Excerpts from Frank Passic’s history of Washington Gardner High School
Morning Star, November 22, 2009, pg. 28
Frank’s article from 2008 continued – Since 1872, a school has sat on E. Michigan Avenue as a landmark where thousands of pupils have been educated and graduated. That may change. Recently it was announced that the historic Washington Gardner school may be closed due to various reasons. This school is older than you think. It was cobbled together in various stages. The oldest part dates back to 1885! In 1872, the Albion Common Schools erected a “Central School” building in the 400 block of E. Michigan Avenue.
In 1885, east and west wings were added to the Central School. The new wings meant that more space was available for curriculum expansion.
The capacity of both wings was doubled in 1893, by the construction of additions to the north ends of each wing.
Today, if you look in back of Washington Gardner, you’ll see what is left of the original west wing, erected in 1885 and 1893. The top floor has been removed. Here is the original Central School, with the 1885/1893-built east and west wings on the side. It was on this site that Washington Gardner High School eventually came into being.
A name for the newly rebuilt school had to be selected. In 1927 the Albion School Board passed a resolution naming the entire facility after the Hon. Washington Gardner (1845-1928), Albion’s most distinguished citizen.
The Honorable Washington Gardner (1845-1928). A Civil War veteran, Gardner was originally from Ohio and came to Albion in the 1880s, serving as a professor at Albion College and as a pastor at the local Methodist Episcopal Church on E. Erie St., now torn down. It was during his tenure in 1888 that the church building was constructed.
Gardner served as Michigan’s Secretary of State from 1894 to 1899. Continuing in politics, he was elected to the United States House of Represenatives from Michigan’s 3rd District. He held that office from 1899 to 1911, serving in the 56th to the 61st Congress. While there, he was a member of the Commission of Appropriations. It was Washington Gardner who secured the funds for our present U.S. Post Office which was erected a few years after he left office. Following his service as a Congressman, Gardner served as Commissioner of Pensions for the U.S. Government from 1921 to 1925, until an auto accident forced him into retirement.
Washington Gardner wrote several books, his most well-known being “A History of Calhoun County,” a huge two-volume set which was published in 1913. In February 1928, the Albion High School was named after this famous Albion citizen, and the name of Washington Gardner still remains in front of the Junior High School today.
Read more about Washington Gardner on this link: https://www.albionmich.com/history/histor_notebook/930704.shtml
In honor of the years it was known as Washington Gardner High School, the words “Washington Gardner School” have been placed in brass lettering in the tile floor in the entrance to the new atrium just left of the auditorium.
Washington Gardner Homecoming Breakfast
Saturday, October 23, 2021
Join us at the Body and Soul Center at Washington Gardner during Albion College Homecoming for a Washington Gardner Homecoming Breakfast. Come and enjoy a free breakfast and tell us what makes this building special to you.
This event is for both Washington Gardner High School and Middle School alumni.
After breakfast, come to more Homecoming events! 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tailgating Competition, spots will be reserved for WG Alumni (611 E. Porter St., Furguson Parking lot)
1 p.m. Football Game
Washington Gardner Alumni are invited to all Albion College Homecoming Activities.
Learn more at www.albion.edu/homecoming
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.
This story is reprinted with permission from Frank Passic.
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