203 W. Ash
One industrialist who had a major impact upon Albion was Warren S. Kessler (1845-1933). Kessler was the founder and president of the Albion Malleable Iron Company, Albion’s major employer of the early 20th century. The Malleable recruited large numbers of workers in the early 20th century, which significantly contributed to Albion’s ethnic diversity. The company existed from 1888 until a merger in 1967, and today is known as Harvard Industries. Kessler was also one of the founders of the Albion State Bank and served as its vice president for many years.
Have you ever wondered who started the Albion Malleable Iron Company, now HarvardIndustries? It was Warren Scott Kessler (1845-1933), an industrialist who made aprominent impact on our community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mr.Kessler was born in Albion (of all places) NEW YORK and as a youth moved to Illinoiswith his family. He began his business career as a bookkeeper, and later worked as arailroad contractor.
Kessler became a salesman for several eastern iron mills in Chicago in 1881, and madenumerous business associate acquaintances across the country. one of them was H.Kirke White, who had purchased the controlling interest in the Gale ManufacturingCompany here in Albion. The Gale was a major manufacturer of agricultural implements.White invited Kessler to Albion to attend the wedding of a daughter in the late 1880s.During the social conversation at the wedding reception, Mr. White pointed out that as aresult of the expansion of the Gale Manufacturing Company, it needed malleable ironcastings for its implements which it was prepared to buy. Why not come to Albion andfound a malleable iron castings plant in the old Gale headquarters on the corner of Cassand Superior Streets?
Mr. Kessler took Mr. White up on the suggestion, and founded the Albion Malleable IronCompany in 1888 with the help of 20 original stockholders. The firm so enlarged itsbusiness within ten years that it built a new and larger plant on N. Albion Street, where itremains today, and the rest is history. Kessler served as president of the Malleable formany years.
Kessler lived at 203 W. Ash St., and was active in community affairs. He was analderman on the city council in 1897 and 1898. He also was one of the founders of theAlbion State Bank, and served as its vice-president for many years. Kessler served onthe board of directors of the First National Bank of Albion, in addition in the late 1890s.Kesslers step-son was Harry Parker (1871-1936), whom Kessler trained as hissuccessor at the Malleable. Parker was married to Mary Theodosia Gardner (1873-1928), daughter of the Hon. Washington Gardner, who had invested in the Malleable inthe 1890s. In 1900, Kessler and Parker erected the Parker-Kessler block on the site ofthe old Gale-Malleable building on the northwest corner of Superior and Cass Streets,which remains today and houses Albion Floor Covering and Knuth Furniture.As a gift to the city of Albion, Kessler erected the City Comfort Station (thats publicbathrooms, folks) on the corner of Superior and W. Michigan, where the Molder StatuePark now stands. Kessler was an avid motorist, and knew that weary travelers on U.S.12 through Albion would appreciate the pit stop there. This facility was used throughthe 1950s. Kessler would drive across the country in his luxury automobiles, one of thembeing a Cuningham. It had a phone to the chauffeur, and glass partitions between thefront and rear seats. The price of the limousine at the factory was $8.700. He alsoowned a Franklin, and a Dusenburg Sedan. One of Kesslers Chauffeurs was HaroldSchumacher, who now lives in Lansing and related this information to this writer.[Internet update: Harold Schumacher passed away in 1999]
In his later years, Kessler spent his winter months at the Hotel Green in Pasadena,California, where he was part of the social order there, such as the Anandale Golf Club,and the California Yacht Club. He would come to Albion in the summer months only, andwould stay at the home of his step-son, Harry Parker (501 East Michigan Avenue). Thatlovely Georgian house had been erected by Carl A. Schumacher, who subsequentlytook the job as superintendent at the Malleable. It was at this home that Warren S.Kessler died on July 23, 1933, two months after returning to Albion from Pasadena.Funeral services were held at the home, and Kessler was buried in Albions RiversideCemetery. His monument is the tallest in the cemetery, and is an obelisk that statesKESSLER PARKER around its base. Nearby are the graves of Washington Gardner,Thomas Lloyd, Carl A. Schumacher, [Internet update: and Harold Schumacher], andother Malleable executives, in addition to Harry Parker.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a rare photograph of Warren ScottKessler, which is courtesy of Gardner Lloyd. Kessler is shown standing next to his stepson,Harry Parker, behind his residence at 501 E. Michigan Avenue [Internet versionbonus: Also pictured is a professional photograph of Warren S. Kessler].
Source: Frank Passic, ALBION MALLEABLE FOUNDER WARREN S. KESSLERMorning Star, July 24, 1994, pg. 7.
Warren Scott Kessler (1845-1933) was one of the organizers of the Albion Malleable IronCompany. He came to Albion in January 1889 from Chicago, where he had formerly been associated with the iron industry, representing several large eastern mills. Kessler became president of the Malleable in 1893, and also became a leading Albion industrialist. He was also one of the original founders of the Albion State Bank in 1895.
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.