2001, Description of Albion
Albion is a small Midwestern town settled for farming, transformed by the arrival of industry and transformed again by the departure of industry. Even in its decline today, impressions of Albion’s rich history are apparent. Open expanses of farmland are visible as one approaches the city. Large factories and the newest homes built on the periphery of the city are next visible. Depending on which exit from the expressway the visitor takes, they either seeMcDonalds, Kmart, and other auto oriented sprawl, or a large field of dirt enclosed by barbed wire fence, where an abandoned foundry wasrecently torn down. Closer to the center of the city, and along former thoroughfares that once went through the heart of Albion, are the oldest homes, historic downtown, and Albion College. What distinguishes Albion from most post-industrial towns is the presence of Albion College. The college has increasingly become involved in civic affairs as the decline of the community has become more apparent. This is the story of a town, the changes wrought by the arrival and departure of industry, and the attempts to revive the community in recent years, preserving it for some undeterminable future.
Albion is similar to large urban areas but rare among American small towns due to the dominance of industry in its development and attendant large immigration. As a small (8,000) Midwest foundry town at the turn of the twentieth century, following World War II Albion experienced industrial boom with the arrival of Corning Glass Works in 1950, becoming an active manufacturing town. This growth reached its peak (14,750) around 1973 with and the same time Albion was named an All America City. The rapid course of post-war industrial development however prepared the conditions for decline. Industrial decline became evident in 1968 with the closing of long-time employer, Gale Manufacturing. This decline was most severe in 1975 when Corning Glass Works closed, causing 1,000 jobs to be lost and double digit unemployment overnight. In the years to follow, other major factories closed, tax revenue declined, and over 5,500 people moved away. For residents of Albion today (9,241), historical trends of segregation compounded by loss of economic opportunity, have taken away the promise of upward mobility. Today, small town Albion continues to struggle to find a new identity in a post-industrial age.
Source: Isaac Kremer