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Wednesday, October 5,2011

Historical highs

Comerica Bank event raises funds for Lansing historical museum

by Denyse Smith

On a clear Lansing night, the view from the top is a good
one, and on Saturday, patrons of the Greater Lansing Historical
Society’s Fall Fundraiser will get a chance to see for themselves the
view from the 15th floor windows of Comerica Bank.


For the first time in the bank’s history Comerica Bank is
hosting the fundraiser in its historic North Washington Square
location, and plans are to allow visitors to tour the building’s first
floor (including the vault) before heading to the 15th floor to check
out the view.


The event benefits the Greater Lansing Historical Society’s effort to open the Lansing Historical Museum.


Patrons can take tours throughout the evening to see the
archways and Art Deco touches that made the building a work of art
during the Great Depression. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be
served.


Comerica branch manager Mike DeMartelaere said the
building was constructed between 1931 and 1933 and has been owned by
banking companies since it opened its doors.


The architectural features of the first floor, vault and
the view from the top floor are most impressive, he said, adding,
“You’re able to see quite a ways on a nice evening.”


Touted at the time as a “modern skyscraper,” the original
Bank of Lansing building offers more than just a vault and a view.
DeMartelaere said the architecture on the first floor and the mosaics
and murals are notable in their own right.


Valerie Marvin of the Greater Lansing Historical Society
said she thought the bank would be a perfect place to hold this year’s
event. She said the exterior of the building is a showcase of
Lansing-centric history, including sculptural depictions of the
automotive industry, agriculture and education.


“It’s such a great building,” she said. “Banks were not
being built during the Great Depression and to have one whose
structures and art depictions go all the way to a local level was
perfect for us.”


Anyone hoping to take home some souvenirs from the vault
may be disappointed, however; Martin said there isn’t any money left in
there.  


DeMartelaere said a commemorative postcard was issued in
the 1970s when the bank was still owned by Bank of Lansing. Later, when
Manufacturers Bank purchased the building in the 1980s, it published a
booklet detailing the history of the building.


DeMartelaere has several of those booklets to hand out to
patrons of the fundraiser event — the images in the booklets show the
Manufacturer’s Bank banner across the top of the building.


Shortly after the building’s 50th anniversary all of the limestone artwork and mosaics were cleaned up and restored.  The
art inside the building depicting life in Michigan during the early
days of the Great Depression was brought back to its original luster.


Patrons of the Historical Society will have the chance to
see the gargoyles, the stained glass and the carved limestone figures,
including the image of National Bank president Benjamin F. Davis
miserly curled up around a bag of money.  


Other art carvings include pieces that show signs of the
times, including bank robbers being caught by local law enforcement and
a dentist who formerly occupied the building extracting the teeth of
one of his patients.


The building’s architects, Lee and Kenneth Black, are immortalized in images along the walls of the building as well.


Along with tours of the bank building there will be a
silent auction with nearly 130 items, ranging from trips and parties to
crocheted afghans and jewelry. The catalogue features not only weeklong
vacations and Detroit Tigers tickets, but Lansing memorabilia as well. 


A full catalogue of silent auction items is available on the Historical Society website at lansinghistory.org.  




Greater Lansing Historical Society Fundraiser


4-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8


Comerica Bank Building


105 N. Washington Square, Lansing


$15 individuals; $25 couples


Order by mail at P.O. Box 12095, Lansing, MI 48901


Resrvations are suggested, but tickets will also be available at the door


lansinghistory.org


(517) 282-0671

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