Four years after Ann Arbor's First National Bank was established in 1863 under strong new federal banking laws, dry goods merchant Philip Bach and foundry owner Volney Chapin joined other local investors to build a brick business block to house their bank. Next door was the Phoenix Insurance Company, one of nineteen local companies thriving on business stimulated by the constant threat of fire. Demonstrating the new strength of the local business climate, fueled by the economic boom of the Civil War, the Ann Arbor Business College and Telegraph Institute opened above Bach's dry goods shop on the corner.
The college advertised courses in "Bookkeeping, Railroading, Steamboating, Banking, Jobbing and Importing, Commercial Law, Business Penmanship, and Telegraphing." Fees for "ladies" were $5 less than those for "young men." Judge Thomas Cooley, professor of law at the University, conducted the law department and brought to his lectures "the fresh and forcible illustration of actual experience." Other banks soon followed First National on Main Street: Ann Arbor Savings in 1869, Farmers and Mechanics in 1883, State Savings in 1892, and German-American Savings in 1906.
In 1886, in order to reduce dependence on University prosperity, promote existing business interests and attract other ventures, the Business Men's Association - the forerunner of today's Chamber of Commerce - was formed.