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Historic Businesses

Walker Brothers Elevator

Ariel rear view of Building B. Building A can be seen in the distance. Circa 1875

Walker Brothers Elevator – 1875
80 Main Street

Walter Walker and John Coope founded the storehouse and elevator known as Walker & Coope Elevator in 1874.  Various improvements were made from time to time, until the firm was running two fire-proof elevators that were sheathed first with fire-proof paper and then covered with corrugated iron, having a total capacity of 60,000 bushels of grain.

The firm later known as Walter Walker & Company, dealt in grain, salt, coal, lime, brick, sewer pipe, drain pipe and other articles.  Their business constantly increased and was one of the leading institutions not only of Imlay City but the entire surrounding country as well.  The elevator was still in operation as late as 1976.

John Coope disposed of his interest in the Walker & Coope Elevator in 1889 due to ill-health and retired to Pasadena, California.  However, he returned to Imlay City in 1890 to pursue other business opportunities.

Walter and Robert Walker, Sr., came to Imlay City in 1873.   The elevator was built on the south side of Third Street behind the present American Legion Hall, and known as building A.  The railroad placed a spur close to the back door of the elevator for loading grain.  Large quantities of grain were purchased from farmers all over the area and shipped out in car lots.  (Building A in later years was demolished.)  They built a large storage elevator on the east side of south Main Street where wool purchased from farmers was stored.

The Schonfeld Brothers (Jack and Harold) later purchased the storage building known as building B.

Walker Brothers Elevator
80 Main Street

 

Dr. Martin’s House and Office

Dr. Philip E. Martin, circa 1928

Dr. Martin’s House and Office – 1906
243 East Third Street

Dr. Philip Edgar Martin, was born October 6, 1870 in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada.  He was one of three children, the others being George, who died in 1903, and Jackwho died in infancy.

Dr. Martin was educated in the public schools of Lindsay until the age of 12.  He then attended Upper Canada College of Toronto, a preparatory school, and Trinity College of Medicine in Toronto. He studied a year at the Detroit College of Medicine, graduating in 1891 at the age of 21.

Immediately after graduation he located to Orion, Michigan, where he married Jessie M. Anderson.  In 1899 he moved to Imlay City and in 1906 built the home located at 243 East Third Street. The home also served as his office where he continued the general practice of medicine until his untimely death in January of 1929 when he was killed in an automobile accident north of town.  He is buried in the Orion Cemetery.

The building was later purchased by the Churchill family who also lived in the house and operated an insurance agency in the front portion and enclosed porch. Today, Churchill Insurance still operates from the main floor.

Dr. Martin’s House and Office
243 East Third Street

Dr. Jones’ Office

Circa 1874

Dr. Jones’ Office- 1872
223 East Third Street

J. Krusen was one of Imlay City’s pioneer merchants, establishing a drug store in 1872, carrying “drugs, medicines, paints and oils.” In 1875, after the village was incorporated, he served as assessor for a few years.  In 1884 Mr. Krusen moved to Larned, Kansas.

Dr. George W. Jones was Imlay City’s first physician, coming to Imlay City in December of 1873.  Dr. Jones first office was on the second floor of the N. J. Krusen Drug Store.  He was a successful practitioner and often made calls on horseback.  He was very active in the life of the new community.  In 1873 he was elected the first village president, a position he held many years.  He was postmaster for 12 years, and a promoter and founder of the Imlay City Fair Association.

In later years his office was at various locations in the downtown area including 126 Third Street and the Haskin Block on the south side of east Third Street.

 

Dr. Jones’ Office
223 East Third Street

 

Lapeer County Bank

Circa late 1800s

Lapeer County Bank – 1886
201 East Third Street

John Borland, Sr. was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1832, and came to the United States in 1852.  He settled in Romeo, MI, in 1860.  Later, learning of a new town on the railroad, he moved his family to Imlay City, opening a general store in November of 1870; the first place where goods were retailed.  This pioneer merchant ran a first class general store.  He sold his store in 1870 and started a private bank, naming it the Lapeer County Bank.  It was organized as State Bank No. 24 on February 8, 1886.  He built this building on the corner of Third and Bancroft streets in 1886.

