The Times photo by Betsy Reason
The downtown Noblesville KeyBank branch building closed at 3 p.m. on Friday. The building has been a banking center since 1910. The original deposit box (left in photo) on the outside of the building has been intact all of these years.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason The downtown Noblesville KeyBank branch building closed at 3 p.m. on Friday. The building has been a banking center since 1910. The original deposit box (left in photo) on the outside of the building has been intact all of these years.
I visited our downtown Noblesville KeyBank on Friday.
It was the last day before the bank was to close at 3 p.m.
Business was as usual.
Although there were fewer than a half dozen employees manning their posts. I expected cake or balloons or fanfare, something to acknowledge the final day.
But there was nothing.
“Just a lot of counting and packing and moving. Just a lot of cleaning up and matching keys,” I overheard one employee say to a customer. The teller stood at his post, greeting morning customers.
A few KeyBank customers visited throughout the day, reminiscing, asking what would become of the bank and just making one last visit.
“I’m trying to tie up loose ends here. It’s proved to be more of a feat than I anticipated,” another employee told a customer.
The bank was very quiet. “It’s always like this,” a customer said.
Maybe more recently, that is. Years ago, the bank was bustling with activities. But in the past few years, KeyBank customers may have found it easier to visit one of the Noblesville branches rather than seek a parking space in downtown Noblesville.
Most KeyBank customers learned this spring that their downtown branch would be closing.
It’s the handsome, limestone downtown Noblesville bank building that’s been on the bustling Courthouse Square, at Ninth and Logan streets, since before all of us were born.
The KeyBank branch located at 110 N. Ninth St., consolidated last Friday into the Riverview branch, 480 Sheridan Road, on May 31, 2019. Earlier, in February, the bank announced plans to close 16 branches in Central Indiana. All accounts automatically transferred.
While employees wouldn’t go on the record to speak to me during my visit, I did manage to get a guided tour of the building. But no photos were allowed.
Behind the main lobby of the bank, we walked through a training facility, a mirror of the lobby with teller windows. This was once where bank tellers trained and learned how to run bank transactions; taking turns in role playing, as tellers and customers. Today, training is at the Lebanon bank location. There was also space for business bankers, investment office, loan officer, manager of the managers office, restrooms and an old kitchen and breakroom reminiscent of the 1970s, with wood-paneled walls and avocado green appliances with an old time card punch clock.
There was an area for business banking training to help small business owners.
The first vault I laid eyes on was really cool, maybe original to the building, and it was empty. It was one of eight or 10 vaults in the building, two of which were still in use when the bank closed.
Back in the day, one of the perks of getting a new bank account was getting a safe deposit box. A look through the glass door in one vault found 1,900 safe deposit boxes, many of which with their doors open. About 40 of the safe deposit boxes were on the floor of the vault with locks that had to be drilled out due to lost keys. Of those 40, only eight had contents in them; the 32 others were empty.
Customers with boxes were mailed three letters and those who didn’t respond were called. About 20 customers did not respond. If the contents weren’t picked up and the customer or family couldn’t be reached, the contents were inventoried, with three people witnessing and notarizing, and the contents eventually goes to Indiana unclaimed funds. While bank employees couldn’t say what was in the unclaimed safe deposit boxes, they said customers were not technically allowed to put money in their boxes, which were not insured.
For some time, there have only been three full-time employees and a part-time teller staffing the bank.
During the tour, I could see all of the beautiful old doors and the many areas of the building that have been left untouched since 2014, when the space was last used. Offices with a sweet view overlooking Logan Street were empty, although I wondered who once enjoyed the view at one time.
The most elaborate vault was already removed. But there were some really cool vaults that were still there.
One of the oldest vaults, which has a wood front, was in the basement. The vault sign above it still read “American National Bank.”
The building has been a financial institution since the First National Bank was built in 1910, according to a 1998 article in The Noblesville Ledger, provided by Hamilton County historian David Heighway.
The bank, which was chartered and established in 1823, had originally been located in the last ground-floor unit of 864-70 Logan St., on the north side of the Courthouse Square.
The building was of Beaux Arts architectural style and displayed two-story Ionic pilasters. It was the first new building of the decade and had all the elements of a modern banking house, “the finest bank in Indiana.”
First National Bank in 1928 was sold to American National Bank for $14,500. American National had been established in 1910 by a group of local businessmen, George S. Christian, Marion Alred, W.E. Longley, J.W. Smith, George Craycraft, M.L. White and John S. Craig. The bank had been located on the north side of the Courthouse Square and needed a larger building, according to The Ledger newspaper, where I worked as a reporter and then lifestyle editor beginning in 1986. That same year, I opened an account at American National Bank, because it was so convenient to the newspaper office, which was across the street at 957 Logan St.
The Noblesville Trust Co. owned the north half of the new bank building; the bank found the south end of the building adequate.
“The finest vaults and equipment were located in the basement under the banking rooms,” The Ledger reported. “A system of safety-deposit boxes was also available in the building, the first in Noblesville. American National Bank soon became one of the strongest, best-managed banks in the country.”
Offices were above the bank, and Dr. Earl Brooks, a well-known dentist, practiced there.
The bank grew, and in 1940 needed to expand. So Bensons Meat Market was obtained and is now the present lobby and main office. A new vault was purchased, and installed where in the location of the former Pursel Jewelry Store and Hege Shoe Store, which were bought out by the bank. Spandrel panels and a metal roof were also added over the southern portion.
As noted in The Ledger article, the building still exhibits most elements of its well-executed limestone facade.
In 1933, when the famous bank robber, John Dillinger, was robbing many banks in the Midwest, Ben McLaughlin, the bank president, received a telephone call that Dillinger’s men had been casing the Noblesville bank. But fortunately, Dillinger was captured before then.
Ameritrust National Bank became the owner of the bank in 1990, then Society Bank, and then the current KeyBank, since 1995.
The building would have celebrated its 110th anniversary as a banking center in 2020.
Bank employees seemed to think that brick-and-mortar banks will be a thing of the past someday, due to newer technology and digital banking options.
The building is owned by (American National Bank/) KeyBank (out of Irving, Texas), and they will decided what goes there next.
On Friday, the doors closed at 3 p.m. I watched some employees take their belongs to their cars.
The bank’s physical presence will surely be missed in our downtown. It will never be the same again. But that’s true with everything, as time marches on.
Retired Sen. Luke Kenley, a downtown businessman, has concurred on current-day trends.
“Free-standing branches are disappearing,” he said.
He has a lot of memories and ties to the banking center, which is next door to current property that Kenley owns downtown.
“Dad (Howard Kenley), Stanley Craig, Earl McMahon, Don Hinds, Phil Klotz, Ralph Waltz, Ron Miller, Jack Davis and Bob Armstrong were all officers and directors of American National Bank, the largest in Hamilton County,” Kenley told me.
The retired Indiana senator operated a third-generation family grocery business in Noblesville, that started with his father’s store that was once in downtown Noblesville on the Courthouse Square. He said, “Time marches on. Downtown Noblesville is strong. Something good will happen.”
-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.