Petition for bank is met with "ungenerous opposition"
A strong hope was indulged that after petitioning for a bank at this place for the last ten years, and after frequent favorable reports that our wants would be gratified, but when it came to a showdown it was killed, the reason of a result so unexpected and injurious to our interest, is supposed to be the ungenerous opposition from the Village of Herkimer.
First bank in Herkimer County built
The first bank in Herkimer County, modelled after the U.S. Bank in Philadelphia, was built at the corner of Ann and Albany streets on a lot purchased from Dudley Burwell. The general contractor was William H. Dale, carpentry by William Chase, and mason work by Robert Stewart who also built the aqueduct. Cost of the building was approximately $3,000. It was built of cyanite rock and dressed limestone with pillars each made from a single stone.
March 14, 1833
Herkimer County National Bank is organized
By an act of the New York State legislature, commissioners were appointed and the Herkimer County National Bank was organized and located in the village of Little Falls. Commissioners included Nathaniel Benton, Dudley Burwell, Arphaxed Loomis, and David Petrie. It was opened in the Beattie House at the corner of Main and William streets on August 24th , and moved in December to the new bank building.
August 24, 1833
Herkimer County National Bank opens for business
Business commenced at the Herkimer County National Bank on this Saturday morning. Dudley Burwell took the contents home, deposited them under his bed without a pistol or club near them.
September 25, 1841
Bank clerk steals money and flees
During the evening, Anson Brown, a clerk at the Herkimer County bank, borrowed the key to the bank from Albert Story, cashier, allegedly to draw some money on two small checks. Brown, and two accomplices, removed $72,857 in bank notes, gold, and silver and fled to the Albany area. Caught within 30 hours, all but $810 was recovered.
November 18, 1845
Bank announces semi-annual dividend
Herkimer County Bank in Little Falls announced a semi-annual Dividend of four percent, on the capital, declared payable on and after the first day of December.
May 22, 1861
Crowded streets by the bank building
The local press stated “Notwithstanding the hard times, failures and war rumors, our dairymen are hurrying forward their produce.” The streets of Little Falls were crowded with wagons as farmers shipped 1087 boxes of cheese weighing 70,503 pounds at the depot. Farmers and buyers made their bargains along South Ann Street by the bank building.
June 1, 1870
Bank employees granted vacations
The employees at the Herkimer County National Bank are being granted vacations. Two weeks are being allotted to the cashier and one week to the clerks.
February 14, 1885
Dissolution of Herkimer County National Bank
The affairs of the old Herkimer County National Bank were closed up after an existence of over fifty years. The dissolution was due to the desire of the stockholders to increase its capital stock, and in order to do so a new bank, National Herkimer County Bank, had to be organized. The 1833 building is now the home of the Little Falls Historical Society.
November 2, 1893
Albert G. Story dies at the National Herkimer County Bank
Albert G. Story, a long-time fixture in Little Falls financial affairs, died of apoplexy sitting in his chair at the National Herkimer County Bank on South Ann Street.
November 20, 1896
Bank shares sold
Five shares of Little Falls National Bank stock were sold at auction ($800 per share) and ten shares of National Herkimer County Bank stock ($850 per share) from the estate of Jonathan Beattie. The prices show the high standing of our local banks.
September 3, 1897
Bank vault bolt slips requiring "imported" locksmith
The bank vault at the National Herkimer County bank in Little Falls could not be opened when a bolt of the combination lock slipped down. Efforts by local locksmiths to open the safe were not successful, and a locksmith had to be “imported” from New York City to complete the job by nightfall.
Former Little Falls mayor and wife flee
On April 26, former Little Falls mayor, Hadley Jones and his wife have left the city suddenly under regrettable circumstances, never to be seen again. He was a fugitive from justice, accused of forgeries involving stock certificates of the Herkimer County Bank. Rumors are that he has fled “somewhere south of the border.”
The next day on April 27, a search of former mayor Hadley Jones’ safe revealed a book containing blank stock certificates of the local National Herkimer County Bank. Seventeen of the certificated, worth at least $25,000, had been used with the names of William A. Milligan , president,and Albert Story, cashier, forged thereon.
June 21, 1901
Pinkerton detectives takes up search for former mayor
The Pinkerton detective agency has taken up the search for Hadley Jones. The agency has branch offices all over the world including Central and South America. The Pinkerton’s are employed by the Bankers’ Association, to which the area banks,which have been defrauded by Jones, belong.
Several weeks later on July 12, he’s located; he’s not. Hadley Jones has been “located” by the newspapers but not yet by the officials and detectives looking for him. A gentleman who knew both Mr. and Mrs. Jones claim they were fellow passengers on a vessel sailing from New York City to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. From there, they took a steamer to a port further south. Most doubt these reports.
