Morning Star, June 14, 1998, pg. 2
I’d like to add an historical footnote to my article on the Albion High School Class of 1898 article two weeks ago. It should be mentioned that Dan Farley, who graduated from AHS this year, Class of 1998, is the great-grandson of Garfield Farley who graduated exactly 100 years ago in 1898. Such an exact century of heritage in the Albion Public Schools is worth noting.
George poured and laid miles of concrete sidewalks throughout Albion, and some are still in use today
This is the season the City of Albion repairs, replaces, and installs concrete sidewalks throughout town. I’ve sometimes thought that the Albion Public Safety Department ought to hold classes in the Albion Public Schools and in Adult Education on how to use the sidewalks in town, as opposed to walking in the street as I see most people do. The course could cover such essentials as walking up the curb, putting your best foot forward, jogging between the cracks, looking both ways, avoiding peer pressure to walk in the street, setting the good example, and the sidewalk stroll with your baby. Some people in town might find his course very useful.
Check the sidewalk in front of your house and see if you can find a name and date stamped on it.
In the late 19th century, wooden sidewalks were used in high-traveled areas in town and individual boards had to be replaced as they rotted. At the turn of the century however, concrete sidewalks were laid in Albion. As far as I can tell, some of the first concrete sidewalks were installed in 1901 by contractor George E. Dean (1872-1932). If that name rings a bell, it should. This is the same George E. Dean who was president and owner of Union Steel Products for many years.
In his earlier years in Albion however, George was a student at Albion College and director of the college band and instructor in coronet at their school of music. Upon his graduation in 1896, he opened up a hardware store and bicycle shop, operating it until 1900. At that time George became a general contractor until going to the new Union Steel Screen Company in 1905.
George poured and laid miles of concrete sidewalks throughout Albion, and some are still in use today, nearly a century later! In my own section of town, sidewalks in the 700-900 blocks of S. Eaton and S. Superior Streets laid by George Dean still exist. You can easily tell by the identification stamp in the lower corner on each section, which usually begins at a property line. The indentation states, “G.E. DEAN 1901.”
In those days sidewalks and curbing were poured in two layers. The bottom base layer consisted of the courser larger stones, while the top layer had fine “finishing” sand. That is why you could lift up the worn top layer today. George Dean’s sidewalks also had a grating pattern on the surface for walking friction. The City of Albion has certainly gotten its money’s worth with these sidewalks. There should be no objections to replacing the ones that are in bad shape today.
I recently took some shaving cream and a squeegee and applied it to the sidewalk in front of my house, much like I do to tombstones at my cemetery tour. I was able to get an image of the G. E. DEAN 1901 stamp in the sidewalk, and it is pictured here in this week’s Historical Notebook along with a photograph of the contractor, George E. Dean.
Of course there are other names in Albion sidewalks, such as Lohrke Brothers, Beilfuss, and others. It used to be a practice to place street names in the sidewalks at intersections. For many years there was the image of Dalrymple Blvd (now street), and W. Division St. (now S. Dalrymple St.) in the sidewalk, and other names that have been changed. Check the sidewalk in front of your house and see if you can find a name and date stamped on it.
An Albion native, Frank Passic is a 1971 graduate of Albion High School and has been writing Albion history articles since 1976. He is the author of several books including Albion in Review, and Growing Up in Albion.
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Michigan Prints website offers prints and notecards of Albion, and other places.
Each print has a legend.
The legend for “Saturday in Town” begins like this:
“Before the days of paved roads and motorized vehicles, it was common practice to make due with what was on hand and to limit visits to town to once a week or even less than that.
Since weekdays were for farm chores, and Sundays for church, that left Saturdays to come to town to pick up needed items, and perhaps to sell some items also.”