Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jane's Walk: Site 23

The bank buildings in the 500 block of Warren Street deserve our attention. There are four of them, although only one is still used as a bank. The first one encountered as you move upstreet is 520 Warren Street. This late 19th century building started out as the National Commercial Bank & Trust Company. Since 1962, it has been Hudson's City Hall.

The next bank building you come to as you move east on Warren Street is this one at 544 Warren.
This is the newest of the bank buildings on this stretch of Warren Street. Designed by Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon, the architectural firm best known for designing the Empire State Building, it was constructed in 1927 for Farmers' National Bank and replaced this elaborate Victorian building, which burned to the ground in a spectacular fire in November 1926.

The next bank building, at 560 Warren Street, is the second building in Hudson designed by the architects Warren and Wetmore, the first being the Columbia County Courthouse. It was built shortly after the courthouse was completed in 1908 for the Hudson City Savings Institution.
In this case, the new bank was not built as the consequence of a fire. Rather the prosperous financial institution was moving upstreet to a new, more impressive building from its previous building at 230 Warren Street, now the location of Cafe Le Perche.    

The Hudson City Savings Institution was founded in 1850. An interesting footnote to its founding is that the eighth account established at the new bank belonged to Mrs. Mary M. Bliss. This is noteworthy because it was only two years earlier, in 1848, that it became legal for women to own property and to possess money. 

The bank was first located in the insurance office of Josiah Fairfield at 234 Warren Street. It moved to 230 Warren Street in 1866, after purchasing the building from Dr. Oliver Bronson for $4,000. Around 1910, the bank moved to its new Warren and Wetmore building at 560 Warren Street and remained there until the early 1990s, when it moved to Hudson City Centre at Green and State streets. A few years after that, it changed its name to Hudson River Bank & Trust, and a few years after that, it was sold to First Niagara Financial Group.
The First National Bank of Hudson, founded in 1864, started out at 327 Warren Street, now the Hudson Opera House. It moved to this building at 561 Warren Street, directly across the street from the Hudson City Savings Institution, probably in the 1920s. 

This bank was the target of the elaborately planned and disastrously executed heist in the 1959 film Odds Against Tomorrow. The plot of the film required a bank with a side entrance. The story goes that scouts were sent out to look for such a bank and found it here in Hudson, which is why the greater part of the movie was filmed in Hudson. This picture of the bank is a still from the movie.


  1. A few notes on Jane's Wayward Walk on the Warren street 500 block of Hudson bank buildings:

    520 Warren street--Hudson River Trust Company.
    "This 19th century building" was built by the National Hudson River Bank, which opened there on July 17, 1907. Became the Hudson River Trust Company in 1912. First local bank to pass from the scene when it voted to become the 11th branch of National Commercial Bank and Trust in 1952 (though it continued to operate under its old name throughout the 1950s.)
    Founded as the Hudson River Bank on June 30, 1830, when it purchased the former Bank of Columbia building at 231 Warren street. Became a national bank in 1865.

    544 Warren street -- Farmers National Bank.
    Was not "constructed in 1942" after a 1941 fire. Rather, it was completed in 1928 after its "elaborate [1872] Victorian building" was destroyed in a November 1926 fire.
    Founded June 26, 1839, as the Farmers Bank of Hudson, and became a national bank in 1865. Farmers National Bank was acquired in March 1959 by the afore-mentioned National Commercial Bank and Trust Company (NCBT). Now with two branches on Warren street, at 520 and 544, NCBT abandoned both locations in 1961 and relocated to Greenport. NCBT became Key Bank in 1980.

    560 Warren street -- Hudson City Savings Institution.
    Moved, indeed, upstreet, after two years of construction, to 560 Warren, opening there on April 4, 1910. Converting from mutual to stock ownership in 1998, it became the Hudson River Bank and Trust Company and relocated to its new, Hudson City Centre building at State and Green. Hudson's last independent bank was acquired by First Niagara in 2005.

    561 Warren street -- First National Bank of Hudson.
    Organized March 30, 1864, with Josiah W. Fairfield as president. (Mr. Fairfield was also secretary-treasurer of the Hudson City Savings Institution; in those days it was not unusual for an individual to be an officer of two banks at the same time.) First National removed to its new building at 561 Warren street in 1922. Acquired by the State Bank of Albany in December, 1955, which became Norstar in 1984 and Fleet in 1992.

    And one unmentioned: 507 Warren street -- Hudson Savings and Loan Association.
    Chartered in 1911 and moved into its own building, at 419 Warren street, in 1935. Removed to 507 Warren street circa 1950. Was merged with Home Savings Bank of Upstate New York in 1974 and later became Home and City Savings Bank. Acquired by Trustco Bank in 1991.

