Albion Interactive History / Businesses / Albion Lumber Company

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Industry

Albion Lumber Company, 1880s
    Closed 1966

Builder +
Susanna Wesley Hall, lumber company
Washington Gardner High School, lumber company
Kresge Gymnasium, lumber company
Alvin Dice House, Michigan and Mingo
Albion Lumber Company showroom, 1930s
Lonegran Manufacturing Company warehouse

The formation of the Albion Lumber Company had begun with the firm Loder & Groff in the mid 1880s. In 1886 it had become known as the Groff and Herrick Planing Mill. although the firm specialized in lumber supplies, it was also involved in contracting.

The Albion Lumber Company was incorporated in February 1904. The original officers included Fred J. Herrick, president; Fred L.D. Groff, vice-president; and William H.Barney, secretary and treasurer.

Each year Herrick built a home in Albion with surplus or leftover material from the lumber yard. The Albion Lumber Company operated as a constructionand retail lumber concern until 1913, when the officers decided to discontinue the building activity. The company would often do business with the Schumacher Construction Company, and Fred W. Schumacher became a stockholder in the firm. The mill facilities of the Albion Lumber company were used to makelumber for the building of Susanna WesleyHall, Washington Gardner High School, the KresgeGymnasium, and other significant buildings in Albion.

Albion carpenter Leon Claucherty (1897-1986) recalled the early years of operation of the Albion Lumber Company. In 1984 he told Patricia Geyer:

The horses which were used to deliver materials were kept in a barn with an upstairs which is about where the real estate office is now. There was a plumbing shop in there, too. We were working for Herrick.In the back of the yard was a kiln for drying lumber. It was all lined with brick.

When they used to run that mill they made trim, windows, all kinds of things.When they would get in a load of lumber there was a yard foreman by the name of Carl Anderson. The side track was higher than the sheds and they would slide the lumber down a chute. I can remember him out there sorting the car loads of lumber.There would be grade one and two in the freight car. When one came down the chute that was extra good he would have it taken out, put on a cart and put intothe mill to make stuff out there. A good board with only one knot was thrown out and saved like that for making up trim in the mill. the dry kiln was in the back of the mill. They made floors, windows, sash, frame – all were made here.

All the window frames and trim for Susanna Wesley Hall were made here. The trim was bought in carload lots (gumwood) and made up in that mill. The window frames for Washington Gardner School were all made in that mill.

Old Albert Schumacher was responsible for getting my brother, William, into carpentry. A lot of men worked in that mill: DeWitt Foskit worked some, Bernard Miller, Harry Simmers, and Harry Sovern. For a while Harry Sovern rented the mill and ran it on his own. I remember once Harry built a trailer on the second floor of the mill, built a scaffold on the outside, ran the trailer out on the scaffold and let it down with ropes. (Interview with Leon Claucherty, March 1984, by Patricia Geyer)

The company became interested in land development in the Perry-Mingo-N. Michigan Avenue area in 1914, and near the East Ward school. They had purchased land from Albion College and from Charles Ostrom, and had platted the region into fourteen lots. The Ostrom house, which stood just west of the school, was moved to Perry Street, where it was stuccoed. The company had earlier erected a stucco home for Alvin Dice on the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Mingo Streets. The Albion Evening Recorder described the building activity of the Albion Lumber Company:

One of the finest improvements any part of the City of Albion has ever had is being made in the eastern part of the city, near the East Ward school building, by the Albion Lumber Company.

The company has literally transformed a deep ravine, for scores of years used only for a dumping place for rubbish, into one of the best sites for residences in that portion of the city… at present there are three more houses nearly completed on Perry Street… In one more building season after this it is planned to have houses constructed on everyone of the fourteen lots, half of which will be erected this summer. Seven will front on Michigan Avenue and seven on Perry Street. (“Fine Improvement by Albion Lumber Company.” Albion Evening Recorder. May 20, 1914.)

Increased business had necessitated the recapitalization of the company for $60,000 in 1923. On March 1, 1933, the company was reorganized and new officers were elected. One of the originalfounders, William H. Barney, became president; he had previously served as secretary and treasurer. Fred W. Schumacher became vice-president; Victor P. Nagle was elected assistant manager and secretary.

In the early 1930’s a large stucco Albion Lumber Company showroom and office was constructed by Carl Hart, a local contractor, just east of the original Groff Brother structure. In 1936 Emmett C. Godfrey (1878-1958) purchased the Albion Lumber Company. Emmet Godfrey engaged in contracting as well as lumber retailing. He developed the Sunnyside Court addition east of town. He also built five houses in the South Dalrymple and Irwin Avenue area, including his own at 612 Irwin Avenue. John Geyer did the construction on Godfrey’s home. Godfrey sold the Albion Lumber company to John and Robert Geyer in June 1946, and retired.

The new owner, John Geyer, had been a well known Albion builder for more than half a century. One of the first big projects for the new owners was the building of awarehouse in 1948 for the Lonergan Manufacturing Company. Working in the yard at that time were Clyde Waite and Albert L.Schumacher, brother of Fred W. Schumacher. Schumacher had been mill supervisor for the Albion Lumber Company for many years, and stayed on with theGeyer’s for about ten years. First Edith Hathaway, and the Phyllis Rutz, and finally Frances Aris served as bookkeepers. Some of the men who worked at the yard included: Douglas Geyer (cousin to Robert), Robert Reynolds, Edwin French, Lawrence Pahl, John Jankowski, Bob Newell, Tom Malcolm, Dick Ribbey, Ralph Collins, Rolland Ott, Kenny Shields, Clifford Bennett, Sr., and Howard Gillespie.

Robert Geyer became sole owner of the Albion Lumber Company in December 1956, although his father remained with the firm in an advisory capacity for several years. In the 1960s it became apparent that a downtown lumber yard on a railroad siding was becoming obsolete. Building materials were being packaged and delivered in new ways; the Albion Lumber Company was not set up for lift truck unloading. Geyer decided to close the lumber business and to convert the facilities into offices, stores, and apartments. The lumber sheds became garages for tenants’ cars. The buildings on the east end which had once housed lumber wagons and horses became rental storage unties. The front office later became the offices of the Morning Star shopper newspaper. The Albion Lumber Company ceased operations in 1966, after sixty-three years in business.

Source: Frank Passic. Homestead Savings and Loan and the Builders of Albion: One Hundred Years of Service, 1889-1989. Albion, MI: Homestead Savings and Loan Association. 1988.

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