By LaKeshia Knarr and Lou Bernard
LOCK HAVEN – The first floor of an historic building in the downtown shopping district of Lock Haven will become vacant for the first time in many years this week.
The closing of the Santander Bank branch located at 25 E. Main St., in the well-known “Black Bank,” is set for 2 p.m. Friday, March 17, due to the consolidation of two local branches.
Santander will continue to serve clients at its 448 Bellefonte Ave. location.
“We routinely review our branch network to make sure we are optimizing our resources and this consolidation makes good sense for both our customers and our business,” explained Ann Davis, senior manager of external communications at Santander U.S. “The Bellefonte Ave. branch is less than one mile away from the Main Street branch and offers a full complement of Santander’s services.”
Davis said customers were notified of the closure 90 days in advance and team members from the closed branch will remain employed with the company. In addition, a full-service ATM will remain available at the closing branch location on Main Street, she said.
Santander became the occupant of the Main Street building after purchasing Sovereign Bank in 2009. Sovereign Bank was officially renamed Santander in 2013.
The building is owned by local entrepreneur Dr. Von Wise, under Five West Main Street Partnership Inc. Wise purchased the building from his father, Dr. Robert Wise Sr., in 2008. Dr. Robert Wise Sr. bought the building in 1997 from Core State Bank.
“Our goal is to get another bank in there,” said Von. “We’re marketing it right now.”
The property owner said other businesses that could fit the space are also welcome.
The portion of the building that housed the bank offers over 6,000 square feet of commercial space, including a state-of-the-art vault, he noted.
“It’s a beautiful building… It’s a flagship property in our downtown,” Von said. “We really don’t want to see an empty space there.”
Von said he and the realtor are working closely with the Clinton County Economic Partnership to find a new occupant.
The building also accommodates 16 apartment units in the upper levels, he noted.
The property is being listed through Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services. To learn more about the commercial property, contact Jeffrey Bower at 570-323-1100 or search online at www.mericle.com.
THE BUILDING’S HISTORY
Locally, it’s been known as the “Black Bank” due to the black marble panels on the building’s exterior. Historically, it’s been called the Exchange Building. And this is a bank with a long history in Clinton County.
At its start, it was under a different name in a different location. It began as First National Bank, and was situated at 204 E. Water St. If there was one person who was the heart and soul of the bank in those days, it was Tench C. Kintzing. Kintzing was descended from one of the Lock Haven pioneer families, and owned a sawmill in Allison Township. He lived at 208 W. Main St. in Lock Haven, and was the bank’s first president.
Banks were something of a tradition to the Kintzing family; his father had attempted to start the Clinton Bank with town founder Jerry Church in 1841. Tench Kintzing succeeded, raising $100,000 as capital, which he kept at his home overnight before physically carrying it to Washington in a carpet bag to secure the bank’s charter. He returned with the money and opened for business on October 15, 1864.
In addition to Kintzing, the bank’s first board of directors included Frederick Johnson, William White, Henry Hipple, Samuel Fredericks, Alexander Sloan, Samuel Crist, James Ferguson, and G.W. Halenbake. Many of these men were prominent in the community; Crist was the fourth mayor of the city, and Halenbake was important in the iron industry, his daughter founding Lock Haven’s only public library.
Kintzing, Crist, and Hipple announced plans to build a new building along Main Street in 1871. Initially, they’d intended their building to be an opera house, according to the Historic Resource Survey Form, but by the time the foundation was laid, they’d changed their plans and instead intended it to be a shoe factory. This business began operation in April of 1872 in the Exchange Building, and in the early 1880s, the bank moved into the back room, doing business through a door along Vesper Street.
The 1880s were the high point of the lumber industry, which was a huge economic force in Lock Haven’s growth. The bank grew along with the lumber, holding accounts for business owners and sawmills. Tench Kintzing passed away in 1890, soon after the flood of 1889.
By 1906, business had grown enough for the bank to buy the building outright, and become a landlord to other businesses as well. As the bank grew, it began to take over the entire first floor of the building. Smith and Winter Department Store was asked to move in 1913, and the bank took over that portion of the building. In 1925, the one remaining business was an Army and Navy store, and the bank took that portion over, as well. This involved a makeover for the bank; its entire interior was redone to suit the new purpose.
A new savings department was opened in 1906, and a trust department in 1925. By the late 1920s, First National had a reputation as the oldest bank in the county, which they’d earned by being slow and careful with their choices. They’d navigated financial crises in 1873, 1875, and 1893, always coming out on top and protecting their clients. In 1939, when the county was a hundred years old, the bank had a net worth of over two million dollars.
By comparison to when it opened in 1864, this was a huge growth: At that point, the net worth was $47,000.
Old advertisements for the bank describe it as steady and unspectacular, but it’s been anything but that. The Exchange Building has hosted exciting economic ups and downs, flood damage, and even a love story.
And now, staff prepares to leave, and the building will be vacant for a time. If the walls could talk, they’d tell us stories of the past. And, perhaps, tell of their eagerness to find out what may move in next.