Thursday, November 01, 2012

Building Detective: State Savings Block

Note: This is a double post that also has been added within the building sequence of the Chariton's Square Deal blog, linked at right.

The State Savings Bank Block, now more accurately called the U.S. Bank Block, dates from 1910 and was the last major project in Chariton of entrepreneur Joseph A. Brown, who left Iowa in a fit of pique late in that year because of a tax judgment that had gone against him. Although Brown retained his business interests in Lucas County and lived most of the time in California until death during 1925 at age 82, he claimed Idaho as his place of residence thereafter because of tax advantages.

With the exception of differing upper floor window treatments, the bank block blends almost seamlessly with the double-front block adjoining it to the west. Brown built that block in 1906, following a major fire.

The earlier building on this site, a two-story brick structure with three narrow storefronts, was built during the 1870s by Smith H. Mallory and was the only building west of the alley on the north side of the square to survive major fires of the 1890s and 1905.

This northside postcard view shows the Mallory Block to the right, overshadowed by the three new business blocks built during 1906, the one closest to it by Brown.

Following S.H. Mallory's death in 1903, the block remained in the hands of his widow and daughter, Annie Mallory and Jessie (Mallory) Thayer, until after the First National Bank disaster of 1907 that during 1909 cost the women all of their Lucas County assets. Prior to the loss, however, the block had been sold to family friends, the McCormick sisters, Miss Emily and Miss. Margaret.

Joseph A. Brown purchased the building from the McCormicks during late winter, 1910, as reported by The Herald-Patriot of March 17: "There is a probability that Chariton may have a fine new double business block on the north side of the square this summer. J.A. Brown has just closed a deal with the Misses McCormick, who are still in California, for the purchase of their triple block on the north side, one room of which is occupied by the State Savings Bank. The block occupies two lots, and if the tax ferrets do not take all his money for taxes, Mr. Brown says he may tear it down and building a handsome modern block, with two full sized business rooms on the first floor, one of which would be occupied by the Savings Bank."

Firm plans for the new building were announced as follows in the Herald-Patriot of April 14, 1910:


"J.A. Brown expects to begin the erection soon of the new business block on the north side of the square, on the two lots he recently purchased of the Misses McCormick. The present three-room building on the lots will be torn down. Mrs. Walker will move her millinery store to the room just east of the post office, now occupied by A.J. Holmes' cigar store. Mr. Holmes will quit the retail business and will go into the wholesale business, occupying rooms on the second floor of the Kubitshek block. The Savings Bank will build a temporary frame structure on the paving, in front of the present bank room, for their business, and will leave the vault intact and use it in connection with their temporary building. Henry Engebretsen's drug store has been closed and the stock attached by the Misses McCormick for back rent.

"The new building will have a light-colored brick front, similar to the block just west of it, which is also owned by Mr. Brown. The second floor will be fitted up for office rooms, and the first floor will have the bank room in the corner next the alley, 20 x 93 feet, and just west of it an extra wide store room, 25 x 125 feet, the full length of the building, with a wing in the rear of the bank room, 30 feet long, connecting with the alley on the east. The building will have modern heating and will be built in first class manner throughout. Johnson & Best have charge of the work."

By late April, the temporary headquarters of the bank were nearly ready. Please note that this temporary structure might be considered Chariton's first drive-up bank, according to the Herald-Patriot of April 28: "The new frame building for the use of the State Savings Bank while their fine new block is being built, is about ready for use, next to the hitching rack on the north side of the square. Mr. Brown says farmers can now do business at the Savings Bank without getting out of their wagons --- at least until the new building is completed."

The building was basically complete by October, but there had been various delays. Webb Hultz (more about Hultz and his magnificent home here), a bank officer, filled The Chariton Leader in on those in its Oct. 13 edition: "Yes, we did expect to be moved into our old home in the new building before this time, but have been delayed on account of finishing lumber, floor tiles, etc., and now that we have them, comes word from the factory that is building our fixtures, saying they are not quite ready. Nobody, in particular, to blame, the contractors and builders have been faithful and certainly have done good work. The thoughts of how hot it was during the summer in our present building ought to keep us warm during the fall months, and we hope to get moved before the very cold weather. --- Webb Hultz (State Savings Bank)."

The bank moved in to its new headquarters during November and a grand opening was held, reported upon by The Herald-Patriot of Nov. 10 in this way:


"About fifteen hundred people attended the opening of the new State Savings Bank building last Saturday afternoon. The building was decorated with chrysanthemums, from the Kneeland green house, and splendid music was furnished by the Chariton orchestra. Each caller was presesnted with a pretty souvenir in the shape of a picture, suitable for framing. The building is arranged in a most convenient manner. In the rear is a room for the use of the directors, and there is also a reception and rest room, fitted up with wicker furniture, reading matter, writing materials, toilet room, etc., for the convenience of the patrons. In the front of the building, space for an office has been reserved. The new bank fiixtures are of mahogany, and are modern in design. The new building is a credit to the city and the people are pleased to see the reliable State Savings Bank housed in such plealsant and convenient quarters."

The Leader's report, also from Nov. 10, adds a few more details about the banking rooms: "The new fixtures came, last week, and were immediately placed, and they are mighty fine appearing --- that is, plain but good and convenient. No nonsensical "ginger bread" about them. They are mahogany with finish to match the wood work of the surroundings, with circular contour and pleasing in appearance. In front is the cashiers office, and behind the railings are the tellers and book keepers windows and desks. The main banking room is nicely finished and well lighted by the prism windows on the side and front. Back of the lobby and business office are more private rooms, a customer's room, directors quarters and the president's office. The vault is provided with a burglar alarm --- in fact everything is well apointed and apportioned."

The State Savings Bank continued to occupy its single-front quarters through transition into First State Bank with the F.W. Woolworth Co. "dime store" a principal long-term tenant of the adjoining business room. The bank eventually took over the entire ground floor of the building, however, and it remains configured in that manner under U.S. Bank ownership.

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