Albion funeral home has 2 Pullman couches

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 November 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – George Pullman is believed to have made these two couches that are inside the Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home in Albion. The funeral home was once the home for Sanford Church, a prominent Albionite who served as the state’s lieutenant governor.

ALBION – Before he struck fame and fortune as the manufacturer of palatial sleeping railroad cars, George Pullman was a cabinet and furniture maker in Albion.

Pullman joined the family business at age 17 in 1848.  A decade later he was in Chicago, making money by moving buildings. In 1859, he converted railroad cars into luxury rooms on wheels. Thus began his empire.

Today, I stopped by the Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home in Albion. Two of Pullman’s couches from more than 150 years ago remain inside the funeral home, which used to be the home of Sanford Church. The prominent Albion resident went on to serve as lieutenant governor from 1851 to 1854. Church may be Albion’s most accomplished resident. He was also the state comptroller and chief judge of the Court of Appeals.

He also apparently owned ornately carved furniture by another young Albionite who would become a titan of business. George Pullman didn’t forget his Albion roots after amassing his riches. He was the prime benefactor in building the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, a site that was dedicated in 1895.

Another Albion church has a Pullman-made couch. When I was at the First Presbyterian Church for a visit a few months ago, members of the church noted they have a Pullman couch. I’ll try to get a picture soon.

The Pullman furniture features ornately carved woodwork.