The building was described in an early publication as follows:  “The building is a fine two-story brick…..the main entrance being directly on the corner.  It is a finely constructed edifice, and adds materially to the appearance of the village…..The office is an elegantly finished apartment, roomy, and perfectly adapted to its uses.  It is finished in oak, beautifully paneled and veneered in birdseye maple trimmings.  It is lighted by triple windows arched with stained glass.  To the right of the counting-room is the private office, fitted up plainly and yet appropriately in accordance with the general design. …..the vaults are absolutely safe, a fact of no little consequence to those who make deposits therein of valuable papers or articles.”

In earlier years, the second story of the bank building was used as an attorney’s office, dressmaker’s shop and dentist offices.  A doctor used the rear of the lower level as his offices.

The bank prospered and became an asset to Imlay City.  Mr. Borland’s two sons, John Jr. (Jock) and William were bank assistants and they continued the operations of the bank after their father’s death in June of 1919.  The Great Depression forced banks to close in Michigan in 1932.  A new bank was then organized and opened on April 26, 1935, known as the Imlay City State Bank. On May 1, 1985, Security Bancorp of Southgate completed consolidation plans with Imlay City State Bank, and it became Security Bank of Imlay City.

Lapeer County Bank
201 East Third Street

E.E. Palmer/Rathsburh & Muir Bookstore

Edward E. Palmer, circa late 1800’s

E.E. Palmer/Rathsburg & Muir Bookstore -1929
151 East Third Street

In 1888, Edward E. Palmer started a variety store in this building at the corner of Bancroft and Third streets.  The store sold school books, supplies and various other items.

In 1901 he sold the store to Frank Rathsburg, who had been a clerk in a general store in Almont.  After selling his business Mr. Palmer devoted his time to farming, developing the Belle River flats east of town, known as Riverside Farm.  The farm was later operated by the Belle River Celery Company.  Mr. Palmer later moved to Long Beach, California, where he resided until 90 years of age. Upon his death he was returned to Imlay City for burial.

Frank Rathsburg was an active citizen.  He was secretary of the Imlay City Fair Association, promoted the Detroit Urban Railway, helped start the local Chamber of Commerce and aided in promoting the Earle Memorial Highway, the new M-53.

In 1902 Will Muir, who had been clerking in the Nelson Haskin store (located on Third Street) for two years, bought an interest in the store.  The Rathsburg and Muir firm was then formed with Walter Schoof and Fred Linekar as clerks.  Mr. Muir sold his interest in 1919 and entered the insurance business.

Later, Walter Schoof bought Mr. Muir’s interest in the store and it became the firm of Rathsburg and Schoof.  The firm of Rathsburg and Schoof continued until 1929 when the store was completely destroyed by fire.  Mr. Schoof then opened a wallpaper, paint and home furnishing store on Almont Avenue which he ran until 1936 when he became postmaster for the next 20 years.

 

E.E. Palmer/Rathsburg & Muir Bookstore
151 East Third Street

Marshall/Bowen’s Men’s Clothing

1905 Marshall Bowen

Marshall/Bowen’s Men’s Clothing- 1905
149 East Third Street

On April 14, 1898, Joseph S. and David S. Marshall, pioneer merchants, opened a men’s furnishings store at the southeast corner of Third Street and Almont Avenue.  The Marshall Clothing Company operated as such until March 9, 1914, when G. M. “Mate” Bowen purchased the Marshalls’ interest and changed the name to Bowen’s Clothing Store.  The business earlier had moved into this location, a new building, in 1905. This site was formerly a wooden structure occupied by the Stock & Bolton Harness Shop.

1949 Marshall Bowen

In May of 1944, Mr. Bowen, after 46 years in the clothing business, sold his store to Carlton and Gerry VanWagoner.  Mr. Bowen continued to work in the store.  Mr. VanWagoner retained the name of Bowen’s Clothing Store. Carlton VanWagoner followed in Mr. Bowen’s footsteps as both men were active in Rotary, the Congregational Church, Boy Scouts, and many community organizations and projects.

