Marquette, Mich. (WZMQ) – The Marquette Regional History Center hosted its ‘We’re Banking on You’ fundraiser Thursday afternoon. The event was hosted in the historic First National Bank building. Marquette historians walked guests through the building while detailing its history and the family who owned the building for over 60 years.
The Kaufman family that helped build Marquette is still here to call it home. Peter Kaufman, the grandson of Louis G Kaufman, stepped back into the bank at this weeks fundraiser. It was L.G. Kaufman’s uncle, Robert J. Graveraet, who worked with some of the founders of Marquette.
Blaine Betts is a former board member at the History Center. At the event, Betts gave a detailed history about the Kaufman family and how they impacted the area for generations. Louis Graveraet Kaufman, took over the first national bank from Peter White in 1906. White was one of those men who worked closely with Graveraet to settle the area.
“The Kaufmans were here before the first tree was felled to build the city of Marquette.” Betts said. “The two of them and Amos Harlow rolled up their sleeves, and took axes, and they chopped Norway Pines down at the foot of Baraga Avenue (today), and made a clearing to build log cabins.”
Betts also spoke briefly about L.G. Kaufmans oldest brother, Nathan. Nathan Kaufman played a huge part in founding the city. He ran his fathers store on Front Street in Marquette, was involved in the construction on the City Hall building, and the Savings Bank across the street from L.G.’s First National.
Nathan Kaufman was also mayor of Marquette for some time, he was the president of four iron mines, a rail road, helped set up Marquette’s street car system, owned and operated a men’s clothing store on Iron Street in Negaunee, and was the chief stock holder and officer at Landmark Congress Hotel in downtown Chicago which is still open today.
“and he’s the lesser know brother.” Betts joked.
The 96 year old building now houses Flagstar Bank, but the complex is still named after Kaufman and his family. The Centers Executive Director, Cris Osier, said the fundraiser is really to honor the history and impact of the family and celebrate the community’s love for the buildings beautiful architecture.
“When it was built, no expense was spared.” Osier said. “The brass work is from a metal company out of Long Island, New York. The limestone on the exterior is from Indiana, it was quarried from there. The marble and the travertine tile is from Italy. There’s just detail on every inch of the interior and exterior.”
The First National Bank Building we know now opened in 1927, Osier says it was a nostalgic event for guests who can remember being in the bank as kids.
Peter is the last grandson of L.G., he says it’s amazing to see so many people honoring and remembering all that his family did.
“What a lovely evening, it says something about the people in the city of Marquette, this kind of love of community, I’ll tell you, it’s really incredible.”
The funds from tonight’s event will go towards The Centers general fund to support its mission of preserving Marquette culture and history. The Center has been collecting artifacts and archival materials since 1918. With around 150 guests, the fundraiser brought about $6,000.