By LINDA KOLMODIN
October 14, 2021
It was like a Malleable family reunion at the recent dedication of foundry-inspired mural painted on the downtown Albion Malleable Brewing Co.
Former foundry workers gathered as honored guests at the celebration of the completed -3-D mural painted by local artist Kimber Thompson. Speakers Ben Wade, brewery co-owner and Frank Passic, Albion historian talked about the history of the building and the naming of the business.
Passic outlined the building’s long history beginning as a livery and transitioning to a theater, various stores and offices before becoming the brewery three years ago.
Passic outlined the building’s long history beginning as a livery and transitioning to a theater, various stores and offices before becoming the brewery three years ago. Wade told the story of how the brewery was named for the largest former foundry the Albion Malleable Iron Works. Wade stated that growing up in Albion he and his other brewery founders wanted to honor the industry that had such an impact on the city’s economic and cultural heritage.
Thompson talked about the inspiration for the mural coming from paintings from inside the Malleable Iron Works. These watercolors were created by Albion College students in 1951 during in an art contest sponsored by the foundry. She included her interpretation of the watercolors while intertwining the brewery process in a creative way.
The highlight of the dedication was NAACP Albion President Bob Dunklin’s reminiscing about his longtime career at the Malleable. As he acknowledged the foundry workers attending the event, he also paused to remember all those who passed away.
Dunklin was promoted through the ranks from laborer to the first African-American superintendent in the local foundry. He cited his intent to only stay “a little while” in Albion in the 1960s as he “was passing through on his way to California” and stopped in town to visit relatives. After running out of money to continue his travels Dunklin said he worked at the Malleable. He stated the rest was history especially after he met his future wife, Mae Ola.
At the dedication, many of the former foundry workers wore their union jackets as they reminisced about their days working together at the Malleable which later became Hayes-Albion and then Harvard Industries. The Albion Malleable Iron Company was the largest of the foundries and operated under that name from 1888 until it first changed hands in 1967.
For years Albion was a foundry town and employed hundreds of Albion area residents to work in its five major foundries.
For years Albion was a foundry town and employed hundreds of Albion area residents to work in its five major foundries. This heritage of hard-working men and women shaped the diversity of Albion and was the heart of the economy in our community until the closings began in 1980 with the last plant shutting down in 2002.
The mural is part of three downtown art projects made possible through a Patronicity matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and generous local donations. The campaign to Restore Our Coke Sign: Bring Art & History Downtown successfully raised over $100,000 to create the mural, celebrate Tee Ball history and restore the iconic Coca-Cola sign. The Albion Community Foundation is the 501(c)(3) for the funds raised. Janet Domingo and Linda Kolmodin were volunteer co-chairs for the Patronicity fundraising campaign.
Work was delayed on the art projects due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Malleable mural was the first to be finished. The historic Coca-Cola sign was dedicated recently at the Festival of the Forks. A plaque commemorating the history of the sign was unveiled. Work continues on the Tee-Ball Garden which is scheduled for an early summer dedication.
Dedicated October 11, 2021
Photos for this article were provided by courtesy photographers.
Linda Jansen Kolmodin has been a resident of Albion since 1981. Originally from North Muskegon Michigan, she was a special education teacher for Olivet Community Schools for 18 years. Since that time, public relations and writing have been the focus of Kolmodin’s work.
Most recently, the successfully funded Coca-Cola mural restoration project for downtown Albion Michigan benefitted from the volunteer efforts of Linda Kolmodin. She is involved in many Albion organizations including the Albion Community Foundation and the Albion-Homer United Way. She is a graduate of U of M, with a Master’s Degree from EMU in Special Education.
- Stories by Linda Kolmodin – albionmich.net/writer-kolmodin/
- The Coca-Cola mural restoration project:
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of The Recorder.