100 South Main Street
Glazier Building, 1906
In the 1890s the development of the steel frame building coupled with the perfection of the passenger elevator by Elisha Otis changed the skyline of many American cities. Impressive office buildings of 10 or 15 floors were erected, and even medium-sized cities strove for the cosmopolitan image they gave. Ann Arbor was not a burgeoning commercial center, however, but a quiet university town whose business interests were dominated by Germans who seldom affected a grand style. Ann Arbor did not have a tall office building until 1906 and then only because of the ambitions of an out of town businessman, Frank P. Glazier.
His building is a grand seven-story structure in the classical Beaux Arts style popularized by the Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Constructed of red brick with fluted limestone columns, rosettes, and garlands over the windows, it once had an elaborate cornice that was removed in the 1960s. By the time it was completed in 1908, however, its builder had declared bankruptcy.
Frank P. Glazier had developed his father's iron foundry in Chelsea into a prosperous stove factory. Glazier also owned the Chelsea Savings Bank, and had held every local political office. But Chelsea, a small town 13 miles west of Ann Arbor, was too small for Glazier. As his biographer Louis Doll notes, Glazier had a "lust for power" that eventually corrupted him and caused his downfall.
Glazier had established a wider power base by becoming State Treasurer in 1906, but his dream was to be Governor. In order to influence and control area Republicans he started The Ann Arbor News. He won the election of 1906 in spite of Democrats' complaints that he had deposited state funds in his own bank. The Panic of 1907 caused the collapse of Glazier's financial empire and revealed, among other offenses, that he had used state funds to build the Glazier Building. In 1910 he was convicted of embezzling state funds and sent to Jackson Prison.
After Glazier was jailed the First National Bank moved into the building and stayed until 1929, when it built Ann Arbor's second skyscraper at 201 South Main Street. From 1929 to the 1970s the Glazier Building was occupied by another venerable local institution, the Ann Arbor Trust Company, and the building took their name. Started in 1925 by Russell Dobson, the trust company was purchased in 1928 by Earl Cress and William Brown, future mayor of Ann Arbor. They dealt in securities, mortgages, insurance, real estate, and property management. In 1939 they divided the business, with Cress operating the trust company and Brown taking over the insurance portion.
After a series of mergers and acquisitions in the 1970s and 80s, Ann Arbor Trust became part of Society Bank, headquartered in Cleveland. The Ann Arbor part of the business is run by George Cress, Earl's son. The building was renamed the Glazier Building in the late 1980s when the Ann Arbor Trust sign was removed revealing the original name carved in stone over the main entrance.