Ghosts of Main Street: Solid as a Vault

August 29, 2019

By Julie Traynor

In 1901, the Village of Marion was a rapidly growing girl of 12, with an expanding business district and an economy ready for banking services. The Bank of Marion was the first such business in our town and, family tree speaking, is the several times great-grandfather of the bank we have today. A series of ‘marriages’ so to speak, has brought us from the first bank, to the multistate banking corporation which serves us today.

This view shows the tarpaper shack built over the fallen bank vault after the fire of April 1908. The ‹shack› is the only building on the block between Pickard and Carland. 

The Bank of Marion was begun as a private business, by Fred and Edith Lawrence. They employed Ralph A. Lewis, an up and coming young Marion man, and together these three were the faces of ‘the bank’ until 1906. By that time directors elected, shares sold and charter issued; all requirements were met and the Marion State Bank became an official, State authorized, banking institution.

The original bank building was lost to a devastating fire that swept the north side of Main between Pickard and Carland Streets in April 1908. The building was destroyed but not the vault, which conveniently dropped into the basement. No records were lost and the ‘bank’ conducted business from a small tarpaper building constructed above the vault for a year during the building of a new building. 

The new brown brick, two-story Marion State Bank building opened its fine doors on February 22, 1909, on the northeast corner of Pickard and Main Streets. The imposing building, which included oak paneling and furniture throughout, and likely the first two flush toilets in the village, furthered the solid reputation of the institution.

The Marion Branch of the Cadillac State Bank, 1948. This is an uncommon postcard view of the bank building. The local Michigan Bell Telephone office was housed in offices on the second floor. 

The Marion State Bank weathered the economic ups and downs of World War I, the Great Depression and the throes of WWII, remaining solid when others failed. In 1943, the Marion State Bank became part of the growing Cadillac State Bank banking system. The banks’ focus was agriculturally and real estate based during much of its growing years, having shifted from the lumber and business building investments at its start. 

The four upstairs office rooms of the bank building were home to the local Michigan Bell Telephone office, under the management of Mrs. Doris Mobley. The local switchboard was located here from 1927 until 1956 when dial service came to town. The rooms above the bank were converted into apartment space.  

This is a close up shot of what served as the Marion Bank in 1908. 

A drive thru window was added in the early 1970’s, which was considered a real ‘big city’ innovation in Marion.

In 1978, the Cadillac State Bank and all of its branches were acquired by NBD and the third name change in 78 years occurred. With this acquisition also came a new building. The bank building and two others were razed to make way for the sprawling bank building we know today.

Bank patrons cross the ghostly footprints of the original bank, both of them, the Game building, once a bakery and the Sun Theater each time they enter the In Drive and park.   

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