Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 17, 2016, pg. 10
With the Rieger Park pond project being a failure for both swimming (too weedy and stagnant water) and ice skating (a flowing spring prevents total freezing in winter), youth in Albion have again turned to the dam above the waterfall in Victory Park to cool off during the summer months. It would be nice if the Rieger Park pond could at least have a liner placed at the bottom to curb the weed growth.
Albion once had an outdoor municipal swimming area from 1914 to 1957 called Dutchtown. It was located in the Kalamazoo River on the east side of S. Hannah St. just south of the Albion College athletic field. We have written several articles about this favorite swimming hole in previous editions of this column.
This week from our Historical Notebook we present a real treat. It is an early 1920s photograph of pristine Dutchtown which came to us via the Field family. The Field family were active Methodists, and Frank Field was a Methodist minister. His sister Nellie Field (1889-1978) shot this photograph. A graduate of Albion College, Nellie taught music at Albion College and privately. She also played the organ at the local Methodist and Presbyterian Churches for many years. This scene shows Nellie’s nieces, Doris and Esther Field in the water below. The College canoe house is on the left.
On the back of the photograph Nellie wrote a description of Dutchtown which we are sharing with our readers as an early "first hand" account of this popular Albion swimming site. We quote: "Here’s our ‘swimming hole.’ This is a good sized block from our house [NOTE: 304 S. Hannah St.], just beyond the athletic field. The picture is taken from the Hannah St. bridge. That streak across the bottom is the top rail on the bridge. The steps at the right lead off from a platform at the other end of which is a little house with compartments for the changing of clothes."
"Where the little girls are is the beginning of a mill race. The water that goes through the dam, flows past the other side of the bath house, past our recently acquired city park [NOTE: Victory Park] and into the Kalamazoo River which comes into town from the southwest. There is another dam over there which divides off another race, used for electric power, I think. We have to cross three bridges when we go downtown by Erie St. as we usually go. The water in this stream is rather cold, but one has the satisfaction of feeling that it is clean."
Today, the remains of Dutchtown are nearly gone, but many of our elderly residents still remember swimming there when they young under the auspices of the Albion Recreation Department during the summer months. Wherever you choose to swim this summer, enjoy the water and stay safe!
An early 1920s photograph of pristine Dutchtown
Doris and Esther Field, Florence Field and Ruth Hembdt.
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic