Students learn Madeira history step by step

By Regina Villiers. Originally published July 10, 1996 in The Suburban Life, added July 13, 2017.

A tiny building on the corner now occupied by Adrien Pharmacy once housed the Camargo Bank of Madeira. This bank was mentioned in Bob Ripley’s “Believe It or Not,” a nationally-syndicated, newspaper cartoon feature, as being the smallest bank in the world. The man in the doorway has been identified as Pete Barger.

I worked closely with a Mrs. Jeanne Gulick’s fifth-and sixth- grade students in her “Walk through Madeira” class, a 30-day language arts program for which the students did quite a bit of writing, including a research paper.

The main focus of the class was to explore local history.  Since the history of Madeira has not been written down, as yet, the kids used whatever primary sources of historic information they could find.  Guest speakers, including local historian Warren Joy and Russ DeMar, a descendant of one of Madeira’s older families, were invited by Mrs. Gulick to talk to the class.

Doug Oppenheimer and Marti Hurst, from the Madeira Historical Society, also came to talk and brought artifacts and historical documents for the children to examine.

After the kids learned as much as they could dig up, they explored, to see for themselves what they had learned, by taking walks through Madeira.

The most interesting of those walks started out from Sellman School and came down Miami Avenue to the corner of Miami and Laurel, the heart of Madeira.  Though it is a short distance, this is an area so rich in history and the walk was divided into several days.  Almost every building and location is a stop, with stories of its own.

Sellman School is a story in itself.  Once was part of the Dones Farm, it was built in 1937 as a high school.  On the corner of the school grounds is a monument to the men and women who served in World War II.

Across the street from the school and down to Camargo Road are sites of other former Madeira schools built in the early part of this century.

As you walk toward Madeira, you’ll pass Reitenbach Plumbing, located in a historic building.  This was once the old station for the traction, or “swing line,” and electric train that once ran through Madeira for commuters.  After the traction line folded, the building became Madeira’s first fire station and a meeting place for the village council.

The Kroger parking lot was once the property of E.G. Muchmore, an early Madeira settler.  Across the street, near the tracks, he built Muchmore Hall, a large building that housed a general store, the post office and a large community room used for plays, dances and other recreational activities.

E.G. was Madeira’s first postmaster.  He was later succeeded by his brother, Joseph, grandfather of Cleo Hosbrook.

E.G. Muchmore’s home property became the location for the George Meyer Co.  until 1984, when it moved to Laurel Avenue.  The new Kroger then was built on the Miami Avenue site.

Next is Madeira’s historic train station.  There are so many stories about the train station that researching it took the students a separate walk and an entire morning.

Ron and Sally Schmitt, the current occupants and owners of the Café at Madeira Station, opened their restaurant early to serve juice and doughnuts to the students.

After the train station are the Muchmore and Hosbrook Houses, recently donated to the city by Cleo J. Hosbrook.  Her grandparents, Joseph A. and Eliza Muchmore, owned and lived in the corner house.  Her parents, Charles and Maude Hosbrook, owned and lived in the house next to it.

Next is the hub of Madeira, the four corners of the intersection of Miami and Laurel.  It’s easy to stand here and see Madeira in your mind’s eye as it has been over the years.

Where the bank building now sits was once Bean’s Grocery, and later was the location for the much-loved Madeira landmark, Dot and Mack’s Grocery.

On the northeast corner, where the Shell gas station stands, once stood Bauer’s Department Store.  Older residents may remember this store for its display windows with scenes that changed with the seasons.

Directly across Miami, where Fifth Third Bank now stands, was the site of the Presbyterian Church with the manse next to it.  Centrally located, the church was the activity center of Madeira, since it sported an auditorium for community events.

The most interesting of the four corners was probably the southwest corner, now Adrien Pharmacy.  This is where the Camargo Bank of Madeira once stood.

The bank was famous by Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not,” a popular, national cartoon feature in newspapers, which touted it as the smallest bank in the world.

Later this building became Dr. Madden’s veterinary hospital.

A large, empty lot and field covered the rest of this corner down to Dawson Road.  Kids played there and in the summers, carnivals and medicine shows regularly arrived to amuse the townsfolk.

It’s enough to make the current pharmacists at Adrien’s – Evan Adrien, Wayne Morris and Linda Morris – shudder to think that snake oil and “cure-all” elixirs once were dispensed within feet of their pharmacy.

Try this walk for yourselves sometime and visualize how it once was in Madeira.  If you have any memories or stories about the area, I’d like to hear from you.

And I’m sure Mrs. Gulick’s “Walk Through Madeira” class next year will appreciate any bits of local history you can add.