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.

HARLAN WHITNEY, 1890s ALBION CITY ENGINEER

Morning Star, August 16, 2020, pg. 3

There are lots of things to see and do in Albion. One of Albion’s attractions is a beautiful triple-arch bridge over the Kalamazoo River on W. Cass St. in downtown Albion. This bridge was erected in 1996 as a duplicate replacement for the original bridge which was erected a century earlier in 1896. The original bridge was erected during the administration of Mayor Dr. Samuel S. Dickie, president of Albion College. It was the first triple-arch concrete bridge with steel reinforcements ever constructed in the United States.

The contractor and engineer for the 1896 construction project was Keepers and Thatcher, with Robert Dunn and Co. as subcontractors responsible for the stone masonry work. The total cost was $9,148.44, which included extra pilings ordered by the Mayor. It turned out to be the only bridge that was not damaged by the Great Flood of March, 1908 a decade later.

Supervising the construction work was Albion’s city engineer, Harlan K. Whitney (1865-1941). Whitney, a Battle Creek native, was an excellent engineer and surveyor who was involved in many important projects in his lifetime. He operated an engineering firm in Battle Creek, and specialized in platting cities and subdivisions. He also engineered numerous construction projects in Michigan and in other states during his long career. He was one of the founders of the YMCA in Battle Creek and served on its first board of directors.

Whitney’s two years spent in Albion as city engineer also included laying out a plan for a municipal sewer system, including the downtown business district. He subsequently superintended a portion of that project.

Harlan died in Battle Creek on December 4, 1941, and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery there. From our Historical Notebook we present a photograph of Harlan Whitney, Albion City Engineer in the 1890s. How many of our readers have driven over the current Cass St. bridge?


Harlan Whitney, Albion City Engineer in the 1890s

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