The ABCs of Lowell History: X Marks the Spot…for the Center of Town!

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about where the center of town is located and what used to be in the building there. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.

Where is the exact center of Lowell? Main Street divides the city north from south, and the bridge over the Flat River divides the city east and west. While there is no literal ‘X’ marking the spot, there is a building. 101 East Main sits empty today, but it was built to be the Post Office. The house numbers of the buildings on Main Street are numbered East and West from that location. This settled the argument of the East Siders versus the West Siders who each wanted the Post Office on their side of town.

In 1848, Philander Tracy became the first Postmaster in Lowell. Rodney Robinson and his daughter Clarinda served next in 1849. Settlers came to get their mail once a week, traveling as far as 10 to 15 miles.

The first postmaster officially appointed by the United States Government was George K. White in 1851. He had no trouble serving his customers; he kept the mail in a drawer under the shoe bench in his cobbler shop, the White Shoe Shop. It was located on the southeast corner of East Main and Washington Streets. The family lived in a house just east of the shop. All letters were sealed with red wax at that time.

The first designated Post Office building was a wooden building in the center of town over the Flat River, but the huge fire of 1884 destroyed that building and 19 others down the street to the west and even across Bridge Street. Postmaster Milton R. Perry and the postal workers saved the mail, the stamps and the furniture. It was said the mail was so badly mixed up that it was a big job to get it straightened out. A new brick Post Office was built in the same location in the center of town later that year by Billings G. Wilson. It was used until the current Post Office was built in 1939.

Billings G. Wilson was the Great-Great Grandfather of Robert Hahn, Anita Hahn Roth and Gretchen Hahn Jones (who are members of the Lowell Area Historical Museum). The Wilson family lived on N. Hudson where the funeral home is today. One of his sons, Milan D. Wilson, was the photographer who produced the book entitled “Lowell, Michigan 1893” which became Lowell’s first pictorial history. Milan’s studio was on the second floor of the Post Office his father had built.

Most recently the building hosted the Serenity Club. Today this building marking the center of town is empty, awaiting a new chapter in its history. The stained glass windows upstairs go mostly unnoticed. On a cloudy day, from across the street, you can see images of those buildings in the glass. This is a remnant of days gone by –X marks the spot!


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