City residents and businesses on the north side of the Black River had demand for a bank in 1922. And officials from Jefferson County National Bank, who took notice, opened a branch office Dec. 11 at the intersection of Mill and Main streets.
That historic branch location at 501 Mill St., which has operated under four different names since it opened, will be closed by Key Bank on Dec. 6 because of low customer traffic. The bank recently announced it will consolidate operations at its 200 Washington St. headquarters on Public Square.
Though todays major banks usually have a bevy of branch locations, Times archives reveal they were highly uncommon in the early 1920s, when the branch opened. It was a milestone for the city, in fact, when Jefferson County National bought the two-story brick building owned by the Cuff estate at the intersection to retrofit into its first branch location. A Times article Nov. 6, 1922, said the branch will give the city its first subsidiary office of a banking institution, with all the other banks transacting their entire business at one location.
At the time, the bank could afford to open the branch because it led its city competitors by accumulating the most capital: $250,000. The banks decision also was motivated by the growing number of businesses and schools on the citys north side, which had a census population of 9,038 in 1922. That north side section then comprised one-fourth of the citys population. It included four schools with a combined enrollment of 1,759 pupils, and 14 industrial corporations. New York Air Brake, Bagley & Seawall Co. and J.B. Wise Inc. collectively employed 3,000 to 4,000 workers.
Robert E. Cahill, city mayor in November 1922, lauded the banks decision to open the branch on the citys north side, predicting the move would lead to rapid business development.
It will have a splendid effect upon the community, he said, and is certain to prove an incentive to many to start savings accounts because it will bring the bank directly before them.
In 1943, the branch was taken over by Watertown National Bank. It was bought in 1963 by National Bank of Northern New York, which demolished the original building to build a new branch in the spring of 1966. That one-story modern branch with two drive-in windows eventually became a Key Bank branch in November 1980, when National Bank merged with Key.
Jefferson County National Bank was chartered by the state in 1816 and founded in Adams. The bank moved to Watertown at the corner of Washington and Stone streets on Nov. 19, 1824.