The Bell House was the first building erected on the Albion campus, and the first classes were held here on October 27, 1841. It was named the Bell House because of the bell which used to signal class changes and campus curfews. It was used also as a dormitory for Indian students at the College during the 1840s. The structure was used by the College until 1892, at which time it was purchased by theS.A. Wilder & Son Lumber Company. It was moved to S. Monroe St. and used for storage purposes until it was demolished in 1974.
The Bell House after its removal to the Wilder Lumber Company.
Source: Frank Passic. A Pictorial History of Albion, Michigan; From the Archives of the Albion Historical Society. Dallas, Texas: Curtis Media Corporation. 1991.
From the Albion College Archives
The wood frame structure known as the Bell House was originally built in 1841 to serve as the primary dormitory and classroom for the Wesleyan Seminary while the Central Building was still being built, a process that took three years. Opening off either side from a large hallway downstairs were two classrooms with rear exits. Upstairs there were five long rooms off a common hall that could be used as either a classroom or dorm. The building was plastered throughout with low ceilings and a double bank of windows. Midway between the tall chimneys rose a simple cupola that housed the bronze bell for which the building was named. The bell was rung every hour for the change of classes, and the bell ringers were generally young men in search of a free room and occasionally by janitors, who were allowed to move their families into the building.
In 1890, the need for a College gymnasium was dire, and in the winter of 1893, the Bell House was partially disassembled, taking down its tower and dormer windows and removing the college bell to the tower of the new gymnasium structure. Albion’s most wealthy citizen at the time and College Trustee, James W. Sheldon, bought the Bell House and had it moved to the west side of South Monroe Street, between Cass and East Porter Streets, a section then low and marsh-like. Mr. Sheldon began to fill in the section and street gradually took on a more substantial look. For a decade the old Bell House was used as a dwelling place.
In 1905, after Mr. Sheldon’s death, the entire stretch of property was purchased by S.A. Wilder & Son, who began to improve the street to a marked degree. The Michigan Central ran through the property to the mill, so the Wilders turned the Bell House around, placing it on the railroad tracks, and began using it as a storehouse. For the next seventy years the Bell House was used as a warehouse, finally razed in the early 1970s to make room for new storage facilities. Only one wing was salvaged for an addition to the garage at 811 Michigan Avenue.
In 1922, the college bell was broken when it fell during the Gymnasium fire; after which time, the bell was placed in storage. It now stands on the quad in front of Robinson Hall, previously known as the Central Building.
All photographs are from the Albion College Archives Photograph Files, unless otherwise noted.
Source: Albion College Archives, 2003 [Downloaded July 3, 2003]