June 1, 1912
National Herkimer County Bank looks to build a new building
With business growing and demanding increased space, the National Herkimer County Bank started looking for a site for a new bank building. In April 1913, they selected property at the corner of Main and Ann streets, and in March 1914, made arrangements for D.H. Burrell to build a spacious office building including elegant facilities for the bank on the site.
April 3, 1917
American Red Cross branch in Little Falls
A great campaign was initiated by Mayor Abram Zoller to have a branch of the American Red Cross in Little Falls. Led by many clubs and organizations, nearly 4,000 local citizens joined. The chapter was housed in the old bank building on South Ann Street after the bank’s move to new quarters in the Burrell building.
April 30, 1917
National Herkimer County Bank liquidated
After eighty four years of service to the community, the National Herkimer County Bank was liquidated and then reopened today, in the new Burrell Building as the Herkimer County Trust Company. The new status gives the bank all the services which would be beneficial to all.
April 23, 1963
The Little Falls Historical Society chartered and saves the bank building
The Little Falls Historical Society received a provisional charter from the University of the State of New York Education Department. This capped a multi-year battle with the Urban Renewal Agency to prevent the 1833 historic Herkimer County Bank building from being torn down.
stone Herkimer County Bank building purchased by Urban Renewal
The building was purchased by Urban Renewal in 1964 and was slated for demolition to become a parking log for a new bank.
July 2, 1969
Rochester shows interest in the old bank building
A Rochester corporation, recognizing the unique and rare value of the 1833 old bank building, has expressed interest in purchasing the building, dismantling the structure, stone by stone, and rebuild it in the western part of the state in a historic village similar to the old Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown.
March 5, 1970
Bank building entered into “National Register of Historic Places”
The former Herkimer County Bank building, corner of Albany and South Ann Streets, has been entered into the “National Register of Historic Places.” This is an important step in the effort to preserve the old 1833 building.
Little Falls Historical Society purchases old bank building
Purchased by the Little Falls Historical Society in 1977, the stone Herkimer County Bank building was carefully restored to its present grandeur over a seven-year period.
1985 - Today
Little Falls Historical Society Museum
The Little Falls Historical Society Museum is located in the stone Herkimer County Bank building, built in 1833 at the northeast corner of Ann and Albany Streets.
Since 1985, the Little Falls Historical Society Museum has served as the depository for the society’s collections.
The Little Falls Historical Society charter states,
“This museum exists to discover, collect, display and conserve data, documents and artifacts that are a part of the history of Little Falls and to maintain an institution on educational usefulness.”
Little Falls citizens interested in the city’s history fought hard to prevent the historic structure from being demolished.
This original group headed by Edward Cooney, Mary Louise Cooney, Harold Sperbeck, Lyda Loucks, Mary Grace, Robert McEvoy, Fred Sabin, John Gallagher and John George received a provisional charter from the University of the State of New York Education Department on April 26, 1963, and an absolute charter five years later.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 – one of the first in the area to be so honored. Purchased by the Little Falls Historical Society in 1977, it was carefully restored to its present grandeur over a seven-year period and, since 1985, has served as the depository for the society’s collections.
The Little Falls Historical Society charter states, “This museum exists to discover, collect, display and conserve data, documents and artifacts that are a part of the history of Little Falls and to maintain an institution on educational usefulness.”
Photo submitted – National Herkimer County Bank and Presbyterian Church in the background – (Kinney Plaza) circa 1860.
Constructed of native stone in 1833 as the first bank in Herkimer County and placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1970, the Little Falls Historical Society’s Old Bank Building Museum has had a storied past. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of this designation and it is time to celebrate this great building as the survivor that it is!
The current generation of Old Bank Building Museum stewards stands on the shoulders of the small group of community visionaries who succeeded in their efforts to save the structure from the 1960’s urban renewal wrecking ball. Let’s begin by highlighting the chronology of important events related to this 1970 landmark designation.
Little Falls’ 1961 Sesquicentennial Celebration served as the catalyst for a small group of “history buffs” to secure a central location where important community artifacts would be permanently housed, displayed, and made available for research purposes. This group first met officially on November 29, 1962, and what would become our Historical Society was launched. Their headquarters was the GAR room upstairs in City Hall. In 1963 the Historical Society was granted a permanent charter by NYS.
By 1962, the Kennedy administration’s Urban Renewal program was in full swing; Little Falls received its first grant and demolition began on the south side of Main Street from Second Street eastward to William Street. A phase two grant was to be used to demolish the block of buildings between Ann and Second Streets, including the historic Old Bank Building. Historical Society president Dr. Fred Sabin first voiced the idea of saving the historic structure in 1965.