The building was modernized in 1949 by Mr. VanWagoner and saw a face-lift of the storefront that consisted of baked enamel on steel.

In 1971, Carlton VanWagoner retired and sold the business to Jack and Angie Riley.  It was then known as Riley’s Men’s Wear and another face lift was made consisting of a barn wood facade.  Riley’s closed in 1982 and various businesses since that time have occupied the building.

Marshall/Bowen’s Men’s Clothing
149 East Third Street

 

Fancher Building

Myron Fancher

Fancher Building – 1923
110 North Almont Avenue

The first Imlay City post office was located at Blacks Corners, a small settlement two miles northwest of Imlay City.  The post office then moved into the village of Imlay City and was located at the southeast corner of Third Street and Almont Avenue.  From there it moved two more times until 1923 when Myron Fancher erected this building on Almont Avenue to be used as the Imlay City Post Office.  Currently, the United States Post Office is located at 310 East Third Street.

Early postmasters were (in order);  E. E. Palmer, Dr. Egglestone, Dr. George W. Jones, Morrice Braidwood, Jack Brewer, Mrs. Guy Washer, Earl (Pete) Secor, Walter Schoof, Grace Matthews and James Robb.

In the 1950s this building became the Metzger Shoe Store.  The lower level of the building, accessed by an outdoor stairwell, at one time contained a beauty shop, a barber shop, and a coffee shop.

Myron Fancher came to Imlay City in 1903.  He was a funeral director until his retirement in 1945.  He was the manager of the local telephone exchange from 1909 until 1928.  He also built the buildings that housed the A&P store and the Fancher and Smith Funeral Home located along this section of Almont Avenue

Fancher Building
110 North Almont Avenue

McKinley Hotel

Circa 1915

McKinley Hotel – 1889
150 East Third Street

C. Shaw built the McKinley Hotel in 1889. It has been known by many names over the years such as Hotel Mack, the Bossenberry Hotel, the Seidell Hotel and the Imlay City Hotel.

The McKinley Hotel is of the Italianate Style.  The tall narrow windows, the wide projecting cornice with brackets, and the hooded windows are typical of the Italianate Style, which was common for urban buildings and homes during the 1860s and 1880s.

The lobby of the current business was the original lobby of the hotel where guests would register. There is a loose panel in the woodwork on the side of the stairway in the lobby where bartenders hid alcohol during Prohibition. The hotel contained a dining room, kitchen, bar, restrooms, and a dance hall with a stage for a band.  Behind the hotel is a cement block garage that was used as an ice storage building.

There were 16 separate rooms upstairs and one bathroom that was shared among all the hotel guests.  It had a single bathtub, toilet and sink.

The taller window on the front of the building was formerly a doorway to go out onto the second level deck.  Ropes were nailed to the deck floor to every window to be used as a fire escape.  Legend says someone used one of those ropes to hang him or herself by jumping out the window.  Subsequent owners of the building have had many experiences on the second floor where a ghost has been sensed.  Believe it or not!

McKinley Hotel
150 East Third Street

Masons Hall

Circa 1913

Masons Hall – 1913
200 East Third Street

Masonic Lodge 341 of Free and Accepted Masons was inaugurated on August 6, 1876, and the first meetings were held in the third story of a wooden building located on the west side of Almont Avenue, north of Third Street.  Lodge was held in the Almont Avenue hall until January of 1887 when the Masons moved to Haskin’s Hall located on east Third Street.

Early in 1888, the lodge, at their own expense, moved into the J. C. Lamb building on Main Street and in February of that year, celebrated the opening of a new lodge room with a banquet and social party.  This remained their home for 25 years, until April 1, 1913, when the lease, having expired, was not renewed.  The Imlay City Order of Eastern Star was formed in 1900. (OES is an organization originally for women who were a daughter, widow, wife, sister or mother of a master Mason.)

On February 27, 1912, with the idea of building a hall, a lot on Third Street was purchased from Charles Hazelton for the sum of $1,000.  To start the building project, 493 certificates were sold at $10 each and with interest to be four percent and payable in ten years.

