Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, May 11, 1998, pg. 4
One of the oldest buildings in downtown Albion is the Peabody Block, located at 400 S. Superior St. at W. Erie St. It was erected in 1852 by business partners and brothers David (1823-1873) and Walter (1825-1869) Peabody, sons of Albion’s first settler, Paul Tenney Peabody. If you look at the building today you can see the marker which states "PEABODY BLOCK 1852" on top. The brothers were in the mercantile trade here, and later took over the Peabody Mill on S. Monroe St. following the death of their father in 1856.
For many years, all three floors of this downtown Albion landmark were bustling with activity. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in this column that Ira Mayhew’s Commercial College was located here on the third floor of the Peabody Block. This building however has had many uses during its long tenure. During the first decade of its existence it served as one of Albion’s entertainment centers. Dances were held here at "Peabody Hall," including a dance for people of color held on December 31, 1858. I use that term because in those days that included native-Americans who still lived in our area.
Peabody Hall also served as a place for political meetings. Early issues of the Albion Mirror newspaper during 1855 and 1856 invites "Republicans, Democrats, Know-Nothings, Loco-Pocos, Whigs, and all other old and young parties" to meet at Peabody Hall.
"Spiritualist" meetings were also held here during the 1850s during a time when that movement, known for contacting dead spirits, was quite popular among prominent Albion residents. Various advertisements in the Albion Mirror newspaper at the time promoted spiritualist meetings at Peabody Hall. For example, the August 6, 1857 issue declared, "Mrs. Ada L. Coan, a celebrated rapping and writing test medium of New York, will afford the citizens of Albion an opportunity to witness and investigate these wonderful phenomena, at Peabody’s Hall on Saturday and Sunday evenings, August 8 and 9 at 8 o’clock. Test questions will be answered by loud raps, that can be heard in any part of the Hall. Admission 10 cents." Prominent Spiritualist Albert B. Whiting (1835-1871) held meetings here, and wrote music for the movement, with such tunes as "Waiting, Only Waiting," and "Land of the so-called Dead."
Various merchants of course occupied the main floor of the Peabody Block through the years. These include the Warner Grocery, the Mounteer’s Bakery, B. F. Kinmont Drug Store, B. C. Franklin Grocery, Chatterbox Cafe, Gambles, and others.
Presently of course the entire first floor of the Peabody Block is now the site of Lautenslager-Lipsey, Inc.
During the late 19th century the second and third floors of the Peabody Block was the site of the "Central Hotel" in the 1890s. These rooms were later converted to apartments which were still in use through the 1960s. Older Albion residents will remember that the offices of Drs. George C. and Alpheus T. Hafford were located upstairs in the Peabody Block. They became the offices of Dr. Frank Strohmenger during the 1950s when office space was at a premium and most physicians had their offices on the second floor of downtown Albion buildings. Walking up a couple of flights of stairs to see your physician was probably healthy for you as it promoted good circulation.
This week we present an 1894 photograph of the Peabody Block, and its namesake brothers, David and Walter Peabody.
The Peabody Block
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic