Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 14, 2019, pg. 5
At a recent Albion City Council meeting there was discussion about the fate of our Victory Park waterfall dam. This landmark dates back to the very beginning of Albionís history in the 1830s. Tenney Peabody, Jesse Crowell, and others came to "The Forks" of the Kalamazoo River to harness its water which would turn wheels to grind grain, power sawmills, and later to produce electricity. The dam was built to service the "Brown Mill" on E. Erie St where grain was ground into flour. After itís destruction by fire in 1883, it was replaced on the same site by the "Red Mill" which continued in operation until the turn of the century.
Adjacent to the Victory Park dam is a floodgate, where water was let in to quickly flow downhill the "raceway" to the Brown or Red Mills. Iíve seen photographs of when the water was let through the raceway, that very little water flowed over the dam/waterfall, as it was diverted.
After the flour mill operation was abandoned around 1900, the Commonwealth (later Consumers) Power Company purchased Mill on E. Erie St. in order to convert it into an electric generating plant. In order to improve efficiently, the original dam at todayís Victory Park was reconstructed in 1905 by Albion contractor George E. Dean (1872-1932), who replaced the original stone one with the present concrete one and raised the water level in the millpond behind it.
The dam area contained various features and contraptions which were used in the regulation of the water flow for generating purposes. There even was a "fish ladder" on the north side of the waterfall. The practical functions of the dam/waterfall ended around 1948 when Consumerís discontinued water-power generating in Albion, and the old raceway route was taken over by the City of Albion. Rieger Park was subsequently developed in the 1950s, and a large parking lot was erected in the Market Place along the old tail-race route.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1939 photograph of the Victory Park waterfall, with the banks below lined with newly-laid WPA project rocks. The main River is shown flowing on the left. The large "pond" below the waterfall, in the distance on the far right, was a fish rearing pond. In 1941, over 14,700 bass were raised here for planting in three area lakes by the Albion Conservation Club.
There apparently will be public hearings and comments solicited sometime in the near future about the fate of our Victory Park waterfall and the millpond behind it which goes by Riverside Cemetery. The current version of the waterfall/dam has been there for 114 years. Should Albion keep this historical landmark, or remove it? That will be the question our city leaders will be grappling with in the months to come.
Victory Park Waterfall, 1939
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic