Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 26, 2002, pg. 9
As we observe Memorial Day this Monday, we are reminded that the origins of this national holiday date back to the end of the Civil War, when General John A. Logan initiated the practice of placing flowers on the graves of fallen comrades. Memorial Day was developed and perpetuated for many years by members of the Grand Army of the Republic, the association of Union Army Civil War veterans. They took their duties seriously, and annually held a service on Memorial Day at Riverside Cemetery, which followed a processional parade through downtown Albion. In Riverside Cemetery there is a GAR lot on the hill just south of the Monroe mausoleum. On a monument there is a large bronze plaque listing the names of all of the members of the local Post No. 210 of the GAR, named for Lieutenant Colonel E. W. Hollingsworth, the first Albion field officer to die.
The local post met twice monthly in the upstairs of 317 S. Superior St. on the northeast corner of Superior and Erie Streets in downtown Albion. The building was then known as the “Brockway Block.” Downstairs was the prominent George Bullen dry goods store. As the years wore on, GAR members became older and more feeble, and complained about having to climb flights of stairs in order to reach their meeting room. A subscription drive for a facility of their own was launched in 1892, and funds were raised over the next decade to help make a new building a reality.
The new two-story GAR post building was erected in 1901-02 at 114 E. Erie St., wedged in between the Wochholz & Baader cigar manufacturers on the west (112), and the huge Methodist Church on the east. It was called the “GAR Memorial Hall.” The first meeting in the new building was held on Tuesday, March 4, 1902. A dedication ceremony was held two weeks later on March 19. GAR meetings were held here for the next 26 years. The Women’s Relief Corps of the GAR was also located here.
As membership in the GAR diminished due to death in the 1920s, the local post made plans for its demise and the “passing of the mantle” to future generations to carry on the tradition of Memorial Day. The group placed a large boulder with a plaque in Victory Park in 1925 in memory of those who served in the Civil War. The group also placed the monument in the GAR plot in Riverside Cemetery where numerous Civil War veterans are buried. Albion’s last Civil War veteran, Jacob H. Perine, died in 1942 at the age of 102.
During the 1920s the GAR building was rented on Sundays to fledgling new churches, which helped bring in income. For example, one new local church, the Albion Free Methodist Church, held meetings here. The upkeep on the building was high, and the heating inadequate. Worshippers often bundled in blankets as they met for Sunday services due to an inadequate heater. The GAR eventually sold the building to the Methodist Church next door for $1,800 in 1929. The Church subsequently used it as Sunday School class space in the following decades. By the 1950s the building had become leaky, cold, and was demolished with the rest of the old church in 1960.
Finding a photograph of the GAR hall building has been elusive, as there were more prominent structures on E. Erie St. which photographers were attracted to. The only clear photograph of it I know about is one taken in 1960 as it was being prepared for demolition along with the Church next door. Recently however I acquired an old photographic postcard circa 1910 which shows an unusual full front view of the church and the GAR Hall next door on the extreme right. From our Historical Notebook this week we present that photograph, which also shows a flagpole in front of the building. How many of our readers remember the old GAR building?
GAR Hall and Methodist Church just before demolition
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic