Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, 15 March, 1999, pg. 4
Last week in this column we made reference to "Fireman’s Hall," located at 115 S. Superior St. during the 1860s. This building was erected at the end of the Civil War in 1865 for use as Albion’s first Village Council Hall. It also housed the Union Hose Company (Fire Department) headquarters, and the office of the Village Marshal. It was the first building erected in town specifically for municipal use. Previously the Village of Albion (Albion didn’t become a city until 1885) rented meeting rooms such as at Howard Hall to conduct its official business. When the City of Albion was incorporated in 1885, the building served as our first City Hall.
Fireman’s Hall was the first building erected in that stretch of downtown Albion, and was "by itself" until adjacent buildings were erected in the 1880s. According to one description, the building contained an arched main door, Palladian windows, and surmounting pediment and cupola. The cupola was added in the early 1880s so the firemen could hang their hoses out to dry from its tower.
The building also housed the village jail, which at that time consisted of a double wooden-planked barrier in a back corner on the first floor. The council room and other meeting rooms were located upstairs.
The cupola tower was removed in February 1901, and new reconfigured windows replaced the original ones. The upstairs was transformed into office space, while the removal of the first story archway allowed for better mercantile use of the first floor. Residents who grew up here will remember that this building was the site of Miller Jewelers for many years, and later was occupied by H & R Block. The outside access to the staircase leading to the second floor was blocked, but can still be accessed inside the building today.
In 1888 the City of Albion acquired an implement storage building from the Gale Manufacturing Company. It was located on W. Cass St. where the small parking lot across from the police station is located. This became the new City Hall and Fire Department headquarters. The first City Hall building was sold for use by local merchants.
This writer has been upstairs in the 1865 "Fireman’s Hall" building and enjoyed looking at the woodwork, architecture, old wallpaper, and even a well-seasoned original wooden toilet seat with facilities in the back. Many of downtown Albion’s upoper stories have beautiful antique fixtures, woodwork and wallpaper, reminiscent of an era from years gone by before zoning laws gradually made occupation illegal. Perhaps it is time for Albion to take advantage of the potential of second and third story usage in its historic downtown Albion buildings. Their windows and facades could be restored, and some could even be turned back into quaint apartments or office space.
This week we present an 1894 photograph of the Fireman’s Hall building. to the left is the Ernest A. Davis Grocery, and to the right is the Hill & Allen shoe store. Our second photograph shows the building shortly after the tower had been removed in 1901 and the windows replaced. Notice the "scars" on the brick which reveal the old configuration. Today if you look at the building, you can still see the stone text which states, "ERECTED A.D. 1865" above the central windows.
1894 Fireman's Hall
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic
"Albion Historical Society Collection / Local History Room / Albion Public Library Collection"