Trail Name: Albion Trail
The Erie Extension Canal brought new businesses and new visitors to communities like Albion when it opened to traffic in 1844. After the canal closed in 1871 due to competition from the railroads, the future of the town was uncertain. The railroad moved in and Albion once again thrived. The town served as a junction of two branches of one of the most important railroads in the state, and, by 1908, the yards and facilities built at Albion could store up to 4,000 cars.
Sites of interest along the Albion Trail:
1. Begin on JOHN WILLIAMS AVENUE, named for our own Olympic Gold Champion of 1972, raised on this street in Cranesville, PA. Head south towards the schools.
2. At the Masonic Lodge, one block from McDonalds's, turn right (west) and go to the stop sign on Harthan Way, named for Rev. Frederick W. Harthan, beloved minister, teacher, counselor. You'll be at the Valley School Living History Museum, oldest and largest of Conneaut Township's one room schools, moved here in 1998. Open Sundays, Memorial Day through Halloween, 2 - 4 pm, and anytime by appointment (814-756-4764).
3. Just east of the school, walk the tree-lined path to the Veterans' Memorial on East State Street, naming our veterans since and during World War I, with photographs of all who died in combat.
4. Walking west on East State Street you will pass the houses built to replace those lost in the 1985 Albion Tornado.
5. Just beyond Orchard Street is the Tornado Victims Memorial naming those lost in the storm, and as you proceed you will see where the 200 ft path crossed the street and nearly demolished St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church. Only 2 of the 14 stained glass windows around which the church was designed were ruined beyond repair. Their remains were used to repair the others. The gold cross atop the roof is seven inches shorter now, but only the neighbor across the street notices because she is the only one left now from before the tornado of May 31, 1985. Inside are many beautiful and historic features including a Tellers-Kent Pipe organ.
6. In the next block west, across Elk(r) and Wells(l), you will find Cavalry United Methodist Church built in 1874 as a United Brethern church, the oldest church building in town.
7. On the NW corner of Water and E. State Streets stands a house dating back before the Civil War. Under the front hall steps is a small closet, once hidden, where runaway slaves took refuge at this spot in the Underground Railroad. Throughout the house are other nooks and crannies from the cellar to the attic which also sheltered slaves.
8. As you cross the present day Canadian National Railroad tracks, formerly the Bessemer & Lake Erie, realize that this is the former bed of the Erie Beaver Barge Canal of the early 1800's, built to connect the famous Erie Canal to the Ohio and then Mississippi Rivers.
9. The innocent looking Brandy Tim's Tavern has evolved from the Palace of Sweets where wonderful Greek candy was made on the first floor during Prohibition and wonderful bath-tub gin was manufactured in the basement.
10. After crossing Canal St. and then Smock Avenue, you'll come to the Salsbury Hardware Building where an I-beam sticks out from the west wall in the rear. This has been there since the invention of cars because the prosperous but thrifty Salsbury family would trade the body of their delivery truck for a touring car to take the family to church on Sunday morning followed by a day of family visits until Monday morning, when it once more become a working customer service machine, all with the use of that I beam and a block and tackle.
11. On the corner of State and Main we turn north and pass the Million Dollar Hall , built just before the stock market crash of 1929 to replace a wooden bank building (the former Juliet Academy) moved there from Franklin and Pearl. The school-turned-bank left here to move to Jackson Avenue where you can see it today. And the bank, which failed during the Great Depression, has become a great pizza shop where the ovens have replaced a fine, very secure vault. The Million Dollar Dance Hall was later used for displaced Conneaut Twp. students who also attended classes across the street beside the state liquor store after their wells were declared contaminated.
12. We're passing some of the homes of the leading families of the 19th century until we turn west again at W. Pearl Street, then turn north on Academy St. to enter the Albion Borough Park and Fairgrounds. Each year the Albion Fair is held in September on the land once known as the Harrington Swamp. It was transformed during the Depression by WPA projects which first carefully redirected where Temple Creek joined Jackson Run to from the opening branch of Conneaut Creek.
13. Here in the park is the Albion Carousel, third oldest regularly operating wooden carousel in the USA. Its organ is a Fratti, the oldest of approximately 9 barrel organs left in the world. Currently being refurbished by DeBence Music World in Franklin PA, its substitute is an Apple Computer played by a local musician.
14. Also in the park are several pavilions, The Scout Log Cabin and the Stone House, all available for rent by calling the borough office 814-756-3660. Another WPA project built a giant grandstand into the side of a hill.
15. When we leave the park on Juliet Street, we reach West Pearl and the senior citizen housing Barnett Building. This was also the site of the original public schools in Albion.
16. We're heading east following Pearl Street (there's a little “jog” in the road) and on the North side of the street we pass Grace United Methodist Church of the the oldest congregation in Albion. Albion's first settler, Lyman Jackson, was a founder in the early Methodist movement and this congregation first attended services in the Randall Meeting House which you met earlier in this walk as the Valley School at Runyon's Corners until 1854. By 1859, Albion had separated from Conneaut Township to become a borough, and their new church was built on the site of the present Grace Church at Franklin and Pearl. Take a moment to walk around the building and view its several stained glass windows.
17. At Market and Pearl , NW corner property, the old barn is gone, torn down in the 1960's, but in it until its end were shackles to keep runaway slaves hidden inside during daylight hours until they could move to the next “station” towards freedom.
18. This is to become a small park, across from the Bi-centennial Park on the south triangle which was home of the first borough hall, jail, and official scales. It was also used to hold classes after the school fire in 1908. Oh yes, and a library for a short time during the late 1950's.
19. “Boomer Park” was originally an apple orchard behind the Bessemer Depot. Here men without rented rooms elsewhere in town would nap on benches while waiting for their next call to work. The present “Boomer Park” was the site of a hotel, restaurant, and bar known as Stewart's Restaurant, the the Three Gables, and finally, the Ram's Head.
20. Cross the tracks and across the street you'll see the Albion Public Library. It was built as the Bessemer Rest House for the railroaders to rest, read, take showers, and wash dirty laundry from their work with the huge steam engines hauling iron ore and limestone south and coal north. At Christmas time it housed a giant tree for all the town childrem who were given boxes of hard candy in a sack with two chocolate drops, walnuts, and an apple and an orange.
21. On the left you'll see Rogers Brothers Trailer Factory, home of gooseneck, lowbed trailers. The Rogers family, now descended into the Kulyk family, have served Albion for more than 100 years. They were part of the Manhatten Project which developed the atomic bomb to end World War 11. Specifically. Rogers built the trailer to transport the testing chamber for the bomb. They had no idea what they were building, only that it had to carry a certain number of thousands of tons, thirty miles, one way over desert sand. It had 64 tires, and at the time it was produced it could not receive any rationing exemptions. When it was decided to test the bomb in open air, it had to be cut up and buried beneath the sands of New Mexico so the enemy could not guess its purpose. Thus ended Albion's most important secret. Rogers also manufactured tank retrievers and continues to produce government defense products to this day.
22. As you continue to the end of Pearl Street, you will pass through the new houses that mark the passage of the tornado. Just a mere 200 feet wide here, its diagonal path claimed more lives here and on Washington and Walnut Streets, for a total of twelve victims.
23. Your journey brings you once again to John Williams Avenue and wherever you parked your car. Hopefully you will have stopped at one of the eating establishments along the way and will check into McDonald's for a cone or a drink since they have been so generous to Albion since they opened here in the 1990's.
Be sure to come back to Valley School Museum, open each Sunday from Memorial Day to Halloween, 2 - 4 pm, and any other time by appointment, no charge. Call 814-756-4764.