Ground was broken on April 20, 1912, and the building of the new Mason hall begun.  Volunteer workers donated their labor freely when building the basement.  John Forsyth, local carpenter, and his helpers finished the building on April 5, 1913.  The first meeting was held April 30th, 1913. The 4,000-square foot Masonic Hall included a large lodge meeting room, a kitchen, dining area and another smaller congregating area.  The basement level contained a bowling alley.

Later, the committee found it had over built for the money that was available and a real estate loan was taken for $4,500 and a note given.  In 1938 the note was paid in full.  The Masons vacated the building in 1990 just before the charter for Lodge 341 was relinquished.   For several years after the Masons occupancy, the building was used as a banquet hall.

Masons Hall
200 East Third Street

Imlay Township Hall & Library

Circa 1962

Imlay Township Hall & Library – 1951
212 East Third Street

This building was used as the Imlay Township Hall and Library until 1985 when a new facility was built across from the township cemetery on Fairgrounds Road for township offices.  The building then remained the Imlay Township Library until 1989.

At a meeting in October of 1921, the Women’s Study Club began discussing the idea of a public library in Imlay City.  They began to raise money by putting on three plays in the town’s opera house.  The first library opened in January of 1923 at the town hall on the corner of Fourth and Almont Avenue with 450 books.

In 1927, a 1/8 mill tax was passed and the library became a part of Imlay Township.  After ten years the library was moved out of the town hall and into Dr. Braidwood’s office at the corner of Almont Avenue and Fifth Street.  It stayed at this location for two years and then moved to a building behind the Lapeer County Bank building on Bancroft Street.  It resided there for 16 years until 1951 when a new building was built to include the library and the township office.  The building was constructed by Frank Wiegersma.  The library resided there for the next 39 years.

In 1989 a new library was built from a generous trust left by Ruth Hughes, a native of Imlay City.  The dedication of that building was held in January of 1990, naming it the Ruth Hughes Memorial Library.  Library business continues today on that original site, the corner of Fourth and Almont Avenue.

In 1998 the building was sold to the Harry F. Hovey American Legion Post 135 for use as their headquarters.

 

Imlay Township Hall & Library
212 East Third Street

People’s State Bank

1912

People’s State Bank – 1895
218 East Third Street

In the year 1887, Charles Palmer established a private bank, with Harry E. Palmer, his son, as head cashier.  This private bank operated in a wooden structure further to the west on Third Street

In 1895, Mr. Palmer built this neat and spacious two-story brick building on his lot on Third Street, next to Walter Walker & Company’s elevator lots.  The building was constructed of red pressed brick with Brear stone trimmings.  It was constructed in a thorough manner throughout.  In 1887, the Imlay City Times newspaper reported, “The plans of the building are a credit to our thriving little city, architecturally and otherwise.”  The first floor was built for the growing banking business.

The building was wired for electric lights and was well-lighted, not only from the front but the side as well, and was finished in the latest modern style.  Arthur Hudson of Almont completed some of the fine carpenter work.  The bank opened for business on December 20, 1895.  A Mosler burglarproof safe in the latest pattern, screw door, and triple time lock was installed.  The next year, in 1896, Mr. Palmer had the bank building papered. It wasn’t until 1913 that the bank placed a set of safety deposit boxes in their vault for the use of their patrons.

Several businesses occupied the second story at one time such as an attorney, an art studio and a doctor.  On June 26, 1896 Dr. Stanley Large, a dentist, opened his office over the bank and remained there for many years.

 

People’s State Bank
218 East Third Street

Yerex Building

1911

Yerex Building – 1882
234 East Third Street

Dr. David V. Yerex built this building in 1882 as a carriage and wagon repository.  It was the first door west of what was then Dan McGillis’ Bancroft Hotel.  It is 24 x 40, two stories high.  Newspaper accounts of 1914 indicate the building received a new coat of paint in that year.

Dr. Yerex came to this vicinity about 1860 and for a time was employed by his uncle, James Harrington, who kept the Imlay Hotel on South Blacks Corners Road.  After attending the Medical University of Toronto and Bellevue Hospital in New York City he came back to the area and practiced medicine.  He moved to the village some time around 1877.  He had large land holdings and farms in Goodland and Imlay townships.

