Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, November 17, 1997, pg. 4-A
The recent announcement that the City of Albion will be receiving $650,000 in state funds to demolish portions of the abandoned Union Steel Products complex just south of the Junior High School is certainly welcome news. Councilman Bill Wheaton has been trying for years to get N. Huron St. reopened to traffic. This will greatly help with traffic flow around the school and reduce traffic on the other side streets, especially Bidwell St. whose narrow width was not designed to handle the traffic it gets due to Huron St. being closed.
It is hard to believe that this was once the site of one of Albion’s major employers which had more than 1,000 persons on the payroll. It was also sad to see the company go “downhill” during the 1970s and 1980s following its original sale in 1969 and subsequent sales. During World War II, Union Steel produced items for the military, and received the Army-Navy “E” award for excellence. The company newsletter “Union Steel Messenger” was filled with family type photographs and stories for many years, indicating it personal involvement in the Albion community.
The Union Steel Screen Company was organized in Battle Creek on December 31, 1902. It operated there in cramped quarters for a year with a payroll of 10 persons. It moved to Jackson in 1904, and then came to Albion in 1905 after 40 Albionites became stockholders in the firm. President of the firm was R. F. Agnew; George E. Dean was secretary; John G. Brown served as treasurer. The firm first made two products: a sand screen, and an oven rack.
The firm was first located here on the southwest corner of W. Michigan and N. Clinton Streets. Later the site became the headquarters of the Albion Bolt Company, which burned in 1931. You can still view the foundations of the building under the billboards which are now located there. Union Steel was located here for three years, and in 1908 moved to its permanent headquarters on N. Berrien St. The new plant was a one story brick structure (formerly the Elms Buggy Company) adjacent to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad tracks.
As the firm increased its product line, it expanded its facilities. The name was changed to Union Steel Products in 1915, and the rest is history. For many years Union Steel Products was the world’s largest manufacturer of oven and broiler pan shelves. President of the firm from 1916 to 1932 was George E. Dean, a former bicycle dealer and sidewalk contractor. He died in 1932, and was succeeded by his son W. Clark Dean, who served as a major of Albion from 1945 to 1946.
This week we present a photograph of the first Union Steel location in Albion, just a block west of downtown Albion.
First Union Steel Location in 1905
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic