Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 22, 1993
With this issue of the Morning Star, I am happy to announce that I am resuming my weekly historical articles about the Albion area. My previous series in the Star ran from Sepember 1989 to the end of 1991. Of course, before that I wrote for the Journal of Albion for many years. I am titling this column “Historical Notebook,” and in the following weeks and months we’ll cover many topics and areas about people, places, and events about Albion and its surrounds. You may wish to clip these articles and place them in a notebook, as I have previously done, for handy reference.
I am open to suggestions for topics, and of course photographs which I could possibly borrow as my former source is no longer available to me. It is best to [contact me e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org] write me at: Frank Passic, 900 S. Eaton St., Albion, MI 49224.
We’ll skip the rest of the introductions and preliminaries this time, and jump right into our topic at hand: Albion’s 1940 brick Superior Street. The main event has finally arrived, and we have been victorious. Albion will be getting a new clay brick street. Albioin has one of the last remaining segments of brick pavement on a state highway, and that fact shows up in state travel logs and in the Michigan Trivia book. Orchids to the Federal Government for insisting that the brick street be preserved, and for an extra $366,000 grant to restore that first block from Ash to Erie Streets to its original brick condition. Also thanks to the DDA for making up the rest of the funding.
Downtown Superior Street was dirt for many years, until the interurban tracks were laid in 1903, which necessitated the installation of pavement. The first pavement was laid from the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad tacks (next to VIne Street), southwards to Ash St. This area comprises Albion’s original brick street district. In 1913 a concrete base was laid under the bricks, and this pavement was in use until 1940. In those days downtown Albion had diagonal parking which was very handy for pulling in and out easily. It also meant more parking spaces. There was one driving lane in each direction.
In 1933, the interuban tracks were torn up through most of Albion, and that project left an ugly scar down the center of Superior Street. The 1913-laid pavement began deteriorating, and so Albion Mayor Norman H. Wiener began looking for funding for a repaving project. Known as Albion’s “go-gettingest” mayor, Wiener was successful in getting funds for Albion for a variety of projects in the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1936, the State of Michigan laid an experimental pavement on South Superior Street from Erie southwards to Irwin Avenue. The state highway department tore up the bricks and replaced it with concrete, upon which later was applied asphalt. When the rest of Superior Street was rebricked in 1940, that “first block” from Ash to Erie was not included as part of the project, because the pavement there was still new at the time. Because of that unfortunate quirk, that is why that one block has remained “blacktop” while the rest of downtown has been brick. But fortunately, that all will change shortly and the entire Superior Street in downtown Albion will now be brick again. It will mean a brand new concrete base for that block, new curbing, and of course new clay bricks.
In 1990, this writer prepared a 13-page report entitled, “Albions Brick Street: An Historical Perspective,” in which I go into detail about the history of Albion’s brick mainstreet. A copy of this report is on file in the local history room at the Albion Public Library. I highly recommend reading this report.
Rather than repat much of the information contained in that report, this week I offer our readers some interesting tidbits of trivia about ou brick street which you might find interesting and can relate to. While this year’s project is costing nearly $2 million, guess how much it cost in 1940 to repave Superior Street with a new base and new bricks? Answer: $55,319! The contractor for the work was L. W. Edison of Grand Rapids. This week in our Historical Notebook we are featuring a government photograph taken in August 1940, showing the Edison crane scooping up sections of the old concrete base, at the intersection of South Superior and West Porter Streets. Back in 1940, new water, gas, and telephone lines were laid as part of the project. Special thanks to Winifred Hartung for supplying me with this photograph.
The brick pavement on East Erie Street was laid in 1917, and is still there. Down the center you can see the brick “scar” where the old interurban track once was located, and how it curves towards the old Consumer’s Power building which once served as a passenger station and led to a repair barn in the rear. It would have been nice if Erie Street cold have been included as part of this year’s project in order to improve the driving conditions on that block.
Also during World War I, U.S. 12 (now Michigan Avenue) between Albion and Marshall was paved with brick. Roads were narrower back then, and that is why some of old U.S. 12 between Albion and Marshall dips towards the shoulder, because there are no bricks forming a base underneath at that point. Blacktop was applied over the bricks, and the original bricks are still under there. In the springtime, you can see some of these original bricks pop up through the asphalt, especially around the intersection of Michigan Avenue and C Drive North, towards Starr Commonwealth. Drive through there and you’ll see an occasional red brick!
Earlier I mentioned diagonal parking. Diagonal parking was eliminated on Superior Street as part of the 1940 project. That meant a loss of about half of the downtown’s parking spaces. Diagonal parking was eliminated on West Porter Street in June of 1940. What was the last street in Albion which had diagonal parking? Answer: Erie Street.. Diagonal parking remained on Erie Street in downtown Albion until the early 1960s. As we all know, the community of Homer still has diagonal parking in its downtown section.
With the brick street project now starting, I would encourage our readers to make a special effort to patronize downtown Albion this year, and support our local merchants. This writer has prepared a window display in the old J. C. Penney store, about our brick street project. There are two panels with historical photographs, three panels featuring the detour routes, and three large State of Michigan blueprints.
Diagonal parking was popular in downtown Albion until it was eliminated in 1940. This photograph shows how downtown Albion looked in 1925.
Next: M.F.K. FISHER
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic