A large open space adjacent to the east ofAlbion’s historic downtown. A fountain and covered verandah are surrounded by alarge asphalt parking lot. In the 1980’s the site was named Stoffer plaza, inmemory of a noted Albion industrialist.
It was quite apparent by the 1970s that there was little long-range planning for the design, layout, or usage of the Market Place area. The area consisted of a variety of uneven and conflicting property lines, buildings and landmarks in scattered locations as well as conflicting traffic-flow patterns.;
In September 1974 the Foundation was contacted by Notre Dame University, which proposed an Albion Town Center project. The Foundation board approved the funding for the project and subsequently it was carried out by Notre Dame architectural students. The Town Center project utilized a small scale model to show how downtown Albion could be revitalized, and included plans for the Market Place area. Operating under the auspices of the Albion Civic Foundation, city officials, merchants, the Chamber of Commerce, and other parties were involved in the effort which concluded in 1976.
The project recommended the development of the Market Place area to help boost the downtown shopping district. One idea from the survey that was soon implemented was the reestablishment of a Farmers’ Market. Under the auspices of the Albion Chamber of Commerce, it was reminiscent of the Farmers’ Sheds in the Market Place during the early 20th century.
A proposal for the development of a plaza in the Market Place to be named in memory of William R. Stoffer, was brought to the Foundation board at the January 8, 1981 meeting, and was approved June 18. The City of Albion Planning and Community Development department proposed the plan, which required an initial $85,000 investment. The city contributed $50,000 towards the project, leaving a balance of $35,000 to be raised.
The Foundation board voted that the first $25,000 of the $35,000 be raised by private individuals and that the second $10,000 be matched by the Foundation. A total of $24,406.65 was privately raised over a period of several months during 1981 and 1982, making the financial end of the project a success. The Foundation thereby contributed $10,000, for a total of $34,406.65.
The design for the William R. Stoffer Memorial centered around the natural artesian well (spring) which remained flowing even after the old millrace on the site was filled in during the summer of 1954. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held June 2, 1982, and work progressed rapidly during the summer months.
Stoffer Plaza sits on the exact site where the Albion Company erected Albion’s first water-powered business – a sawmill erected in 1835 by Paul Tenney Peabody (Albion’s first settler) and Wareham Warner. It was also the site of the “City Scales” and the beautiful little park which once sat along the banks of the mill race.
Construction was completed in just two months, and Stoffer Plaza was dedicated appropriately on September 17, 1982, as part of Albion’s Festival of the Forks celebration.
Today, Stoffer Plaza is a vital part of the downtown river area. It attracts people to the Farmers’ Market, flea markets, small concerts, and other functions. It is an example of how a plain asphalt parking lot can be transformed into a community asset, balancing parking needs with aesthetic and design qualities.
Source: Frank Passic. Presenting 25 Years of the Albion Community Foundation. 1993.