Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 13, 2016, pg. 9
What to call the former Albion High School building on Watson St. has been problematic in recent months for obvious reasons. But, I read in one of the Albion Recreation Departmentís recent leaflets that the facility is being called the Albion Community Center. Now, THAT is a name that hasnít been heard in this town for 72 years. You see, we once did have an Albion Community Center. It was located at 105 E. Erie St. in the building formerly known as the Womanís Christian Temperance Union building.
Some historical background: Albion took an active lead in the ever-growing temperance movement in the late 19th century. Much of Albionís participation was due to the efforts of two Albion College professors: Samuel Dickie (1851-1925), and Frederic S. Goodrich (1865-1948). Dickie, an Albion Mayor (1897) and later president of Albion College (1901-1925) gained a reputation as a scholar and a dynamic orator. His scientific analysis of the liquor problem made him a nationwide authority. In fact, the Prohibition Party National Committee was headquartered here in Albion during the 1890s! Goodrich of course, served on the faculty of Albion College for 43 years, and was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Michigan on the Prohibition Party ticket in 1900 and 1942. Goodrich Chapel was named in his memory.
The W.C.T.U. building was erected in 1905 at 105 E. Erie St. behind "Bullenís Big Busy Store." It served as the local headquarters of this national group which successfully pushed for the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. It was used as a meeting place for many Albion groups, such as churches and schools, which often held banquets in its basement, or conducted classes there during the week. During the 1906-07 school year, the Albion Public Schools used it for classes while the high school was being rebuilt. During World War I, the Red Cross placed sewing machines in the auditorium there for sewing. Quoting from a Recorder article, "The W.C.T.U was the first place in Albion to provide public rest rooms, first to sponsor work of a public nurse, first to think of providing milk for undernourished children, and was used by country pupils in high school here as a place to eat noonday lunches."
In the 1930s, other newer facilities in town siphoned off events that formerly would have been held at the W.C.T.U. building, and the use of the building waned. In the Fall of 1941, the Albion Recreation Department, operated jointly by the City of Albion and the Albion Public Schools, took over the building and secured a five-year lease from the W.C.T.U. For three years it served as Albionís Recreation and Community Center.
Unfortunately the building suffered a disastrous fire on December 18, 1944. The damage was $40,000 but it was insured for only $2,500. It was never rebuilt, although plans and sketches were made for a new $230,000 replacement building on the site. Despite repeated attempts at other locations and even fundraisers being held, Albion has never had a community center since then-until now. We applaud the recent efforts to make the Albion High School building available for community use, and hope this project receives the necessary funding and support needed to make it a success.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present an early 20th century photograph of the Womenís Christian Temperance Union building at 105 E. Erie St. Today it is the site of the parking lot just east of the former Sanderís Furniture building. How many of our readers plan on using our "new" Albion Community Center on Watson St.?
The Womenís Christian Temperance Union building at 105 E. Erie St. in the early 20th Century
All text copyright, 2019 © all rights reserved Frank Passic