Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, November 15, 2001, pg. 20
What a year it has been in Albion for road reconstruction. While the Michigan Department of Transportation was reconstructing North Eaton St., the City of Albion was busy on S. Hannah and W. Erie Sts. with its own reconstruction projects. More construction is planned for next year, as the City of Albion continues to improve the road infrastructure utilizing our street millage funds, benefiting all our citizens. Perhaps our temporary theme song for Albion should be “Roll out the Barrel”--Orange construction barrels, that is. We’ve certainly seen plenty of them this year, haven’t we?
This week from the Archives I’d like to share with our readers a couple of photographs taken from a very major reconstruction project in Albion’s history--the 1940 reconstruction and rebricking of Superior St. By the 1930s, the 1913-laid brick pavement in downtown Albion had deteriorated to the point where Albion’s Mayor Norman H. Wiener began seeking funds from state and national officials for a repaving project. Wiener was a master politician at securing government funding for Albion during the Great Depression, securing thousands of dollars for projects in Albion from the National Recovery Act (NRA), the National Housing Act (NHA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Through his “go-gettingist Mayor” persistence, these efforts paid off. Success came in 1940, when the WPA announced that it would fund the repaving of Albion’s brick street. The winning bid for the work went to Grand Rapids contractor L. W. Edison for $55,319, and a contract was signed with the state highway department in June 1940. Various under-the-street utility projects commenced in June, 1940, and the street reconstruction began on July 25, 1940. The old bricks and base were removed, and the street was regraded to eliminate high “step down” sidewalks on the west side of Superior Street. New curbing was also installed.
A nine-inch thick concrete foundation was poured, upon which the bricks were laid. This same 1940 concrete base was deemed sturdy enough to be allowed to remain and used again when Superior Street was rebricked in 1993. Was that the right decision? Take a look at the intersection with Cass St. and judge for yourself.
The entire project was finished in about two months time. Bricks arrived at the railroad depot and were moved to the sidewalks of Superior Street by hand cars. The installation included special white-colored bricks, which marked the center line of the street, the crosswalks, and also the new parallel parking areas. This design eliminated the need to maintain painted regulation lines, an ongoing cost-saving move for the city. As laws changed however, new lines had to be painted on the surface of the red bricks to signify a new regulation line, thus creating confusion as the original white brick lines were not removed. Similarly, some of the white brick parking lines on our 1993-laid brick street were painted over (instead of being replaced with red bricks) last year as parking areas were moved back from the corners in downtown Albion, particularly at W. Porter and W. Center Sts. Some of the red paint wore away and so now a motorist can have two white lines to decipher. It is interesting how history can repeat itself, isn’t it?
From the Archives this week come two August, 1940 photographs of the project. The first is taken looking south towards the 300 block of S. Superior St., east side. Here we see the Edison crane leveling the street in preparation of the cement base. To the left are the Vaughn & Ragsdale clothing store and the Merit Shoe store in the old Opera House building, followed by J. C. Penney Company in the Dalrymple Block which still had the third floor intact. Our second photograph looks north from Erie St., and shows (left to right) the McClellan’s Dime Store, Koons Hardware, and Power’s Apparel Store on the right. Notice the ditch dug in the center of the street where some type of utility line was laid. The young man on the right has been identified as Steve Marvin.
From an historical perspective, notice that many of the downtown merchants had a retractable canvas awning in front of their establishments as protection from the sun and rain. Today only a few remain, and are seldom used. It was also customary to have the name of the business establishment lettered on the front edge of the awning, creating an identifying “sign,” such as the name “Powers” we see here on the far right.
The 1913 Superior Street brick pavement was used for 27 years. The 1940-laid brick pavement was used for 53 years. The recently-removed bricks on W. Erie St., laid during World War I, lasted approximately 85 years, as have the bricks on E. Erie St. which are scheduled for removal next year (2002). How long will our 1993-laid Superior St. brick pavement last?
1940 Superior Street Rebricking Project
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic