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.


Morning Star, April 28, 1996, pg. 5

With the current Superior streetscape project in full swing, we are reminded of the last time something of this magnitude was performed on our downtown sidewalks. During the late summer of 1964, all of the sidewalks in downtown Albion were torn up and replaced with new ones. Fifty-two new street lights were installed, replacing ones that had stood since the 1930s. The cost of the new sidewalks at the time was $27,000.

One controversy with the project was the filling in of the underground basements beneath the sidewalks, which merchants had used for storage. Some were even used for basement barber shops. Some buildings had basement entrances from the sidewalks, and these were removed, too, as part of the project. The underground spaces were originally used to store coal for heating the buildings in an era before natural gas was piped in.

Some merchants did not like being forced to fill in (at their expense) their "caverns" beneath the sidewalks in front of their stores. The city maintained that these were a safety hazard and could cave in. When workers tried demolishing one under-the-sidewalk site, the found that the "roof" was made and reinforced by steel rails which would have withstood just about anything, but the merchant was forced to part with his extra room anyway.

In addition to new sidewalks, new curbing was installed, with some minor widening around some corners. Drinking fountains were added, and decorative trees were planted, some of which were just removed here in 1996.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1964 photo of two "old-timers" who recalled earlier construction projects in downtown Albion. On the left is pharmacist Floyd Parks (1890-1967) of Park’s Drug Store, speaking with (right) Hiram McCullough (1882-1969) about the days when Hiram was foreman of the street department and supervised WPA projects here. In the distance we see the equipment of the Titus Construction Company of Galesburg removing sidewalks and curbing.

Take a good look at the decorative street light in the distance. These were quite attractive but were replaced by the plain ones that have stood for the past 30 years and are now being removed.

Floyd Parks and Hiram McCullough.


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