This ordinary building near the Kalamazoo River in Albion held a secret inside. The building is now used by the non-profit social organization The Leisure Hour Club, but back in the ’30s, it was owned by one of the members of the notorious Purple Gang. The gang was in control of most of the booze coming into Detroit from Canada during Prohibition. They sold liquor throughout the midwest and would frequently travel to Chicago, and Albion was a halfway point on the trip. Some members of the gang owned this building and a nearby auto salvage business. The gang would steal safes from across the state and would take them to Albion where they could be opened by either safecrackers, or brute force at the auto wrecking yard. After the cash and valuables were remove the safe and evidence could be disposed of with the scrap metal.
In 1935 the gang stole a Graham Paige sedan from Ferndale and converted it into a safe stealing getaway car. They added a pull-down metal shield over the rear window. License plates that could be rotated to different numbers. The car also had bulletproof glass and portholes to fire guns through. The rear seats and doors were removable so safes could be loaded quickly into the back and transported to Albion. The car was hidden from police during the daytime in the building now used by the Leisure Hour Club. A police officer in 1936 spotted the infamous car through a window and shortly afterward At 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 3, 1936 over 25 police officers raided the building and salvage yard apprehending some members of the purple gang.
I can only assume the car was scrapped for metal during WWII, but it would be interesting to find it in a barn somewhere and see what it looked like with all it’s bullet holes and super secret safe stealing gadgets.
I have more about the Purple Gang and other interesting facts in my Lost In Michigan books on Amazon HERE
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