Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 3, 1994, pg. 20
Many of our readers may or may not know it, but Albion once had its own fair and fairgrounds during the 1890s through early 1910s. This fair had competition for all types of categories on might expect at a county fair, excepting that his event was being held in our own community.
One major attraction was the racetrack located there. In the early 1890s, the private racetrack of Willard Warner between Superior and North Streets was closed and destroyed, and the land was developed into new housing tracts. This left Albion without a racetrack. The answer was the development of a Fair Association and the building of a new racetrack. It was located on the south side of Haven Road, just south of present-day Victory Park. In fact, there is a small private street named “Fair Lane” which attests to that fact today. If you look behind the homes in that area, you can still see the land outline of what was once the main racetrack.
This full-fledge fair, held in September of each year, featured a large variety of departments in which to enter competition: cattle, horses, sheep, swine, poultry, apiary (bees), fruit, vegetables, grain, farm implements, mechanical work, domestic manufacturer, household products, flowers, and fine arts.
In addition to the main grandstand along the racetrack, there was a floral hall, horse stalls, and other buildings. Monetary awards were given to the prize-winning entries. For example, in the cattle division, a first class award for a Durham bull 3 years old and over was $3.00. Second prize was $2.00. In the vegetable division, a first place winter watermelon raked in 55˘, while a Boston Marrow squash could bring 35˘ to the first-place winner.
The “Albion Fair and Driving Park Association” as it was known, annually elected officers, and appointed chair people for each department. For example, here is the roster of 1898 officials: president-E.C. Lester; vice-president-F.F. Hoaglin; treasurer-J.G. Brown; secretary-A.L. McCutcheon. Rules and Regulations committee: Warren S. Kessler, J. H. Callahan, F. F. Hoaglin, and so forth.
The interest and participation in the fair waned during the 1900s, and the Albion Fair ceased to be around 1910. In 1912, a new association known as the Albion Driving Club was organized. The club leased the old fairgrounds from the owner, Mrs. Jane Hayes, and held events there during the summer months. The track became managed by local blacksmith Elmer J. O’Melay, who operated races there during the period of World War I, before the track was closed. The site later became part of the Haven Hills Dairy farm.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a couple of interesting items. First is a cover page of the 1898 program guide, listing the dates of that year’s event. The second is a very neat and well-drawn map dated March 1, 1908 by surveyor Roy Frank Berry, showing the location of the racetrack. Notice that at the time the road today known as Haven Lane was a through street going all the way past the cemetery to Superior St.
1898 Fair Program Guide Cover
Next: ALBION GOLD MINE
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic