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.


Albion Recorder, June 30, 1997, pg. 6-A

Part of Albion’s historic downtown is the 100 block of East Erie street, which once contained several prominent structures and features that left a legacy of their own. The street itself looks like it has been forgotten, containing the same weather beaten bricks that were originally laid in 1917. You can see the scars of several sewer and water construction projects, as well as the remains of the old electric interurban route in the center as it heads toward Superior St. We feel this street, quite literally, as we drive upon it every day.

It is too bad that this block could not have been included in the brick repaving project a few years ago. A concrete base and new bricks would do wonders, and provide an attractive entranceway to Superior St. It is also too bad Erie S. could not have been included in the streetscape project with its sidewalk treatment and decorative lights last year.

For many years this block had angle parking, providing numerous spaces for shoppers to park while they spent their money downtown. This was eliminated in the 1960s.

This week we present an historic photograph of the 100 block of E. Erie St., looking east. It was taken around 1910. On the left we see Bullen’s Big Busy Store, a well-known department store that existed for three decades. Behind it is the Women’s Christian Temperance Union building at 105 E. Erie St., erected in 1905. Albion was the headquarters of the National Prohibition Party in the 1890s with Dr. Samuel Dickie as its national chairman. The local women’s chapter took an active lead in the effort to eradicate alcoholic beverages. This building later became the Albion Recreation Center in the 1940s, but burned in December, 1944.

The impressive building behind that is the old Red Mill building, constructed in 1883. It was used as a water powered grist mill until the turn of the century. In 1905 the Commonwealth Power Company purchased it and converted it into an electric generating plant to power Albion’s electric needs. This particular building burned in a spectacular fire on June 30, 1913, and was replaced by a new generating plant which used water power though the 1940s. That building is the one which stands today on the site.

On the south side of the street we see the Methodist Episcopal Church, a majestic structure which stood from the 1880s until 1960, when it was torn down to make way for a new gas company office building that was never constructed. Next to it is the Grand Army of the Republic building, which suffered the same fate as the Church building.

One obvious feature is the interurban tracks in the center of the street, laid in 1903. The interurban was powered by electricity from the overhead wires in the city, and a “third rail” in the country. There were numerous accidents with both vehicles and pedestrians through the years, and many persons and livestock were killed. The tracks were finally torn up in 1932. You can still see the scar of the curve today in the bricks.

In an interesting quirk, there is still a few feet of the 1940-laid Superior Street bricks on E. Erie St. which were not taken up in the rebricking project a few years ago. There is also a big “bump” at that point which probably should have been repaired. The pavement has been frozen in time, and some day a decision will have to be made on how to modernize this block, and yet make it match the adjoining Superior Street brick pavement.

Erie Street around 1910


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