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Charlotte Banks: How It All Began

It used to be that the exterior and interior of a bank were designed to convey the impression of solidity, of stability and strength, of a place where the customer felt secure in trusting hard-earned money or valuables for safe-keeping.

The present Charlotte National Bank building, in 1924 and in 1998

Such a place is certainly the old Charlotte National Bank building on the northwest corner of Tryon and Fourth Streets. Built in 1918-19 it combines the impression of the strength of a fortress with the symmetry and scale of a Greek temple.

Charlotte National's first home

The Charlotte National Bank was originally organized in 1897, when, on January 2nd of that year, the Comptroller of the Currency granted the founders federal charter number 5055, which entitled it to the status of a national bank. An outgrowth of the private banking firm of Heath Brothers, Charlotte National was the city's fourth national bank, following the First National Bank of Charlotte (1885), the Commercial National Bank (1874), and the Merchants and Farmer's National Bank (c. 1875).

Commercial National Bank
The Civil War brought about the end of an era in North Carolina banking history. Every bank in the state failed when the federal government imposed a 10% tax on bank notes soon after the war ended in 1865. However, Charlotte soon had a national bank, The First National Bank of Charlotte, which opened in August 1865. Four years later a state bank, The Bank of Mecklenburg, opened for business. The Merchants and Farmers National Bank was Charlotte's second national bank, and the city's third bank since the Civil War. It was organized in January 1871 and officially chartered by the Federal government of February 1, 1871.

Merchants and Farmers National Bank

First National Bank

The First National Bank Building was the tallest skyscraper in the two Carolinas when it opened in 1926 on the Tryon Street edge of Third Ward. Skyscrapers with banks in them have dominated the Charlotte skyline ever since the early 1900's. The architect of this imposing Neoclassical style edifice was the seemingly ubiquitous Louis Asbury, Sr.

The older First National Bank Building

The Citizens Savings and Loan Company Building is another example of the "Greek temple" construction, similar to the Charlotte National Bank building.

The Union National Bank, one of the pre-merger components of Charlotte-based First Union National Bank. It merged with First National Bank in Asheville to create First Union.

The American Trust Bank.

This site was developed using a Macintosh Performa 6290 by Bruce Schulman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.