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.


Morning Star, March 20, 2016, pg. 4

There is a renewed interest in restoring and preserving downtown Albion buildings. When looking at historic preservation and/or restoration of downtown Albion buildings, there is definitely one particular reference source that should be consulted. It is a 50-page pictorial book entitled "Souvenir of the City of Albion, Michigan." This book is a valuable reference for anyone studying 19th century Albion history, and for those interested in restoring their houses or business buildings to their original exterior décor.

The Souvenir was printed "In Photo-Gravure" by the Albertype Company of Brooklyn, New York, and is dated 1894. The photogravure process involved taking an image and processing it onto a metal plate prior to printing. The brown-cover book measures 5 x 7" and is bound with a brown cord.

The author of Souvenir was an Albion College student at the time, James B. Field (1866-1936). A native of Frontier in Hillsdale County, Field came to Albion at the late age of 26 and graduated in 1896 at the age of 30 with a Bachelors of Science degree. He subsequently became a school teacher at Parma High School, and then went on to greater things in the City of Jackson. We’ll write about that in a future column.

James was one of the better known students at Albion during his era. His contribution to Albion history was leaving us with the "best photographic record remaining of the college and town," stated his obituary in the Io Triumphe.

The book begins with a two page introductory history of Albion, and begins with the cheerful words, "Albion. Beautiful, healthful, industrial, educational. Albion—city of factories, schools, churches, and happy homes!" It is followed by individual photographs taken of these factories, schools, churches, businesses, and yes, happy homes too. The photographic details are great. You can take a magnifying glass and read the business names on the awnings of downtown Albion businesses. You can also see the beautiful decorative cornices which once overhung the tops of downtown buildings before they were all removed (except Sander’s Furniture building) in the early 1960s due to safety fears by city officials.

The photographs of the beautiful houses pictured the elaborate Victorian-era "gingerbread" décor and wrap-around porches. The name of the owner, usually a prominent Albion businessman, is printed below the picture of the house. What is interesting is to take this book and go to particular houses and see how the same house looks like today. Unfortunately, most of them have had the "gingerbread" and porches removed.

Albion College is amply featured of course, and the various buildings on campus are highlighted. My favorite is an inside view of the College gymnasium picturing a female gym class in their class attire.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo of the book cover, and a photo from the book of the east side of the 100 block of S. Superior St. If you’re wondering what that big tower is, that is Albion’s first fire department and Village Hall building, erected during the Civil War. Back in the 1960s it became the location of Miller’s Jewelers and the building is still standing today.

If you are planning a restoration of your house or downtown business building, you might like to look at a copy of this Souvenir book to see if it is included, in order to give you some ideas. You will also enjoy the photographs of a vibrant downtown Albion and all the buildings that existed back then. How many of our readers have read through this book?

Souvenir book cover 1894

Title page, Souvenir 1894 book

Superior St., 1894, East Side of the 100 block.


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