Architectural Tour

Albion's building boom spans 150 years.  Use this guide to discover "Albion's walk through time."

American Vernacular  
115 E. Elm

Period of Popularity: 1870 - 1960 

Starting in the 1870s, the shell of a house was adorned to suit the preferences of the owner using locally available materials.  Local millworks gave a builder a limited choice of windows, frames, molding, shingles, etc.  It was common to use a mingling of architectural items to drape a standard form.  Today we refer to this type of architectural design as Vernacular. Because this style of architecture uses materials to meet the specific needs and resources of the area, a Vernacular home in Michigan would be quite different from a Vernacular home in Arizona or Vermont, for example. It might be construed that the earliest shelters from the beginning of time were, in fact, “vernacular”.  This is private home today, interesting to note: previous owners of this home include the early pioneers and founders of Albion, Tenny Peabody, Jesse Crowell, Augustus Gardner and Belle Gardner Gale.


Romanesque Revival
300 S. Clinton

Period of Popularity: 1870 – 1900 

Romanesque buildings were made of stone, had few windows, and thick walls with columns or arches supporting the roof.  In more modern times, this style was adapted to suit commercial buildings by opening the spaces between the arches into large windows, the brick walls becoming a shell to a building that was essentially a prototype of the modern steel-frame construction.   The building known as The Ismon House, was built in 1898-99 as a meeting place for a women’s literary and cultural group, as well as having rooms for a gentlemen’s Leisure House Club and, until 1919, a lending library.  This facility is now a meeting & banquet center.


Greek Revival
910 Haven Road

Period of Popularity 1810 - 1855 

This Greek Revival home, is an example of a style that gained popularity as the British influence waned considerably after the War of 1812 and the nation rapidly expanded westward.  The style was fundamentally an expression of American’s triumphant sense of destiny and the sense that our newly formed nation was the spiritual descent of Greece, the birthplace of democracy.  During this period, Greek Revival became known as the “national style” and began appearing on churches, banks, town halls, and houses.  This structure is owned by Albion College and is often used as a guest house.


515 E. Michigan

Period of Popularity: 1850 - 1870 

The Italianate-style was derived from the villas of the Italian countryside.  By the 1830s, Italianate had spread to the United States where architects began to transform it into something truly American.  Washington DC’s historic neighborhoods contain many buildings of this style, the majority were built in the immediate aftermath of the civil War.  The expense and craftsmanship lavished on the exterior offer testament to the prosperity and optimism of the era. This is a private home today.


Queen Anne
703 E. Cass

Period of Popularity: 1880 - 1900

As a result of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s and early 1900s, building construction evolved dramatically.  The Queen Anne style lent itself to the excesses of the Victorian age with its turrets, ornate windows and medieval influences. These houses were typically built of wood, allowing the designer free artistic expression in the patterns and details that define the style.  Beloved by lumber barons and railroad magnets alike, many of the largest and most spectacular homes of the early 20th century were built in this style. Bold and unconventional color schemes were also a Queen Anne trait, San Francisco’s famous “painted ladies” for example.  Known as Fiske House, this building is owned by Albion College and is a small Residence Hall that is part of the Modern Languages and Cultures’ International Language Living and Learning area—I-Space. This living area is designated for students studying the French, German, or Spanish language. Its goals are to promote second-language acquisition and to encourage international awareness among its residents and the campus at large. Selection for residency in this living area is based on a declared major or minor in French, German, or Spanish, previous or current participation in an off-campus program of study in any country where French, German, or Spanish is spoken, and previous or current study of foreign language. Students pledge to speak the intended language within their living quarters. 

Dutch Colonial
400 E. Erie

Period of Popularity: 1890 - 1930

During the early 20th century, America was experiencing episodic depressions and economic sluggishness. Because they were less expensive to build and avoided the pitfall of being taxed as a two-story home, Dutch Colonial architectural became a popular style of the times. The gambrel-style roof allowed an almost complete second floor without the expense of two-story construction.  This building, known as Dean Hall, is the property of Albion College and is a special-interest housing option unit with the designation of the women's cooperative made on an annual basis. This cooperative is for sophomore through senior-status women. 



Second Empire
509 S. Superior

Period of Popularity: 1860 - 1880 

The distinctive roof of a second empire structure was named for the 17th century French architect Francois Mansart.  The boxy roofline was considered very functional because it permitted full upper story use of attic space.  This house was built in 1875.  It is now the home of the Gardner House Museum and is listed in the National Register of Historical Places.

Georgian Colonial
906 Haven Rd

Period of Popularity:  1690 - 1830

The Georgian Colonial is named after Kings George I – IV. It is admired for its symmetrical design and classic proportions.  Builders often provided pattern books focused on the design details for windows, doors, fireplaces and molding elements.  With only a few professional-looking flourishes, colonial Americans could greatly enhance the appeal of a simple building.  This Georgian Colonial was built in the 1930s by the Dean family.  George Dean was a prominent industrialist and civic leader.  In addition to his business concerns, he and his wife, Belle, owned and operated a working dairy farm named Haven Hills.  This structure was built at Haven Hills and is now the property of Albion College.



Georgian Revival
517 E. Michigan

Period of Popularity: 1920 - 1950
Although Georgian Revival structures employed many of the details of their earlier Colonial predecessors, they did not closely follow the rules of Georgian architecture. Classical details were either over-exaggerated or updated for the 20th century.  Much of the strict Georgian symmetry and order was often altered. Georgian architecture usually consisted of a two-story façade with five window and door openings on both first and second stories. This structure has a three window configuration.  Roofs could be gable, hipped or gambrel. A porch with pediment roof and simple columns is typical of this era of construction.  This home was purchased in 2004 and converted into a Bed & Breakfast.


416 E. Erie

Briefly popular in the 1850s

The design of the Octagon house can generally be traced to the influence of Orson Squire Fowler, an amateur architect and lifestyle pundit.  According to Fowler, an octagon was cheaper to build, allowed for additional living space, received more natural light, was easier to heat, and remained cooler in the summer. However, the central spiral staircase, although compact, leaves one side of the house without direct access to the upper landings, so there are bedrooms only accessible through another bedroom, sometimes two.  Fowler’s own house had external staircases and verandas used for circulation and access to the rooms.  The 416 Erie Street is now an apartment building owned by Albion College and is considered a “privileged housing option” for senior-status women.

 903 E. Michigan

Period of Popularity: 1890 – 1930s

One of the most popular architectural styles in the country is American Craftsman, also known as Arts & Crafts, which originated in the final years of the 19th century and experienced a revival in the 1930s.    Craftsman homes are often painted in a nature-inspired palette of muted browns, red, greens and blues to help the low-profile bungalow blend seamlessly with their surroundings.  This is a private home.


 Band Shell
Victory Park

The band shell at Victory Park is a prominent Albion landmark and has been the site of memorable concerts and events through the years. In the 1930s, the Albion City Band was a “big thing.”  It held concerts in the park up to three times a week, in 1939, the Albion City Council petitioned the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to fund sewer projects, make improvements to Riverside Cemetery and construct a band shell in the Park. The first concert was held in the new band shell Sunday, October 12, 1941. It is interesting to note that “the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” (1911) was written by Albion College students and “The Old Rugged Cross” (1912) was written by a Methodist evangelist while in Albion.  Free band concerts are currently held throughout the summer in Albion.  Sunday evenings from June to early September presents “Swingin’ at the Shell.”


Welcome to Albion!