    Sources: Robert Moon, "Banks Have Lent Character, Cash to City," Hudson Register-Star, May 17, 1985. "History Shows Banking Here Paralleled The Growth of This City," Hudson Daily Star, January 28, 1928. New York State Department of Finance.

    And kudos for the terrific imagery!

  2. Rundy--You're the second person to tell me that the magnificent Second Empire Farmers' Bank burned to the ground in 1926 not 1941. I based my dating of the event on a newspaper article about the fire that I discovered while researching the Colored Citizens Club on the Fulton History site. It seems the account I found was something the Evening Register was reprinting fifteen years after the event actually happened, but what can I say. Early on, someone told me that remarkable bank building had burned down in the 1950s, so 1941 seemed reasonable.

    Frankly, I was guessing when I wrote that the bank building that is now City Hall was built in the 19th century. It appears in lots of images in the Rowles Studio Collection, most of which predate the 20th century. I have a problem, though, with the idea that it didn't become the National Commercial Bank & Trust Company until after the 1950s. The image that I reproduced clearly identifies the building as the National Commercial Bank & Trust Company, and I don't believe the image is from the 1960s or even the 1950s.

    BTW 544 Warren Street was a Key Bank in 1993 when I moved to Hudson. I had an account there.

  3. May 31st – Four-Bell Modern-Era Update
    Re: 520 and 544 Warren street.

    Enlarging your magisterial photo of 520 Warren street, with “The National Commercial Bank and Trust Company” sign emblazoned above, one sees the writing over the front door and the sign on column left both say “Hudson River Trust Company,” which dates the photo between 1952 and 1980, when NCB&T changed its name to Key Bank N.A.

    Indeed, the National Commercial Bank and Trust Company of Albany acquired Hudson River Trust, 520 Warren street, in 1952. An NCB&T ad in the Chatham Courier, entitled “Broader Banking Services of Albany for Columbia County” and dated July 31, 1952, (preciently) states that: “On August 4th the Hudson River Trust Company of Hudson, New York, became a branch of the National Commercial Bank and Trust Company of Albany.” Subsequent NCB&T ads list 520 Warren as its “Hudson River Trust office” for several years thereafter, and simply as the “Hudson office” by 1957.

    When NCB&T acquired Farmers National Bank, at 544 Warren street, in 1959, it now had two branch offices “400 feet apart.” NCB&T kept both for two years, with 520 Warren remaining as the “Hudson office” and 544 Warren becoming the “Farmers office.” The arrangement continued until early 1961, when NCB&T opened its new “Dutch colonial” Greenport branch, at Graham Avenue and Union Turnpike. The old 520 Warren street Hudson River Trust office was closed and, of course, became City Hall in 1962. The 544 Warren street “Farmers office” was retained, as the “Hudson office,” into the late 1990s.

    Meanwhile, NCB&T changed its name to Key Bank N.A., effective January 1, 1980, which is why you remember banking there at Key in ’93. 544 Warren is still listed as a Key Bank branch in 1999. It must have closed circa 2000, for it is listed as the Pleshakov Music Center by 2002.

    Another Modern Era Update to follow, correcting and chronicling the Hudson City Savings Association transition from 560 Warren street via Hudson City Centre into First Niagara.

    Thanks for being here.

    Post Scriptum: A story in the Chatham Courier dated December 10th, 1959, announced that NCB&T had received permission from the Comptroller of the Currency “to change the location of one of its offices in Hudson” and open a new branch in Greenport, stating that “When the new office is opened it is the intention of National Commercial’s management to close the Hudson office at 520 Warren Street since its Farmers office at 544 Warren Street is only 400 feet away. The present Farmers office will be completed renovated and modernized to accommodate all of the customers of the two downtown offices.” And so it came to be.

    1. ERA ERRATUM re: 520 Warren Street photo.
      "The National Commercial Bank and Trust Company" sign atop and "Hudson River Trust Company" name above the door and on the column left date the photo between 1952 (when NCB&T acquired 520 Warren) and 1961 (when it was closed and purchased by the City of Hudson) -- not, as I previously stated, between 1952 and 1980. My bad, as the kids say.

  4. The Hudson River Bank which was founded in 1830 had a 25 year charter and is yet another contribution to Hudson by Oliver Wiswall. He served as president of the bank for all 25 years and it was the first Hudson bank which did not go bust.

    My great grandfather, Charles W. Clapper, started at the bank in 1901 as a teller and became Treasurer in the 1920's. He worked with the bank until he retired about 1952.