North Country Trail Association

Trail Town: Albion

The home to Albion College with the heart of a rich industrial past and the pulse of a revitalized present, Albion is experiencing a downtown renaissance.

Some shining examples include Albion Malleable Brewing Company and the Courtyard by Marriott, located just a block away from the North Country Trail. Both are a great part of a spectacular day that starts with hiking Albion College’s Whitehouse Nature Center, Albion River Trail, and the nearby Falling Waters Trail before returning to Albion for a craft beer and a delectable dinner, followed by a film at the newly restored historic Bohm Theatre in the heart of downtown. End the evening on a high note with a refreshing swim and a restful evening at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. Or, for a more intimate setting, settle in at Palmer House, Albion’s historic bed and breakfast. Albion is conveniently located on I-94 just 15 miles west of Jackson, 30 miles east of Battle Creek, and 45 miles south of Lansing.

Albion was first settled as a village in 1831 and later incorporated as a city in 1905. During the 1930’s and 1940’s members of Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang lived in Albion. Albion is also the birthplace of America’s first great food writer, M.F.K. Fisher.

The Albion Malleable Iron Company, a vibrant locally owned and controlled factory which was in existence from 1888 until 1967, was the major economic factor in Albion’s history in the early 20th century. It brought hundreds of residents to the town and formed the basis of Albion’s diverse population. People originally from Italy, Poland, Holland, Mexico, and many other countries came to work and settle in Albion, as did a large African American population from the South. The Festival of the Forks is an annual celebration of Albion’s historic heritage and rich ethnic diversity. Held on the third full weekend in September, more than 10,000 people attend this popular event that showcases different musical performers, offers culinary delights, and features special events such as pet shows, parades and art exhibits. Under the auspices of the Greater Albion Chamber of Commerce, the Festival of the Forks is an annual reunion of current and former residents of the greater Albion area in celebration of the creativity and diversity of its people.

A four-year undergraduate liberal arts college, Albion College is minutes from the North Country Trail and downtown Albion. During the academic year, Albion College hosts many events that are open to the public including theater productions, sporting events, and entertainment events. Albion’s magnificent Bohm Theatre was renovated to its former glory in 2015 and was a recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation. As a downtown anchor, the Bohm should be a part of anyone’s Albion experience. The Bohm Theatre shows movies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with special events throughout the week. Private showings, events, and tours are also available for groups with advanced notice. Riverside Cemetery was placed on the State Register of Historic Sites on August 29, 1996. The first burial in the cemetery occurred in 1837, the year Michigan became a state. Reflecting Albion’s ethnically diverse population, the cemetery has areas known as “The Russian Section,” “German Hill,” and a section for African American veterans from World War I. A private Catholic cemetery contains the remains of people from Italy, Lithuania, and Poland. In addition to a unique array of tombstones, the cemetery includes impressive mausoleum, an office, a receiving vault and a fishpond. Home to Albion’s historic society, the Gardner House Museum is full of history. Built around 1875, this Victorian charm transforms you back to another time in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The museum is open Saturday and Sunday afternoons from Mother’s Day through the end of September. If you are traveling with a large group, you may call ahead and schedule an appointment for a museum tour.

Albion’s largest public park, Victory Park, is located just south of downtown. Within the park, there are several areas for a picnic including tables and shelters. The park is also home to many recreational activities including the Albion River Trail, Swingin’ at the Shell, a legendary 18-hole disc golf course, a 10,000-square-foot children’s playground, and winter fun at the sledding hill. During August and September, the Victory Park Band Shell comes alive as the home to a Sunday night concert series, Swingin’ at the Shell. Featuring a range of musical genres, each concert starts at 6:00 p.m. on the lawn of the Victory Park Band Shell. Each concert is free and open to the public. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket, and enjoy a swinging summer Sunday evening of live music!

The Kalamazoo River runs through the heart of downtown Albion. Many of the city’s parks are situated along the banks of the river, which has excellent canoeing and kayaking. The Whitehouse Nature Center is a part of Albion College and is accessible via Farley Drive. The north branch of Kalamazoo River cuts across the center, and more than 150 bird species find homes among this 140-acre forest. The center also features trails, an interpretative center, a visitor center, and a research facility that’s open to varied forms of outdoor education. Several events, workshops and programs are held here throughout the year.

Kids ‘N’ Stuff Children’s Museum provides hands-on exhibits and programs for young children and their families in 10,000 square feet of exhibit space in downtown Albion. From exploring a miniature city to navigating the rapids of the water table, the museum is sure to delight. On the Monday of Labor Day Weekend each year, the Albion Health Care Alliance sponsors a walk of the Albion River Trail, complete with a group “crossing the bridge” in Victory Park. It starts near the Victory Park Band Shell and includes a brief presentation related to Albion’s history and culture somewhere along the walk.

The Chief Noonday Chapter is responsible for the North Country Trail section through Albion.

 

 

Additional Resources

Trailheads and Parking

  • Victory Park
  • Harris Field
  • McAuliffe Park
  • Whitehouse Nature Center
  • Amtrak station
  • Downtown, public parking lots

 

Header photo by Ben Muldrow