Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

THE BANK OF ALBION

Morning Star, July 16, 2000, pg. 6.

Ya wanna buy a bank? There’s one for sale. Well, at least the building is. The original Bank of Albion building next to the Post Office is for sale in downtown Albion. The Bank of Albion opened on January 27, 1956 after local citizens saw the need to have a second bank in town compete with City Bank & Trust Company. The Bank of Albion was a "state charter" bank, and was the first such bank in town since the Albion State Bank had failed just before Christmas in 1931.

The Bank of Albion was that, and lived up to its name. It was locally owned and managed. The first president of the new financial institution was Alfonso A. Magnotta (1913-1963), prominent school board member and attorney, later Circuit Court judge. Magnotta was the driving force behind the bank becoming a reality. The Journal of Albion editor Rae Corliss wrote on January 25, 1958: "Especially is considerable credit due to its president, Attorney Alphonse Magnotta, who single-handed, dreamed and created the new institution. Through long months of difficult effort and application, he sold both the idea and the stock subscription necessary to bring the bank into existence. It was not an easy undertaking! Many men would have given up! For every kind of opposition was thrown against him by some who hoped to prevent establishment of a second bank here."

Other early officials included: Ralph Brooks, vice-president and director. A. R. Dart, vice-president; Max Mulvaney, Cashier; S. J. Lonergan, Jr. Secretary of the board and director; and additional directors Carl S. Greer, Jr., Richard R. Jenkins, and Rush W. McCutcheon. Some early tellers included Marian McAuliffe, Nancy Newman, Phyllis Torrey, and Thelma Hilborn. Early bookkeepers included Norma Kalenchick and Lucille Kitley. Orville Harris was the bank’s maintenance person. Suceeding Magnotta as bank president was Charles N. Lentz, who served from 1961 to 1978.

The Bank of Albion was located on the site of the former passenger depot of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, whose remaining tracks still run past the former bank building to service Guardian Industries. The depot had been removed in the 1930s, and this prime piece of land was finally purchased by the bank for its new headquarters.

While the long-established City Bank (formerly the Commercial & Savings Bank) stood majestically in downtown Albion with its portals, antique marble interior and iron security bars, the Bank of Albion on the other hand was newly designed to reflect the modern era. The atmosphere was decidedly different. The tellers windows were low and made of wood. The windows had no iron bars on them. The modern spacious interior was lighted by fluorescent lighting with contemporary decor on the walls. There was a drive-through where you could pull your vehicle up to the window and do your banking without ever getting out of your car! Relatedly, there was a rubber hose in the driveway that made a bell go "ding" inside the bank to alert the tellers whenever a car passed over it, just like at the gas station! Ding, Ding, Ding!

In 1974 the majority of the shares of the bank were purchased by Carl A. Gerstacker, chairman of the board of Dow Chemical Company of Midland. The bank was absorbed by the Chemical Financial Corporation of Midland and the name was changed to Chemical Bank in 1980. In recent years the original Bank of Albion building was used as an accounting center, until it was abandoned earlier this year. Now it is for sale.

Many memories remain of growing up in Albion and using the Bank of Albion on numerous occasions. One unusual one was parking "up front" along the hedge of the U.S. Post Office next door and as a passenger, trying to exit the "right side" with the hedge at your door. Did anyone have that experience, too? From our Historical Notebook this week we present an exterior view of the Bank of Albion as it looked in its heyday back in the late 1950s.


Bank of Albion

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