Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, May 5, 1997, pg. 4
One portion of our downtown commercial historic district is the Market Place on behind the east side of South Superior Street. This consists of the alley behind the stores, the Albion Elevator, Albion Meat Locker, Thompson’s Brake, the Riverfront Creamery, and Stoffer Plaza. This area is rich in Albion history. In fact, the first sawmill ever erected in Albion was built here by Paul Tenney Peabody in 1835.
The old Consumers Power Company building on East Erie Street was once a water-powered electric generating station, and before the turn of the century was the site of a flour mill. There were once two water "raceways" which flowed from this site. The first one, dug in 1835 by Tenney Peabody and Wareham Warner, flowed down the middle of present-day Stoffer Plaza behind the Consumer’s Power Company, along the back (east) wall of the old Maple City Auto Company (now an elevated parking area), back of Albion Meat Locker and Albion Elevator, and out to meet the main river before flowing into the Cass Street bridge. This was the first raceway dug to harness water power in Albion, and was used to power a sawmill which was located where Stoffer Plaza is today. It was filled in 1954, and the Market Place parking area was subsequently developed, along with Rieger Park. Its former path was used to lay new sewer lines at the time. Many older Albion residents still remember this particular stream.
The other raceway was dug in the early 1940s by Jesse Crowell to service his Stone Mill (presently the City Bank & Trust Company building). It ran through what is now the "east alley" (behind the stores) that we drive upon every day. This is where oil was discovered when it was dug. The stream then continued to flow straight eastwards where it ended under the each arch of the Cass Street bridge. This raceway powered the turning wheels which ground the grain at the mill in the days before steam power and electricity was installed.
This week we present an aerial photograph of the Market Place (looking northwards from E. Erie St. at the bottom) taken in the early 1950s before the Consumers Power raceway was filled in. That stream can be seen in the center of the photograph. On the left is the east side of South Superior Street looking north from East Erie Street. On the bottom we can see the shadowy outline of the East Erie streetscape, including the Methodist Church. The tower’s shadow points to the Consumers Power Company office, and attached on the rear is the diagonally-situated Consumers equipment garage (formerly the Interurban freight office). This sits on the site where the old 1840s raceway dug by Jesse Crowell once flowed. One can see the small area of water just to the right, which is all that remained of the aforementioned raceway.
Also in this photograph is the Maple City Auto Company, the Meat Locker Plant, and the Albion Elevator just to the left of the 1835-dug raceway. The Riverfront Creamery building, then used as a storage garage, is found in the upper right. What is now Stofer Plaza is just a circular parking area in this photograph.
It is always interesting to study old maps, postcards and photographs. I am always looking for photographs of the Market Place area, including the raceway stream, the old railroad trestle which serviced the mills, the farmer’s sheds, and the other now-gone features of this area.
Market Place Aerial
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic