On the west bank of the Saugatuck River in Westport, at 2 Post Road West, is the National Hall Building. It was built in 1873 to house the First National Bank of Westport, two stores and a meeting hall called National Hall. The building was constructed at a time when the west bank of the river was Westport’s commercial and social hub and it represents the town’s growing prosperity after the Civil War. Horace Staples, a prominent Westport businessman and president of the bank was the driving force behind its construction. Various businesses have used the building over the years, including the Fairfield Furniture store and a luxury hotel, the recently closed Inn at National Hall, where President Bill Clinton once stayed. Today it is home to Vespa Italian Restaurant.
The Chester Savings Bank was formed in 1871. The bank constructed its building at 6 Main Street in Chester in 1902. It was the only bank in town until the Chester Trust Company was established as a commercial bank in 1914. For many years the two banks shared the same building and the same staff (they eventually merged in 1977). The Savings Bank later moved out and the building has since been used for commercial purposes, most recently as a vegan restaurant that opened in 2012 (and restored a clock to the face of the building) and closed in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
The Middletown National Bank, formerly the Middletown Bank, was chartered October 29th 1795. The organization was not completed, however, until May 1st 1801. The stockholders met at that time at Mrs. Sarah Goodwin’s Tavern and elected the following directors: Elijah Hubbard, Chauncey Whittlesey, Nehemiah Hubbard jr., Samuel Watkinson, Benjamin Williams, Ebenezer Sage, George Hallam, Joseph Hart, and Elias Shipman.
The first meeting of the directors was held May 13th 1801. Elijah Hubbard was chosen president, and Timothy Southmayd, cashier.
The bank constructed a building on Main Street in 1813, replacing it with a brownstone structure in 1855-1856, which was enlarged in 1893. This building was then replaced in 1917 by the bank’s third building on the site (267 Main Street). The Middletown National Bank was bought by the Connecticut Bank and Trust Co. in 1957. The building is now a branch of Bank of America. Read the rest of this entry »
At 67 Wall Street in Norwalk is a building constructed in 1922 for the Fairfield County Savings Bank. The bank, chartered in 1874, had an earlier building at 51 Wall Street whose facade was significantly altered in the 1970s. The building at 67 Wall Street was renovated in 1990. The Fairfield County Savings Bank merged with the Ridgefield Bank to form the Fairfield County Bank in 2004.
The building at 227 Main Street in the village of Southport in Fairfield was built in 1833 as a bank. It was originally a branch of the Connecticut Bank of Bridgeport, chartered in 1832. The branch later became the Southport Bank, independently chartered in 1851 (it became the Southport National Bank in 1865). After an embezzlement (Oliver T. Sherwood, the bank’s Cashier, was charged with defaulting on bank notes after he fled town; he was later imprisoned) the Southport National Bank went into receivership in 1903 and was reorganized as the Southport Trust Company. The building was converted into a residence in 1923.
At 87 Post Road East (at the intersection of Church Lane) in Westport is a flatiron-type building built in 1924 to house the Westport Bank and Trust Company. The bank was founded in 1852 by Horace Staples (1801-1897) as the Saugatuck Bank. Soon renamed the First National Bank of Westport, it long occupied offices in National Hall in Westport, which it shared with the Westport Savings Bank, founded by Staples in 1863. The two banks merged in 1913 and eleven years later moved into the new building, designed by Charles E. Cutler (1881-1962), in the developing downtown east of the Saugatuck River. The building, later home to Hudson United Bank, has two large (10’x12′) murals that are reminiscent of works of the WPA-era. The murals were painted in 1965 by Robert L. Lambdin (1886-1981), a local artist, and depict scenes from Westport’s history. They are entitled Shipping on the Saugatuck and Hotel Square. In 2005 the building was restored as mixed-use retail space by David Adam Realty, which saved and refurbished the original exterior, terrazzo flooring, murals and four of the five bank vaults.
Chartered in 1849, the Norwalk Savings Society occupied various spaces, including rooms in the United Bank Building from 1868 into the early twentieth century. The bank constructed a Classical Revival building at 48 Wall Street in 1923. An interesting incident in the history of Norwalk’s banking industry is related in the 1901 volume Norwalk After Two Hundred & Fifty Years as follows:
The history of a savings bank, as a rule, does not make an exciting narrative, particularly when it is carefully managed and its depositors successful and thrifty. Norwalk’s savings banks have enjoyed every advantage contributing to a peaceful financial life. Once only the Norwalk Savings Society by having a “run,” precipitated by the thoughtless attempt at wit on the part of a local newspaper. In the rear of the Street Railway barn was a high mound which had furnished the building sand of Norwalk for several years and was believed to contain a further abundant supply. Without previous indication the sand was exhausted and cobbles only were found. The local paper, departing from its usual course of recording the sickness of Mrs. Smith’s child or the painting of Brown’s rear fence, essayed a “scoop” on the sandbank incident and announced that the managers of the oldest bank in town were astounded to discover that their reserved deposits, which they believed to be good were on examination found to be worthless. The explanation that the statement referred to a sandbank was never read bv many bank depositors, but grabbing their books, they demanded payment from the old Norwalk Savings Society. To the credit of the paper it must be said that every effort was made by it to overcome the ill effects of its silly joke. Unauthorized statements and injudicious news items have in other cases and in other papers done harm to the business interests of Norwalk, even where every wish of the publishers was for the growth of the industry referred to.