Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 7, 2019, pg. 3
This summer one of Albionís major thoroughfares, Irwin Avenue (originally Homer Road), will be reconstructed and repaved. It is a long time coming, and the project will include installing a 12-inch water main the entire mile and a quarter length of the street. The condition of Irwin Avenue has been deplorable for many years, and this extensive project is welcomed by both residents, and drivers alike in Albion and beyond. After whom was Irwin Avenue named?
Samuel V. Irwin (1823-1890) was a native of New York state, and came to Albion in the 1850s. He went into partnership with George Hannahs (Albionís first Mayor), operating a furniture store called Hannahs & Irwin. In 1859 he started the private banking firm of Mayhew & Irwin at 300 S. Superior St. with Ira Mayhew, continuing it for five years. In 1865 he organized the National Exchange Bank of Albion which began operations on January 1, 1866, and served as its president until his death. His obituary stated, "Mr. Irwin was one of the early citizens of Albion and has always been highly respected for sterling business practices."
Irwin owned considerable land in the southwest portion of the city where he operated a fruit tree farm. An 1876 advertisement stated, "The undersigned has for delivery more than 50,000 apple and pear trees grown upon his farm in the Village of Albion." His home was at 103 Irwin Ave., and is still standing today. In 1883, the Albion Village Council changed the name of Homer Road to Irwin Avenue in his honor. In politics, he was a staunch Republican. An 1897 article stated, "Mr. S. V. Irwin in his lifetime was recognized throughout the state as one of the political war horses of the Republican Party."
Irwin was active in community affairs and served on the first board of education of the new Union Schools of Albion in 1867. He was appointed to the board of Albion College in 1866 by the Governor of Michigan. He was also an officer of the Albion Fair Ground Association at its incorporation in 1886. He was a member of the St. James Episcopal Church and served as a Vestryman from 1857 to 1885. Irwin was one of the original stockholders of the Albion Malleable Iron Company in 1889. He also was a partner in the flour mill of Knickerbocker & Irwin, formerly the Jesse Crowell Stone Mill.
He died suddenly on February 13, 1890. Following his death, his farmland was subdivided and platted into residential areas, such as Crandall St., Mechanic St., Adams St., Lincoln St., and others. His son, Frank L. Irwin (1863-1947), who served as Albionís postmaster from 1898 to 1910, was in charge of selling off the land. The Irwin home subsequently became the home of Albion merchant George Bullen, and during the 1920s it was the Sheldon Hospital nursesíhome.
Unfortunately, there are no living descendants of Samuel V. Irwin, nor any identified photograph of him. In lieu of such, From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1894 photograph of Irwin Avenue looking west from Superior St. The Irwin house with its decorative tower (now removed) is on the left. Several large elegant houses are already present on this street, then unpaved and uncurbed. How many of our readers have driven on Irwin Avenue recently?
Irwin Avenue, 1894
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic