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.

THE COMFORT ZONE

Albion Recorder, October 13, 1997, pg. 4

Have you ever wondered how many public bathrooms are available for downtown shoppers and visitors? Do people readily know where they are? this is a subject which can be a bit touchy, as some merchants may not want a regular trail of persons walking in and out to use the facilities without being a customer. Some have placed signs on the door, "No Public Facilities." In order to attract tourism and customers, restrooms need to be readily available.

Albionís downtown buildings were not originally designed for plumbing, which was added later. Even today, some businesses do not have bathrooms themselves. They have to go next door and as, as their building was partitioned off into two sections, leaving "their side" high and dry. One Albion restaurant which recently closed had no public facilities, as its building was originally designed to be a bank a century ago.

I have an historic Albion postcard from around 1910 showing the downtown section, and off to the side is a quaint little outhouse positioned right over the edge of the Kalamazoo River behind present-day Dominoís Pizza. In banking terms we would call this "direct deposit."

Historically, one person who "saw the need" was Warren S. Kessler (1845-1933), the founder and president of the Albion Malleable Iron Company. Kessler was an avid motorist, and knew that weary travelers on U.S. 12 through Albion would appreciate a place to make a pit stop. Kessler would drive across the country in his luxury automobiles, one of them being a Cunningham. It had a phone to the chauffeur, and glass partitions between the front and rear seats. The price of the limousine at the factory was $8,700. He also owned a Franklin, and a Dusenburg Sedan.

As a gift to the City of Albion, Kessler paid for the erection of a city "Comfort Station" at the intersection of N. Superior St. and Michigan Avenue, where the molder statue and park is now located. This little building provided relief for local citizens and travelers alike for four decades. A plaque on the building stated, "Public Comfort Station Presented to the City of Albion By Warren S. Kessler, 1924." What an honor.

The Comfort Station was closed by action of the Albion City Council on July 15, 1960, following the opening of the U.S.-12 bypass/Interstate-94 on July 1. The opening of the new highway considerably reduced traffic into Albion. The Council determined that building maintenance had been a problem and that modern service stations had "taken up the slack" as far as bathrooms were concerned.

The Comfort Station was subsequently remodeled, and the Albion Chamber of Commerce used the building as its headquarters for several years during the 1960s. It was later demolished and the Molder Statue Park was erected on the site. How many persons remember our Comfort Station? This week we present a photograph of itís donor, Warren S. Kessler, and the building shortly after it had been remodeled into the Chamber of Commerce.


Warren S. Kessler (1845-1933)


The Comfort Station

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