COLWOOD – Russ Arnold and his buddies will throw a party for the locals in this northern Tuscola County hamlet July 16 – after restoring one of its most beloved buildings.
Arnold, Scott Beckwith, Jim Compton and Lance Stowe – owners of the former bank in Colwood, a stone building constructed in 1916 – plan a 100th anniversary party for the building they purchased along Colwood Road several years ago.
A chef will prepare pulled pork sandwiches and hamburgers on sale for $5 apiece, and several bands will perform in a tent behind the building across the street from the Colwood Bar.
“People have been stopping by and thanking us for saving the bank,” said Arnold, 51, of Lapeer County’s Lapeer Township.
“The (July 16) party is all day long. We’re gonna be there all weekend. We love to talk to people and we love to meet people.”
“They did a nice job on the bank, and I’m glad they did,” said Dennis Dillon, 52, who lives in Colwood about eight miles northeast of Caro.
“There was talk of people wanting to move the bank over to the Octagon Barn (near Gagetown), and I thought ‘Oh, man, they can’t take our bank,’” Dillon said. (story continues below photo)
The former bank – with its exterior made of split stone – is a landmark along Colwood Road, a route many northbound travelers take from M-24 on their way to Caseville or Port Austin.
Visitors can stop at the former bank anytime July 16, when Wayne Dillon, a retired school counselor from Tuscola County’s Elmwood Township, gives several presentations about the former bank and the town of Colwood.
A group motorcycle ride leaves the former bank at 1 p.m. that day, returning about 5 p.m.
About that time, Harlan Rabideau, 87, of Elmwood Township and his friend – Mina Snyder – plan to drive Rabideau’s Ford Model A up to the former bank, dressed as the late robbers “Bonnie and Clyde.”
The bank, known as the Seeley, Andrews, Bach & Co. Bank, closed in the mid-1930s.
“It closed during the Great Depression, and they paid off all their accounts, and it shut down,” Dillon said. “The bank started around 1900 but it was located in a couple stores next door. Colwood was a very rich community, man.
“Back in about 1905, we had a doctor, a blacksmith, a barber, two implement dealers, there were two stores, there was a creamery, an auto mechanic’s place and a bar.”
Wayne Dillon said some members of the Detroit Tigers professional baseball team played baseball against local athletes on a ball diamond in Colwood in about 1935 when the players traveled into the Thumb area.
“They barnstormed back then, because they didn’t make enough money,” Wayne Dillon said. “They’d come up here and they all pheasant hunted. By 10 a.m. (hunting) would open and by noon they were done, but the Dillons would store the dogs for ’em, and the Tigers would play a ballgame and make a few bucks.
“There’s a lot of history in this little burg.”
The ball diamond no longer exists, but the former bank still stands, and caught Arnold’s eye many times when he drove his motorcycle into the Thumb area.
“I guess I’ve always been a guy that likes old historical stuff, and that old stone building just attracted me,” Arnold said. “I’ve rode up and down that road through there for years, and I’ve always looked at it. It was all overgrown but I just thought it was a neat little building to own.”
He chose not to buy the building about 10 years ago but he and his three friends purchased the structure several years ago for a lower price. “We did probably 60 to 70 percent of the renovation work ourselves, and hired out the rest,” Arnold said.
The interior of the building was “gutted right down to the timbers” when the men bought it, Wayne Dillon said. The four owners hired a contractor to tuck-point the mortar between the colored stones on the building exterior.
They’ve created a home bar inside the building’s attached garage, which has two garage doors allowing visitors to walk through either end. Wayne Dillon calls the renovated two-bedroom structure a “clubhouse” for the men.
Jimmy Goralski, 53, of Lapeer County’s Mayfield Township, a friend of the owners visiting the former bank on Wednesday, calls the building a “man cave.” Carved in the face of the structure near the roof above the front door is the phrase: “19 BANK 16.”
The four owners may have beaten other potential buyers to the punch.
“We’ve had several people that have stopped by say ‘God, I was looking at buying this,’” Arnold said. “I tell them ‘The problem is, you ain’t as dumb as me.’”
Arnold, along with Beckwith, of Columbiaville in Lapeer County, own businesses in the Lapeer area and jointly own an archery store. Compton, of Lapeer County’s Oregon Township, is a General Motors Co. retiree and Stowe, of Swartz Creek in Genesee County, works in the medical field.
Though the four fellows ride motorcycles, Arnold stressed their jointly owned building “is not a biker club.”
“We tell people that if the (garage) doors are open, stop in,” Arnold said.
While Colwood natives hail the four men for restoring the former bank, their spouses or significant others haven’t exactly embraced the purchase, according to Arnold.
“It has been an issue for at least one of them,” Arnold said. “I don’t think any of the wives thought it was the greatest idea.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com
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