In earlier years Dr. Yerex allowed a portion of the building to be used by the Ladies Library Association for ice cream and cake fundraisers.

In 1896, Mrs. F. Korst managed a restaurant in this building.  In 1911 the building was used as the Star Restaurant, with the proprietor being S. C. Titus.  For many years it was Ray’s Bar, and most recently the Front Row Tavern.

In January of 2007 the building suffered a fire which damaged mostly the second floor.  It was renovated the next year.

Yerex Building
234 East Third Street

Grand Trunk Depot

Circa 1915

Grand Trunk Depot -1927
77 Main Street

The coming of the railroad in 1870 was pivotal to Imlay City’s founding and economic progression.  Imlay City’s original wooden depot was built in 1870 for the Port Huron and Lake Michigan Railroad, and contained separate waiting rooms for men and women.  The PH&LM Railroad, later became known as the Chicago & Grand Trunk, Grand Trunk Railroad (GT), and the GTW (Western).  Since 1987, the railroad has been operated by the Canadian National Railway system, which dots the southern Lower Peninsula landscape.

Early in 1872 passenger traffic at this station was reported to be 4,000 tickets being sold for travel from Port Huron to Imlay City  There were as many as four eastbound and four westbound trains daily.  After a fire in 1917, the original depot’s partial ruins were used for ten years until a new depot, a sturdy brick structure, was built in 1927 by the Ellington Miller Company of Chicago at a cost of $11,667.  Passenger trains made regular stops in Imlay City for 101 years ending in 1971.  The depot was then used for storage by GTW.

The depot sat vacant for a few years until 1976 when the City of Imlay City began negotiations with GTW and obtained a 99-year lease on the building and property.  The City in turn leased the building to the Imlay City Historical Commission for use as a museum in 1978, with all restoration and repairs performed by volunteers.  In 1988 the City reached an agreement with GTW to purchase the building and property for $5,000.  Today the lease continues with the Imlay City Historical Commission for use as a public museum.

Grand Trunk Depot -1927
77 Main Street

Martin Block

The Martin Block -1890
112 East Third Street

The Martin Block emerged from a piece of land that was purchased in the late 1800s by A. F. Martin, a local druggist and owner of the Palace Drug Store.   He also purchased a three-foot strip of ground fronting on Third Street from Joseph S. Marshall to add to the site.

Construction on the building began on May 9, 1890.  The new brick block building was 28’ x 70’, two stories high with a plate glass front and a cellar.  The building was a modern structure and an ornament in the town.

Lumber for the construction came by rail from Kingston, MI.  The finishing lumber was ash and the result was some of the finest grained lumber imaginable. The building had a tin roof.  The plate glass for the new block was shipped by train from Cleveland, Ohio and placed by a man who came from that city to take charge of the installation.  The glass was of the finest quality and Mr. Martin paid about $400 for the material.  The furnace was first class and also heated the second floor rooms.  The rooms above the store served as the residence of Mr. Martin’s family and were large and well-lighted.

J. Landers, an attorney and banker, first occupied the store with a full line of dry goods, boots, and shoes. Later stores that occupied the Martin Block were Ballentine’s Grocery, Blashill’s Jewelry and Mrs. E. F. Milbourne, Milliner. In 1933 Sam Coscarelli, an Italian immigrant, opened Coscarelli’s Party Store and three generations of his family ran the business.  The Ruiz Taqueria then occupied the building until May of 2016, when the building suffered a devastating fire. Renovations were extensive as the new building owner wanted to ensure historical accuracy and save this important downtown Imlay City gem.

Thursdays
10:00 AM-4:00 PM
May- October
Corner of Third & Main Streets

Tuesdays
7:00 PM
June-August
Lamb Steele Park

Saturday
September 28, 2019
6:00 PM- 10:00 PM
Downtown Imlay City

Friday, December 6, 2019
6:00 PM
Downtown Imlay City

Imlay City DDA

150 North Main Street

Imlay City, MI 48444

8:00 AM- 4:30 PM

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