Historic Preservation Notes +
One of Albion’s saddest days is when the Methodist Church decided to move from this site to a new building (Goodrich Chapel) constructed on the Albion College campus. A few years after moving in 1958 the Old Methodist Church at 116 E. Erie St was demolished. Today an auto repair garage rests in its place.
The Methodist Church that stood here was constructed under the leadership of Rev. Washington Gardner in 1888. At that time Gardner was a Civil War veteran and later he went on to become a US Senator and National Commandment of the Grand Army of the Republic. Washington Gardner High School was named in his honor just before his death in 1927.
The church building that Gardner helped to construct in 1888 became site of lectures, celebrations, and religious services. The tower at the corner of Erie and Ionia Street, a round arched entrance, and two rose windows made a powerful exterior. Inside they say the tiered seats and round arched balcony were designed specifically for the oratorical style of Washington Gardner. Here Albion College commencement was held and many prominent people from throughout the United States came to speak including Helen Keller among others.
This downtown church was one of five denominational churches located in the downtown area during the 19th century and through the first decades of the 20th century. While the other four churches are still standing, only the Episcopal and Presbyterian congregations have remained in their original buildings.
Moving of the Methodist congregation from downtown to the college campus was a setback. Demolition of the old church building was a setback for the congregation, downtown, and for Albion. The auto repair garage that sits on the site hardly compensates for the landmark building that was lost.
What can be done to make this situation better? Reconstruction of the Old Methodist Church.
Clearly a project of great scope and ambition, this could be broken into a few practical steps. The first could be to recreate the tower at the corner of Erie and Ionia Sts. This could be done in a way to correspond with the structure already existing on the site. Successive phases could include recreating elements from the facade such as the round arched entry way and the rose windows. Construction of a structural steel skeleton and recreating the interior with hanging balcony would be the final step.
A tragic irony is today the Methodist congregation in Albion has recognized that their current church space is inadequate and they are seeking alternatives. Would it be unreasonable to consider rebuilding the Old Methodist Church?
Methodist Episcopal Church, 1850-1958
Altar and organ.
Tower at corner of Erie and Ionia Sts.
The Methodist Church on the corner of S. Ionia and E. Erie Sts. was a familiar landmark in Albion. Erected in 1888-89 under the leadership of Rev. Washington Gardner, the E. Erie St. church was in use until the opening of Goodrich Chapel in 1958.
Source: Isaac Kremer, January 2004.