Albion Interactive History

Home Page | The Albion Story | Interactive Map | Research Documents | Historic Preservation | Contact Us

Urban Renewal

The Albion Story

Crowell & the Albion Company
Methodism in Early Albion
Education in Early Albion
Making a Factory Town
Great Flood of 1908
Bank Crisis of 1912
Starr Commonwealth
Great Depression
Urban Renewal
All-America City
Deindustrialization

One of the greatest problems facing Albion during the post-World War II boom, was a severe shortage of housing. The population grew from 8,345 in 1940 to 12,749 in 1960. During the same period of time the non-white population increased from 907 to 2,327. This placed a great strain on the already aging housing stock in Albion. Recognizing the problem this posed, Mayor Weiner approved a feasibility study in 1960 on getting low-income housing in Albion. Two years later the Northview Homes housing project was opened. This was followed by a grant from the Federal Housing Administration in 1962 to devise a General Neighborhood Renewal Program. Donald McMillan was hired as Director of Urban Renewal in 1963, and in May that year the Federal government approved the GNRP.

Approval and support of Albion residents was a different matter. Many viewed the program as an effort to remove the urban poor and especially minorities who had migrated to northern industrial cities like Albion. A meeting on urban renewal in December of 1963 lasted more than four and a half hours. This was repeated on January 9, 1964. The debate over urban renewal was one of the most contentious in political circles. A pivotal moment was on May 20, 1964 when the city government approved a contract with the federal government for the $1.6 million West Central Urban Renewal Project.

Albion's West Central Urban Renewal Project

1969, Department of Urban Renewal, Annual Report
1970, Department of Urban Renewal, Annual Report
1971, Department of Urban Renewal, Annual Report

Several problems arose in carrying out the program. One of the major problems was how acquisition and demolition of housing outpaced construction of new housing. Of the new housing that was available, a large proportion was newly constructed public housing. So some families found themselves relocated from their original homes to newly constructed housing projects, where second and third generation families continue to live to this day. The Peabody Homes, a public senior housing complex, was completed in February 1967. While at this time the city began work on the Grandview Heights project, the project was not ready for occupation until May 26, 1971. In fall 1971 the Lincolnshire Homes project was opened, and the following year Oak Meadows introduced middle-income public housing. The Urban Renewal project was scheduled for completion on June 30, 1970, but it was not until September 30, 1972 that the program officially ended.

Other places like Detroit and New York City received ample attention for their large-scale urban renewal projects, Albion and hundreds of small towns like it received fairly limited scholarly scrutiny and attention. Albion College undergraduate Thomas O'Brien completed his undergraduate honors thesis "A History of Albion's West Central Urban Renewal Project." By a twist of fate, O'Brien ran across crates of primary documents on Albion's urban renewal project, as they were being removed from city hall to be destroyed following a flood. In his review of these documents, and interviews with people involved in the project, many who are still alive today, O'Brien created a compelling narrative about the conflicts embodied in urban renewal in an American small town.

While well intentioned the history of Urban Renewal in Albion and thousands of other cities across America is one of resentment on the part of displaced residents and general frustration among city leaders with the results. The key to Urban Renewal's success was for private individuals to purchase property that had been cleared and to build something new. In Albion and many other places this did not happen as planned.

Many felt that the project fell short of its goals. The Urban Renewal program is preserved in the popular memory, especially in the minds of people who lived through the program. One of the lasting signs today is four blocks of still undeveloped urban renewal area on the west side of town, with cement roads and curbs, fire hydrants above ground and sewers below, and even street signs, but still no new houses. For all these physical improvements, few houses have been built in the area, and what was once a vibrant community, is now an open field with grass, shrubs, and trees growing wild. This caused a skepticism and resentment on the part of many people towards urban planning which remains to present day.

One of the silver linings of urban renewal in Albion and elsewhere, is that it did cause people to consider what was being lost. Urban renewal was a contributing factor to the rise of the historic preservation movement nationally. This movement, rather than seeing older buildings as obsolete and only deserving of destruction, recognized their historic significance and contribution to the character of neighborhoods and communities. Fairly ingenious ways were found how to protect and preserve older buildings for the benefit of current and future generations.

List of Houses Targeted for Demolition
Information on the following homes was found in a Market Data Book for the West-Central Urban Renewal Area, Blocks 18 through 24, prepared by Leo Buffa. Following the address is that date that the building was acquired, a brief description of the property, and estimated date built. While buildings may be listed below, this does not indicate that they were eventually demolished.

