This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lunch with the bankers

I almost never get invited to lunch by a banker, so when two banks offered free food last Friday, I had to take them up on the offer. First it was off to the Lafayette Bank and Trust, celebrating its grand re-opening. There was a small group of people in front who had also accepted the invitation.
The local FM radio station, WLQI was broadcasting from the sidewalk and had brought along its mascot.
On the menu were hot dogs, cola, and chips.
I got some food and sat down to enjoy the ambiance. While I was eating, the radio announcer interviewed one of the bank employees and then announced a contest. The first person who came by with the letter Q would win a tee shirt and a Frisbee. As I sat thinking about whether I should or should not go over and show them a book with the word Iraq in it, a young man came hustling down the sidewalk and wanted to know if the prize had been claimed. He struggled to find a Q, but did, and then was delighted to discover that he would also get a free hot dog and coke. What a deal. As for me, I should have remembered that he who hesitates, is lost.

The bank was giving tours to anyone who wanted one, and since I knew one of the tour guides, I took a tour. Along the way he showed me the old vault, which is welded shut. It is a bit of dead space but it is small and the cost of moving it was high. Speaking of space, with the remodeling the bank are cutting its space substantially. I asked about that and was told that they were not using the old space well (pretty obvious if you had done business there), so that by utilizing what they have better, they do not need as much.
Michael Campbell wrote an attractive six-page, illustrated history of the bank and the bank building for the grand re-opening. The original building was completed in 1882 and was known as the Leopold Block, named after the owner, Abraham Leopold. In 1919 the newly organized Farmers and Merchants National Bank purchased the corner part of the Leopold Block, the space that is under the first three and a half windows of the second floor. The space under the other three and a half windows was Long's Drug Store. Next to Long's was Fendig's Drug Store, and in the pictures that building has a stone set on the second floor that says, "Fendig Building, 1920." Campbell considers this part of the original Leopold Block. The building was substantially remodeled at this time, losing its very ornate top trim. The windows were also greatly altered.

About 1960 Farmers and Merchants National Bank bought the space occupied by Long's Drug Store and the building was again substantially remodeled with a completely different exterior shell. All upstairs offices were eliminated.

In 1965 Fendig Drug moved across the street to the Forsythe Building, which burned a number of years ago. It is now a parking lot. After Fendig's moved, other stores occupied that space. There is a picture of what appears to be a dress shop with the name "...shbrook's." Could that have been Lashbrook's? And Erickson's studio was on the second floor of the Fendig Building. Today what was the Fendig Building appears to be only one story high.

In 1984 Farmers and Merchants National Bank merged with the State Bank of Remington to form Northwest National Bank. In 1986 it was acquired by Bank One. In 1991 Bank One bought the space to the west, the old Fendig Building and expanded into it. This is the part of the bank that is now being abandoned after remodeling as the bank goes back to roughly its 1960s size.

In 1999 regulators required Bank One to sell some of its Midwest banks, including the Rensselaer branch. Lafayette Bank and Trust bought it. And in 2009 the present remodeling was done, making minor changes to the exterior, (windows were again added on the side facing Van Rensselaer St), but drastic changes on the inside.

The pictures show that the north end of the present bank, on Van Rensselaer, was there in the mid 1930s but not there in 1898. There is nothing in the history about this addition.

Then it was on to the Demotte State Bank, which was celebrating its second anniversary in Rensselaer. It was offering a free ice cream cone or ice cream Sundae to anyone who stopped by. They were not as busy as Lafayette Bank and Trust, but they also were not as convenient for walkers as the Lafayette Bank is.
The ice cream was melting quickly, but I enjoyed it while talking to one of the bank employees. (Hi, Joel.)
Speaking of banks and food, I enjoyed the popcorn that Alliance Bank served at the Tuesday Nite Farmers' Market.

And on the topic of grand openings and anniversaries, I never did get to the grand opening of the Kentland Bank, if they ever had it. Their grand opening was rescheduled or canceled due to bad weather in January. I hope they will compensate with a nice first anniversary party. And the new credit union, First Trust Credit Union, needs some publicity, so they should throw a big grand opening party. National City Bank is now part of PNC, and they should have some kind of ceremony to announce that. And all should serve food. If they do, I will be there.


Anonymous said...

The dress shop was called Lashbrook's and it was owned by Elmer Lashbrook

Anonymous said...

Will blog for food.