Column: Change, You Can’t Bank On It

Bricks, bread, banks
TCF Bank on the northwest corner of South University and Church in Ann Arbor.

TCF Bank on the northwest corner of South University and Church in Ann Arbor.

On Tuesday (Dec. 30, 2008) I noticed work on the front of TCF Bank on South University Avenue: some panels, at least, are being replaced with glass windows. [Editor's note: Cf. comments below.]

This completes a circuit back to fall 1969, when during an anti-war protest, bricks or other objects were thrown through the big glass panes of this bank building, then Ann Arbor Bank.

I left the march at that point, failing to see the connection. Shortly after, Ann Arbor Bank replaced most of the panes with paneling.

Amid all the brick work on another old bank building at the corner of North University and Thayer, soon to be a Panera’s, I was surprised that the three-letter word along the top of the building was not “fixed.”

Brick mason humor

Built-in brick mason humor at the northwest corner of Thayer and North University.

Selma Sussman, wife of Rackham Dean Al Sussman [1974 to 1985], first brought it to my attention when the bank building was being constructed. (We worked together at UM Social Work.)

I recall her saying that she heard the word was a “tribute” by the bricklayers to UM co-ed walkers-by, and that some of the bricklayers lost their jobs as a consequence.

[Editor's note: It isn't clear what the impact of the city's new graffiti ordinance is on this word, now set in stone, nor whether it poses a challenge as the city contemplates adding design guidelines to its zoning code, nor whether this location could serve as the anchor for the new adult entertainment district that has received some limited discussion locally.]

The National City Bank at the corner of East University and South University.

The National City Bank at the corner of East University and South University. Photo added in light of comments below.


  1. By Dave Hutchinson
    January 2, 2009 at 2:22 pm | permalink

    The Ann Arbor Bank that had the windows broken was the bank on the Southeast corner of S.U. and E. U., not the pictured one at Church St. Nice to see the full circle pattern though.

  2. By Dave Askins
    January 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm | permalink


    Thanks to you and a couple other readers for giving us a heads up on that. I’ve since gone out and re-shot the photo for replacement (soon) of the first one I took. From what I gather, the correct Bank was a TCF in the past (?). In any case, we’ll chalk this one up to photographer’s error (i.e., mine).

    I find it somewhow encouraging that this is enough a part of the collected community memory that several people spotted the inaccurate photo instantly.

  3. January 3, 2009 at 9:02 am | permalink

    A friend of mine was one of the bricklayers and claimed at the time the word was his doing. He did not lose his job. He did later successfully run for public office in another state. As far as I know the creative bricklaying did not come up as an issue in the campaign.

  4. By Susan
    January 3, 2009 at 1:00 pm | permalink

    It’s gotta be a guy thing. I had to recruit one in order to find the referenced word.

  5. January 6, 2009 at 11:42 am | permalink

    The bank building at S.U. and E.U. has never housed TCF, though it’s possible that it housed a branch of one of the banks that eventually became TCF in Michigan (Great Lakes Bank, for example).