102 S. Albion, 1953; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1910 (ca).
506 S. Albion, March 26, 1959; Frame 1 story dwelling, Built 1940 (ca).
508 S. Albion, June 1, 1955; Frame 1 story single family dwelling, Built 1950 (ca).
210 S. Ann, July 15, 1955; Substandard 1 story frame single family dwelling with attic rooms, Built 1860 (ca).
112 W. Ash, June 7, 1963; Frame - 2 family dwelling, Built 1920.
311 W. Ash, June 3, 1959; 1 1/2 story frame, Built 1890 (ca).
216 Austin, March, 1963; 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling, Built over 1910 (ca).
220 Austin, Mar, 1963; Frame 2 story single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca) .
316 Austin, April 20, 1962; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca).
311 W. Broadwell, August 12, 1961; 1 1/2 story brick single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca)
611 Burr Oak, June 24, 1963; Frame single family dwelling, Built 1925.
1110 Carson, August 17, 1961; Frame 1 story bungalow, Built 1900 (ca).
400 W. Cass, June 27, 1960; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling with composition siding, Built 1890 (ca).
404 W. Cass, 1960; 1 story frame and stucco single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
513 W. Cass, 1960; Frame 1 story single family dwelling, Built 1915 (ca).
518 W. Cass, July 9, 1960; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1875 (ca).
709 W. Cass, 1952; Frame 1 story single family dwelling.
717 W. Cass, 1950; Single family dwelling- 1 story, Built 1923 (ca).
206 E. Center, July, 1963; House was renovated before sale, Built 1920.
401 W. Center, 1952; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1880 (ca).
602 W. Center, 1954; Frame 1 story single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
606 Cherry, September 24, 1961; Frame 1 story cottage type dwelling, Built 1945 (ca).
111 E. Chestnut St., May 18, 1963; Frame single family dwelling, Built 1935.
915 N. Clinton, June 18, 1963; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1915 (ca).
108 Culver, 1953; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
214 Culver, 1957; 1 story concrete single family dwelling, Built 1950 (ca).
806 Culver, 1953; Frame 1 story single family dwelling, Built 1950 (ca).
214 S. Dalrymple, March 16, 1961; 1 and 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling with some composition siding, Built 1905 (ca).
416 S. Dalrymple, September 23, 1960; 1 story frame substandard cottage, Built 1940 (ca).
510 S. Dalrymple, May 13, 1960; Frame 1 story single family dwelling, Built 1945 (ca).
610 S. Dalrymple, July, 1963; Frame 1 story single residence, Built 1942.
507 N. Eaton, June 27, 1960; 1 3/4 story stucco single family dwelling, Built 1920 (ca).
806 N. Eaton, April 26, 1960; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
301 W. Elm, July 28, 1960; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1875 (ca).
309 W. Erie, August 3, 1963; Single family dwelling.
311 W. Erie, August, 1963; family dwelling.
312 W. Erie, May 28, 1963; Frame single family dwelling.
313 W. Erie, August 1963; Single family dwelling.
712 W. Erie, June 1961; 1 and 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling with brickote siding, Built 1890 (ca).
104 N. Gale, June 29, 1960; Frame 1 story single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
107 S. Gale, 1956; Concrete block 1 and 3 story semi-colonial, Built 1900 (ca).
106 Gasden Court, March 1, 1957; single 1 story cottage, Built 1913 (ca).
814 Hall, March 5, 1962; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca).
914 Hall, October 7, 1958; 1 story, nu lap, bungalow, Built 1920 (ca).
327 Haven St., June 29, 1963; Frame - single family, Built 1930.
708 N. Ionia, April 15, 1960; 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca).
402 Mechanic, September 30, 1959; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling with brickote siding, Built 1890 (ca).
518 Mechanic, 1957; Frame 1 story single family dwelling, Built 1940 (ca).
607 W. Michigan, October 31, 1962; 1 and 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling with asphalt siding, Built 1885 (ca).
313 N. Mingo, June 21, 1961; 1 story asbestos shingle bungalow, Built 1875 (ca).
109 N. Monroe St., August 15, 1963; Frame single family dwelling, Built 1930.
219 W. Mulberry, May 7, 1961; 1 and 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca).
212 W. North, December 21, 1961; 1 1/2 story frame bungalow, Built 1900 (ca).
107 S. Pearl, 1954; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca).
208 N. Pearl, 1954; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1890 (ca).
214 S. Pearl, February 21, 1961; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1880 (ca).
600 E. Porter, May 4, 1962; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
802 N. Superior, December 31, 1960; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1870 (ca).
603 Sycamore, September 30, 1959; 1 story concrete block single family dwelling, Built 1950.
604 Sycamore, 1958; Cottage built on ground, Built 1943 (ca).
609 Sycamore, 1952; Quonset dwelling, Built 1940 (ca).
206 W. Walnut, January, 1963; 1 story asbestos shingle cottage type dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
208 W. Walnut, May 13, 1961; 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1915 (ca).
502 Washington, January 26, 1960; 1 3/4 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
513 Washington, June 28, 1961; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1880 (ca).
From appraisal book of homes in the urban renewal area. Address is located on the bottom of most pictures.
Source: Buffa, Leo, SRA-REAA, Apraiser. Market Data Book, West-Central Urban Renewal Area Mich. R-85, Albion, Michigan; Blocks 18 through 24.

COMPARABLES FROM SURVEY BOOK

902 N. Albion; 2 story frame single family dwelling with "brickote" siding, Built 1910 (ca).
510 Austin ; 2 story frame colonial, Built 1920 (ca).
206 S. Berrien; 2 story frame single family dwelling with "nu lap" siding, Built 1900 (ca).
400 E. Cass; 2 story stucco single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
506 W. Cass; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1875 (ca).
206 W. Center; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
314 Crandall; 1 1/2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1935 (ca).
109 S. Eaton; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
612 S. Eaton; 2 story frame single family dwelling with cedar shingle siding, Built 1910 (ca).
407 N. Eaton; 2 story frame single family dwelling with 1 story addition, Built 1900 (ca).
718 N. Eaton; Frame 2 story single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
304 Erie; 1 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1960 (ca).
1204 First ; 1 story concrete block bungalow with cement plaster finish, Built 1940 (ca).
505 N. Ionia; 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
1013 Jefferson; 1 3/4 story frame single family dwelling with composition siding, Built at 1920 (ca).
109 W. Monroe; 1 and 2 story frame single family dwelling, Built 1900 (ca).
806 N. Monroe; 1 story frame bungalow, Built 1940 (ca).

Go to All-America City

Site Usage Policy, Copyright © 1998-2011, Isaac D. Kremer