Then & Now: Chelsea State Bank’s Steady 125 Year History

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Glazier Building construction in 1901. Courtesy Chelsea Area Historical Society.

By Doug Marrin, with John Mann

The history of Chelsea State Bank is the history of banking in Chelsea. Today’s beloved local bank is the continuation of banking that began almost 150 years ago.

Banking in Chelsea first appeared in 1876 as R. Kempf and Brother, an unregulated “wildcat” bank. Next on the banking scene for Chelsea came Chelsea Savings Bank in 1880, perhaps best known for its famous or infamous stately “Glazier Bank,” constructed in 1901 on the corner of Main and South streets.

The Kempf brothers sold their bank in 1897 to a group of investors who incorporated as Kempf Commercial & Savings Bank and obtained a state banking charter. CSB considers this its official birthdate. Total assets were $40,000.

The inside of CSB in the Glazier Building in the 1930s. Courtesy John Mann.

Many of us are already familiar with what historian and biographer Louis Doll calls Frank Glazier’s “lust for power” that eventually corrupted him and caused his downfall. In 1907, Glazier was sentenced to Jackson Prison for misappropriation of bank funds. His bank closed. A group of investors led by one PG Schaible Sr. formed a new bank in 1908 to fill the vacuum left by Glazier – Farmers & Merchants Bank of Chelsea (F&M Bank) on Main St. next to where Zou Zou's is today.

As far as the now bankless Glazier building goes, it was purchased by Portland Cement Co. after Glazier’s closure. F&M Bank purchased it in 1927. The stately building became F&M’s main office.

The name “Chelsea State Bank” first appeared when the Kempf and F&M banks merged in 1934. It was the height of the Great Depression, and many banks were failing. The new bank’s main office was in the Glazier Building until 1968. At the time of the merger, CSB’s resources were just over $1,000,000.

Letters documenting the offer and acceptance of the Glazier Building to the Village of Chelsea. Courtesy John Mann.

“The building was our home for 40 years,” says John Mann, CSB Board Chairman. “But we needed room to serve our customers with drive-up banking. So, in 1968 we built a new main office at 305 S. Main.”

When CSB left the Glazier Building, John’s father, Paul Mann, was the President. Chelsea was trying to get a District Court in the Village at the time. Paul Mann offered to donate the building to the County on the condition that it become the District Court. The condition was accepted, and the deal was done.

By 1997, CSB had outgrown its main office and opened a new 17,000 sq. ft. headquarters on the corner of Old US 12 and South Main St. Assets at the time were $136 million. CSB opened its third office, in Dexter, on October 23, 2000, with total assets of $165 million. CSB’s total assets today are $438 million.

The Glazier Building today. Photo: Doug Marrin.

Our local bank has seen, survived, and even thrived through many big historical moments: two world wars, the roaring twenties, The Great Depression, the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Polio Epidemic, the 1960’s upheaval, gas shortages, national financial scandals, and collapses, 911, COVID, and Ukraine to name just a few.

Perhaps it might be a lesson that strength doesn’t necessarily come from size or might but in a steady hand.

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