Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Buildings / Downtown

301 S. Superior Street, Dalrymple Block

Block +
US Census Block # 34-309

Style +
Modernistic

Architecture
Two-stories, clad in square enameled panels. The second floor is pierced by ribbon windows set in aluminum frames. The street level carries large single-plate glass display windows. The entry is embellished with multi color tile work. J.C. Penney Company is spelled out in black tiles on a white tile background.

Source: National Park Service; Superior Street Commercial Historic District Registration Form. Prepared by Lloyd Baldwin. October 1996.

Historic Preservation Notes +
Conversion of this space from an abandoned department store to the Kids ‘N’ Stuff children’s museum was a great victory for Albion, for downtown, and for children in south-east Michigan. The museum attracted 11,000 visitors to downtown in the first year of operation – people who probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise.

When one takes a slightly longer look at this building, the preservation history is fascinating. Originally the Dalrymple Block (built by 19th century Albion civic leader Charles Wylie Dalrymple), when J.C. Penney’s decided to occupy the space in the 1940s they found it necessary to cut off the 3rd floor of the building and to cover the Superior St facade with enameled panels. In so doing they broke up a continuous row of third floor buildings spanning from Erie St to the adjacent Opera House (see the 1894 picture below).

Further, when economic changes in the 1970s and 1980s forced Penney’s to close, this left this severely altered building vacant – showing how making historic downtown buildings look like modern department stores does not guarantee they will survive. Instead, Penney’s may have been better advised to preserve the historic fabric of the building in the 1940s so that people in Albion would still have this valuable landmark today. Of course people of that time failed to appreciate the importance of historic preservation as people do today.

If nothing further is done with this building that would be fine. Though, if one likes to imagine, recreating the three story facade of the Dalrymple block would help to connect this building with those next to it. Recreating the Superior St. facade would be a far less expensive alternative to rebuilding the entire 3rd floor – though the benefit to the visual appearance of downtown would be nearly identical.

Having accomplished so much, maybe the executive director and board of directors for Kids ‘N’ Stuff might consider finding a way to tie in the museum with renovation of the Albion Opera House next door? Already stairs and an elevator take people up several feet to a level that is almost identical with the floor of the Opera House. All that may be needed is a doorway between the museum and opera house to allow access to this space again.

Past Occupants
Dalrymple Block (3 story block demolished to make way for Penny’s)
J.C. Penney’s, 1940-1972?
Kids ‘N’ Stuff Children’s Museum, September 2002 to present

Source: James B. Field, Souvenir of the City of Albion, 1894.

Picture of Albion College first lady Rebecca Mitchell, president Peter T. Mitchell, and building donor Parker “Tom” Feldpaush, in front of the Penny’s building prior to conversion into the Kids ‘N’ Stuff Children’s Museum. (Image Source: Kids ‘N’ Stuff web site, downloaded September 2003.)


Three views of the main floor display space – the largest vacant first floor downtown until the children’s museum opened.


Pressed tin ceiling on the main floor, possibly retained from the Dalrymple Block that previously occupied the site until 1940 when the Penny’s building was constructed.


First floor hall leading to the back door.


Assorted views of the unused second floor of the building.


The facade was altered and tile mosaic removed to make way for KNS.

Source: Isaac Kremer, September 22, 2003.

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