Of critical importance was the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Lady Bird Johnson headed the commission which developed a national inventory of properties and buildings central to American character and identity. A mechanism had been created to protect such properties. What seems like commonsense today, historic preservation was at that time a radical idea “standing in the way of progress.”
The Little Falls Urban Renewal Agency purchased the building in 1966 and slated it for demolition as part of Phase 2.
Using this law as a guiding principle, the early members of the Historical Society stood four-square against the demolition of the Old Bank Building which upset many others, including the then-current administration. Old Bank Building demolition would allow for a larger parking lot for the new Herkimer County Trust building. The preserved need for fourteen extra parking spaces was pitted against the preservation of an important piece of community history.
This struggle played out for the next four years until the 1970 placement of the building on the NRHP; at that point, the structure was sacrosanct; some in the community were livid that a small group of “backward leaning preservationists” had stymied progress. Would anyone today trade the museum for those fourteen parking spaces?
WHY WAS THE BUILDING IMPORTANT?
To quote from a 1966 NYS Historic Trust newspaper article, “The old Herkimer County Bank Building, dating from 1833, is a work of the Greek Revival style, characteristic of the period. To discover a 130-year old bank is itself important, moreover, while much of the architecture of this period is constructed of wood, here we find a stone building with cut stone used in a monumental manner.”
Current Historical Society member Elaine Sperbeck remembers her father Harold being on the phone with the National Historic Preservation Commission in Washington making the case for Registry inclusion for the Old Bank Building. Using the Commission’s three criteria, Sperbeck reasoned that the building was associated with events significant to local history, that the building was associated with persons significant in local history, and that the building does embody distinctive characteristics of a type and period of architecture and construction.
The Old Bank Building met each of these criteria and on March 5, 1970, the structure was officially placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Old Bank Building then sat in a sort of limbo and neglect from 1970 until 1977 when the Historical Society purchased the structure. Seven years of extensive restoration followed, and by 1985, Historical Society artifacts had been safely moved to the new museum.
The building that had served as the first bank in Herkimer County, as the office of the local Red Cross, as a mortuary, as a temporary location for the Little Falls National Bank, as the Railway Express office, and as a storage area for Lovenheim’s dry goods store had become the primary repository of local history.
On this 50th anniversary, current members of the Little Falls Historical Society wish to thank the following individuals for their courage and vision in saving and then renovating the Old Bank Building:
Edward and Mary Louise Cooney, Natalie Derby, John Gallagher, John George, Mary Grace, Lydia Loucks, Robert McEvoy, Dr. Fred Sabin, Harold Sperbeck, and Ralph Van Horn.
Apologies if anyone involved in this effort was not included in this listing. Additionally, it is important to extend thanks to all those individuals, past and present, who followed in the footsteps of the above visionaries by their involvement and stewardship of the museum.
As Margaret Mead’s famous quote states: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Although the world certainly wasn’t changed, thanks to the efforts of the small group of committed citizens in saving the building from urban renewal, the Little Falls Historical Society remains an important community institution with plenty of parking nearby!
Pat Frezza-Gressler is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society.
The building of the Bank in Little Falls met opposition from what nearby Village?
The Village ofHerkimer
The Herkimer County Bank was modeled after what pre-existing building?
US Bank Of Philadelphia
What was the cost to build the Herkimer County Bank in 1833?
Each limestone pillar was made out of how many pieces of stone?
What two historical Churches in Little Falls are made out of the same limestone?
St. Mary’s & Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Can you name a few other Businesses that used the building over the years after Herkimer County Bank moved to Main St?
DJ Dineen Mortuary Parlor
Lovenhiem’s Dry Goods Store
In 1964, Urban Renewal owned the Herkimer County Bank building and wanted it demolished for what reason?
To make a parking lot for vehicles.
A group of Little Falls Citizens that enjoyed history fought to save the building in the late 1960’s and formed a Society that was known by what name?
Little Falls Historical Society
The Little Falls Historical Society Museum open as a depository for our Village’s historic treasures in what year?
What is the oldest Crown Jewel document that the Museum holds on exhibit?
1755Patent land grant to John Jost Shnell & Jacob Zimmerman
What National Trading Market gathered at the Museum’s corner to conduct business in 1870’s?
The Museum has a canceled Stock Certificate on exhibit from 1817 that was used for what original purpose?
To raise money to build the Canal.
Who drew the Museum’s oldest map on exhibit called the 1821 Turnpike Map?
Where was the Octagon Church’s Bible found that is on exhibit?