At the beginning of December, the Chase Bank will no longer be using the beautiful building at the corner of Bank St. and Main St. in the Village of Warwick. This being said, the Warwick Historical team thought this and appropriate time to give residents a bit of the history of this beautiful building and the first institution that built it and used it.
It was 1864. Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States. The Civil War was raging. There was no electricity, no phones, and the Warwick Valley Railroad had been running but two years. There was no bank of any kind in the Village of Warwick. The closest bank was in Chester. Local farmers were accustomed to going to a bank for a seed loan every spring and the Chester bank was inconvenient for them. They called for a bank to be established in Warwick.
A meeting was held in a conference room in the Warwick Valley House, which is on the corner of Main St. and Railroad Ave. and a Board of Directors was elected. The original stockholders were: John L. Welling, James C. Sly Jr., Richard Johnson, Francis S. Woodhull, W.W. Vanduzer, William E. Sayer, Thomas Welling, John J. Cooper, P.W. Demarest, John A. Dator, John Cowdry, William C. Eager, George W. Sandford, Benjamin D. Bradner, Henry B. Dekay, Ann Carpenter, Richard Wisner, John Lazear, James A. Thompson, E.P. Waterbury, G. K. Nanny, Legrande Mead, Herman Rowley, Thomas E. Ferrinand, and James Vanderof.
Articles of association were soon adopted and the first Board of Directors was chosen. The first President was John L. Welling and the First Vice President was John Cowdrey. The original capital subscribed was $100,000.
The bank opened in April as part of the national and not the state system, in the old corner store where the original Masonic temple now stands, in the shop formally occupied by a barber. The bank occupied this space until March of 1869, when it moved to another building since demolished. It is not clear where that building was.
In the early part of 1888, the directors bought a house and lot from Leonard Cox, which is the location on which the present building now stands. They agreed to sell half of the site to Grinnell Burt, the president of the Warwick Valley Railroad, which became the LHR&R. Together they built a building, one half of which was for the bank, and the other half, which contained a dividing wall between them, was used as offices for the railroad. When the railroad moved out, that portion of the building was leased for stores and office space until the bank might need it. In 1903, the bank received a second extension of its charter as a national bank from the Treasury Department in Washington D.C. It was clearly stable.
In 1929 the Tilghman and Moyer Company of Allentown Pennsylvania, designed, constructed and equipped the building that is there today. The furnishings came from the Lazear Furniture Store on West St. The Project manager was Harry B. Ramage, who grew up in the Warwick area. On Fri., Mar. 8, the bank held an open house for the school children and on Saturday for the rest of town.
People were amazed by the classic and ornate decoration of the building, both inside and out, which bespoke of the health of this financial institution. There was an amazing, vented double vault, which was a great improvement over the small safe that held the bank’s assets in the early days, a luxurious and open floor plan and elegantly furnished rest room for the women employees. A director’s meeting room was furnished in blue leather.
According to the Warwick Advertiser on March 5, 1903, “Warwick people have always been proud of this bank. It has been wise and conservative in its management… and has been considered one of the most solid banks in the county. (It) supplied a very desirable convenience in a country community.”
Certainly the present flourishing agritourism industry would not have existed without the assistance and stability of The First National Bank of Warwick.