Arbaugh Building, 401 South Washington Avenue

The Arbaugh Building was erected in 1905 by Basil C. Cameron and Frank N Arbaugh. Their department store had been a great success and had outgrown the building it had been in. The growth of Cameron and Arbaugh’s had been partially based upon the innovative policy of being the first company to accept paychecks from the employees of the newly established Olds Motor Works.

The new Cameron and Arbaugh’s building was the tallest in Lansing, all of five stories. It was equipped with many of the latest innovations including central heating, elevators and a pneumatic tube system which whisked payments to a central cashier’s office, where change was made.

In 1909, the store became Arbaugh’s when Arbaugh bought out Cameron. As Arbaugh’s success grew, Frank Arbaugh razed buildings to the south and built an addition which increased square footage to near 100,000.

The store was called Arbaugh’s until 1969, although the store had mostly passed out of local control. But business was in decline until Jack Butler, the then owner, closed the store in 1972.

The building is a classic example of the vernacular Commercial building style of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Some of the original cornices were removed during renovations in the 1970’s. However, the original elevations and fenestration are largely intact. The original architect is unknown, however the building reveals the influence of the famed contemporary architect, Albert Kahn.

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