Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, April 28, 1997, pg. 4
One of the larger buildings in downtown Albion is the one housing the Moose Lodge at 108 W. Porter St. This three-story Italianate-style structure with cast-iron window hood moldings is largely boarded up today, but once was one of Albion’s busiest hotels, called the Commercial Hotel. It was constructed in 1867 by Champion Eslow, who with his son James, erected several buildings on West Porter Street. Following the completion of this particular building, the Estlows continued their construction by erecting the Eslow Block to the east, and connected the two edifices with a “catwalk,” which remains above the alleyway today.
The first floor of the building housed several mercantile establishments for many years, including the Art Craft Press, which printed various papers and booklets for several decades in the early and mid-20th century.
The hotel operated on the second and third floors of the building, and in the adjoining Eslow Block, which had a fourth floor. Visitors to the village of Albion often stayed at the Commercial, which boasted 40 rooms. The men roomers would use the catwalk as a secret means to cross over into the Eslow block to play cards on Sunday to avoid detection by Albion’s church-going folk. For many years there was a Studebaker advertisement painted on the brick wall under the catwalk.
There were numerous proprietors in the hotel’s history, including E. Vandemark, 1877; H. A. Foster, 1878, John Callahan, 1895; Clark O’Hawkins, 1897; Charles H. Sykes, 1901; and Mrs. Lillie K. Eslow, 1913. In 1908, the hotel was renamed the Hotel Hermitage. The Albion Mirror newspaper reported in its June 12, 1908 issue, “Grand Opening of the Hotel Hermitage. Saturday evening, June 13. Ellison & Wales, proprietors.”
The property was taken over by the U.S. Government in March 1912, due to failure of the Eslows to fulfill a contract to build a pier at South Haven. The Eslows had lost much money in the January 1912 failure of the Albion National Bank, and the government action bankrupted them. The building was purchased from the government by a former proprietor, John Callahan. In 1913, it was known as the Dowling Hotel, with Mrs. Eslow as proprietor. The hotel was closed at the end of World War I. Today the building houses the Moose Lodge, which for many years was located on the second floor. Pictured here is the Commercial Hotel building as it appears today, a ghost of its former self.
I have a rather extensive collection of Albion merchant tokens, which I have displayed through the years. On item is a token issued by the Commercial Hotel about 1901 when Charles Sykes was the proprietor. The aluminum token is crenated with eight petals and measures 28 x 28 mm. The text reads “Commercial Hotel, Chas. H. Sykes.” On the back is a large cypher numeral “5” surrounded by a dotted border. This token would have been used in the pool room and bar located at this establishment.
The Commercial Hotel
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