“Report of the Historic District Study Committee”, 1976
Members: George Caines, Harold Collmenter, James Dean, Robert Geyer, Gardner Lloyd, Albert Peters, Charlotte Willard, David Gillespie (chairman)
With genuine pain, lovers of Albion and history have watched the sometimes gradual, often swift eroding of architectural landmarks built during almost 150 years since the city’s founding. Two recent timed observations of building destruction show it take one caterpillar and a two-man crew less than an afternoon to wreck a three-story house.
To take measures to halt — or in some cases impede — some of the wanton destruction of Albion’s architectural history, a committee appointed by the Mayor has studied and is now making recommendations that various specifically defined areas within the city be designated historic zones. Committee members have ranked buildings within these districts from most to least important to be saved. (Ironically, one private home ranked as a possibility for saving was torn down in under two hours one sunny afternoon a few weeks back). Before designated buildings could be destroyed or significantly altered, a standing historic zone committee would have to approve the procedure.
The move is an attempt to preserve some of the finer examples of architecture from another era. There is no intention to force anyone to undertake extensive restoration projects. Such restoration, however, may follow for historic zoning may engender civic pride and a desire to improve historic areas. The committee’s proposal is not designed to conflict with current zoning ordinances, but to enhance them.
Albion’s downtown area, one of the most important designated zones, is one of the few unspoiled downtown’s in southern Michigan. Historic zoning also could help provide the possibility of acquiring federal and state grants to aid in restoration.
Economic benefits frequently follow moves toward historic preservation. In one Ohio town, merchants found a marked increase in business following a diligent effort toward historic preservation. Zoning in itself helps arrest the decline of areas and frequently efforts at restoration following such zoning result in significant increases in property values.
To some extent, the historic zoning committee’s proposal provides an appeal process to save buildings owners may wish to destroy: a stay of execution, so to speak. Some vanished buildings which were worthy of preserving were indeed replaced by other structures. Frequently, however, vacant lots stand where once stood homes longtime Albion residents recall in almost once-upon-a-time tones. One such home replaced by a vacant lot was an adobe, Greek revival style which the state of Michigan listed as one of 50 examples of architectural landmarks which should be saved. This is the type of destroying historic zoning has a chance to stop.
An architect who worked on the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg stated a motto from that project: The future may learn from the past. That architect also stated that sometimes by looking back you are also looking forward.
In making this proposal, the historic zoning committee recommends looking forward now so Albion citizens and visitors – present and future – can look back and find something of historic significance remaining. Acceptance of the committee recommendations can be one of Albion’s landmark Bicentennial contributions.
[ Zoning Ordinance Follows, A. Purpose, B. Definitions ]
C. Establishment of the Albion Historic District
No structure shall be constructed, altered, repaired, moved or demolished nor shall any changes which could materially effect the exterior architectural features of the site within an historic district unless such action complies with the requirements set froth in section E of this act. The following areas, sites, and structures are hereby designated the Albion Historic District pursuant to the provisions of section 3 of the Historic District; enabling act for the State of Michigan, Public Act 169 (1970):
1. The area bounded by and including both sides of the street commencing at the intersection of Irwin Avenue and Eaton Street, thence East on Irwin Avenue to Superior, thence north on Superior to Austin Avenue, thence west on Austin to Eaton Street, thence south on Eaton Street to West Ash, thence east on Ash to Superior Street.
2. The area bounded by and including both sides of the streets commencing on Erie Street east from Superior Street to Ingham Street, thence North to Porter Street, thence west on Porter Street to the river, thence south to Erie Street.
3. The area including both sides of Michigan Avenue between Monroe and Fitch Streets.
4. The following historic landmarks are designated as part of the “Albion Historic District”:
Those Historical Landmarks commonly known as:
704 Irwin Avenue
Gale Factory Offices
201 Hannah Street
705 East Cass Street
1106-1108 East Michigan Avenue
308 West Erie Street
808 Haven Road
Paul Ewbank House, Haven Road
314 Burr Oak Street
[ D. Historic District Commission ]
A. Sites of exceptional historical or architectural importance on a community and state level. These sites are mostly original and, generally speaking, over 75 years old. They should be protected from demolition or alteration at all costs and restoration projects should be encouraged.
B. Sites of lesser historical or architectural importance to the community but which contribute significantly to the cultural heritage and visual quality of the city. This category would include older (pre-1900) buildings which have been extensively altered and twentieth century buildings which are of value to the community. They should be protected against further deterioration and restoration should be encouraged, particularly of altered areas.
C. Sites of minor historical or architectural importance. They contribute to the nature of their neighborhood and restoration and renovation projects should be encouraged to protect the character of the district. Sites in this category would include older buildings of non-distinctive style or sites altered almost beyond hope of restoration. However, some have potential to be moved up to the next category after restoration.
The following buildings and sites within the city of Albion are considered to be of special architectural or historical value to the city and are presently reasonably intact. Careful consideration should be given to any proposed changes in these structures
215 Austin Avenue (including barn)
314 Burr Oak Street
705 Cass Street
405 Cedar Street
713-719 N. Clinton Street
412 S. Clinton Street
300 North (Railroad Station and Freight Depot)
Historic District Zoning Report Memo, Jerry Peeler, October 14, 1975
There are 2,925 residential and commercial structure in the City of Albion. The total number of structures included in the proposed historic district is 359. The breakdown is as follows:
88 – B Sites
These are of lesser historical or architectural importance, but still contribute significantly to its cultural heritage and visual quality. Usually pre-1900 buildings which have been extensively altered.
113 – D Sites
Of no historical or architectural significance.