Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

THE CASS STREET BRIDGE

Morning Star, November 7, 1993

With this year’s main project in downtown Albion being the brick reconstruction of Superior Street and the replacement of the N. Superior St. bridge, I’d like to make a few comments at this time now that the project is over, before going in to our topic this week. our street looks great--we can use this as a springboard to help get people to visit Albion and shop. It will be interesting to see what local officials have planned for the streetscape facelift next year.

It was an honor as Albion’s Historian to lay the first brick on Friday, June 18 when the laying commenced at Ash Street. I have spent many hours over the past several years researching the history, condition and value of our historic brick Superior Street, and preparing displays at several locations. I am particularly happy we were able to persuade officials to brick the “first block” between Ash and Erie Streets, thus making the entire downtown section a complete historic district (Pictured here is the author Frank Passic laying the first brick on Friday, June 18, 1993).

It was marvelous to see most of the merchants pull together and turn the inconvenience into a positive promotion the entire summer. The Chamber of Commerce certainly deserves a big hand of applause for its “Paving the Way to a Superior Future” theme, and all those who took part in it.

One disappointment I have is that a dedicatory plaque was not put in the N. Superior Street bridge. I learned that this practice was abandoned by the State of Michigan about five years ago because of cost considerations. These plaques had the date, names of state and local officials, etc. Our 1908 bridge plaque had the names of the city aldermen, the builder, contractor, etc. The small aluminum marker placed in the 1933 bridge contains an identifying serial number and date--that is all. Couldn’t we in Albion come up with the money to have an appropriate bronze plaque placed on the N. Superior St. bridge?

I now hope that the 100 blocks of East and West Erie Streets can now be repaved with brick, too. These blocks are part of the historic downtown landscape, and should not be asphalted in my opinion. Apparently, there is some talk of that for the city’s long-range plans [INTERNET UPDATE: The bricks on W. Erie St. were removed in October, 2001 and replaced with asphalt]. So now is the time to voice your opinions on the matter to local officials.

While this year’s main topic in downtown Albion has been the reconstruction of Superior Street with new bricks and the replacement of the N. Superior St. bridge, we should be reminded that we have more to look forward to next year, when the historic Cass St. bridge over the Kalamazoo River is scheduled to be replaced. This will mean the closure of Cass St. at that point, as well as the south entrance to the Market Place adjoining the bridge for several months while a new bridge is constructed.

The Cass St. bridge is the most historic bridge in Albion, which is an earth-filled arch bridge consisting of three arches, 144 feet in length and 29 feet in width. The East Cass Street bridge is a rare example of a stone arch highway bridge, a type seldom used in Michigan becaues of the availability of cheap timber. Built in 1896, the bridge is one of only two surviving examples of a stone arch structure in the entire State of Michigan!

The bridge was erected during the administration of Mayor Dr. Samuel S. Dickie, president of Albion College. The contractor and engineer for the construction project was Keepers and Thatcher, with Robert Dunn and Company as subcontractors responsible for the stone masonry work. The cost of the project was $9,148.44. The City of Albion paid for the bridge itself with existing funds, and did not have to issue a bond or increase taxes.

Mayor Dickie did however, receive much criticism at the time, as he ordered extra pilings for the bridge, increasing the cost to the $9,000 level up about $2,000 from the original estimate. Residents called the bridge “Dickie’s Folly,” and the Mayor had to defend his actions in the local newspaper, the Albion Transcript. Ten years later however, Dickie was vindicated, as the Cass St. bridge was the only one to survive the great flood of March, 1908. The well-known historic photograph of the flood with the White Mill in the distance shows the flood waters near the top of the bridge. In actuality, the waters covered one foot over the top of the bridge during the flood night (when no photographs could be taken).

The East Cass Street bridge was dedicated on Sunday, December 13, 1986. The first person to drive over it was a Mr. William Green. It was opened to public traffic two days later, on Tuesday December 15, 1896. The local newspaper, the Albion Transcript, made these comments at the time:

“This bridge is a conspicuous addition to the many natural attractions of Albion, and if it endures as is expected to, it will be a perpetual monument to the enterprise of the present mayor and city council, as well as to the public spirit of the taxpayers who very generally approve the course taken by authorities.”

Because of its historical significance, the East Cass Street bridge has been declared eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Albion City Council however, turned down this offer in May, 1979. Plans for the new 1994 bridge call for removing the existing bridge and the adjoining “invisible” short bridge on the southwest corner as it goes into the Market Place. A new up-to-date bridge will be built in its place, complete with sidewalks on both sides, and a widened street. The replacement bridge will be designed with precast concrete facia panels, upon which the stones from the original 1896 bridge will be attached on each side, creating an appearance similar to the present bridge. The underneath however, will not have the stones placed back. The short “alley bridge” into the Market Place will be eliminated as part of the project.


Cass Street Bridge


Frank Laying New Bricks on Superior Street

Next: KALAMAZOO RIVER MILLPOND DREDGING


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