Masonic lodges were in charge of the cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1916. It included a parade and a marching band in procession playing "America." The speaker for the event was none other than Washington Gardner himself. The cornerstone was laid in the left (southeast) front corner, which today is right behind the flagpole, but is covered by bushes.
Of special interest is the list of items that were placed in that cornerstone, and are still there today: 1) A list of names of the officers of the local Masonic orders; 2) A copy of the new Albion City charter; 3) Names of city officials and officers; 4) A copy of the Albion Recorder; 5) A copy of the Albion Leader; 6) A clipping from the Jackson Citizen Press; 7) Names of officials of the Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan; 8) Names of Albion business and professional men; 9) Photographs of the Hon. Washington Gardner, his Congressional record and facts relative to the Post Office appropriation; and 10) a copy of the original appropriation bill authorizing the new building.
In addition to the aforementioned documents, there was one other special item that was placed in the cornerstone. The year 1916 was a significant one in numismatic history, as that year the United States Mint changed the designs on the 10˘, 25˘, and 50˘ silver coins. One new coin from 1916 was placed in the cornerstone of the new Albion Post Office. The literature doesn’t state what denomination. Question: Could that "new coin," uncirculated of course as implied in the list, possibly be a 1916-D "Mercury" dime now worth $12,000; or a 1916 Standing Liberty quarter worth $15,000; or a 1916 Walking Liberty Half Dollar worth $355?
Construction continued throughout 1916 and into 1917. An "open house" was held on Saturday, June 9, 1917, and the new Post Office opened for business on Monday, June 11, 1917. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the cornerstone. The text states, "William G. McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury. James A. Wetmore, Acting Supervising Architect, 1915." The stone references the date construction began (1915), not the year the cornerstone was laid and items were placed (1916), nor the year the Post Office opened (1917).
We also present a classic picture-postcard of our U.S. Post Office building shortly after it opened. Notice the stately Dutch elm trees which once graced the perimeter of the building. Sadly, these were ravaged by the Dutch elm disease in the 1950s and had to be cut down.
We wonder if there will be some sort of 100th anniversary celebration event at our local Post Office this year to commemorative this milestone. Perhaps the cornerstone could be opened and the contents inventoried and placed on display during the Festival of the Forks, and a special postal cancellation offered? In any event, feel free to wish our local postal officials a happy 100th anniversary this year when you see them at the counter. Brother, can you spare a dime? (A 1916-D one, of course).
Albion Post Office Cornerstone, July 1, 1967
Albion Post Office shortly after opening in 1917
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic