Woonsocket Savings And Trust Bank Advertisement – 1980

Woonsocket Savings & Trust stood on south side of Putnam Pike (Rt. 44), near the intersection of Rt. 5.  The electric sign in front used to alternate between the time and the outside temperature.   This sign no longer exists.  The building is still in use as a bank today.  This advertisement is from 1980. 

Click on image to enlarge. 

   

The Scituate National Bank Robbery Of 1868

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine, January, 2018

The Scituate National Bank Robbery of 1868

By Jim Ignasher

    At about 1 a.m., on the morning of Wednesday, March 25, 1868, Albert Hubbard and his wife awoke to find four armed men standing around their bed.  How they got in is unknown, but in the mid 19th century people living in rural towns like Scituate generally didn’t have to lock their doors.  Perhaps at first the Hubbards wondered if they were dreaming.

     Then one of the intruders warned. “If either of you moves, or makes a sound, you’ll be dead!”  This man was the apparent leader, whom the others called “Captain”.

     The couple was quickly bound and gagged, as was their young son who was sleeping in another room.  The incident wasn’t random.  Hubbard had been targeted because he was the cashier of the Scituate National Bank, and the men intended to use him in their effort to rob it.   

     The intruders had already broken into the bank a little more than an hour earlier, but had failed in their attempts to get the vault open.  Kidnapping Mr. Hubbard and terrorizing his family was their alternate plan.   

     While two men stayed with their hostages, Hubbard was led by the other two to the bank to which he had the keys and the combination to the vault.  But the combination wasn’t enough. There was a secret way to open it, and Hubbard was one of only three people who knew that secret. 

     There were no regular police patrols in Scituate in 1868, so there was little worry of encountering a constable as they made their way a short distance through the darkened streets.   

     On the way one of the men asked Hubbard how much money was in the bank, to which Hubbard replied, “Not much.” 

     Then the other stated they believed the bank held $50,000, and wouldn’t have bothered Hubbard if they’d thought otherwise.

     After forcing Hubbard to open the vault, the two thugs removed its entire contents without taking the time to examine what they were looting.  They then brought Hubbard back to his house and secured he and his family to give themselves time to get away.  Not long after the men had left. Mr. Hubbard managed to free himself, and after making sure his family was safe, he ran to the home of the bank president and informed him of the robbery.  Together they immediately sought out someone to send a telegraph to Providence alerting authorities to be on the lookout for the thieves.  Of course it was possible that the men could have headed westward towards the rural towns of Connecticut, but Providence was the nearest large populated area at the time where someone on the run might obtain passage on a train or a steamship. 

     The robbers had escaped with $10,000 in bonds, $5,500 in bills of various banks, $1,000 in bills of the Scituate National Bank, and $3,000 in bills belonging to the former Citizens Union Bank.  (It should be explained here that in the 1800s many banks issued their own currency with their bank’s name on it.) 

     Other items taken in the robbery included savings and bank books being held by the bank for security, as well as wills, deeds, mortgages, and other valuable personal papers of bank customers. 

     The only money left behind was a satchel containing $1,000 in cash which it was believed was accidentally dropped by the robbers as they made their getaway from the bank.

     However, some of the money taken was virtually worthless to the robbers.  Those bills marked Citizens Union Bank for example.  The Citizen’s Union Bank was incorporated in 1833, and in 1864 changed its name to the Scituate National Bank when the bank became part of the national system.  The new bank had been accepting the old bills, but with word of the robbery spreading, anyone wishing to cash them would need to prove they were not some of the bills stolen in the robbery.

     Authorities didn’t have much to go on in the way of clues.  The men had covered their faces thus making identification difficult.  One was said to have spoken in a German accent.  A standard crowbar was found in the bank, but “dusting” for fingerprints, or collecting possible forensic evidence was unknown in 1868.   

     The bank was located in a two story wooden building with an apartment on the second floor.  Tenants residing upstairs told investigators that they hadn’t seen or heard anything unusual all night.

     A nearby tavern keeper stated he’d heard a wagon leave his stable around 3:00 a.m. but didn’t think anything of it.

     It was later ascertained that the men had gone to Providence and boarded a Boston bound train at 4:50 a.m.

     Investigators traced the team of horses used by the bandits to a stable on Dorrance Street.  The owner said the four had rented it around 9:00 p.m. the night before, and had returned it sometime after 4:00 a.m. 

     It was further learned that the same men had visited the Granite National Bank in Pascoag a week earlier, but decided to rob the one in Scituate instead. 

    Yet despite the menacing behavior of the robbers towards the Hubbard family, apparently the men felt some remorse for their actions.  Sixteen days after the robbery, it was reported in the Woonsocket Patriot that some of the items taken during the commission of the crime had been returned.  A package that arrived via express mail from Philadelphia contained a large number of important papers, wills, valuables, jewelry, etc. which belonged to private citizens who had entrusted their safety with the bank. 

     To this the Woonsocket Patriot reported in part; “This act of the robbers seems a little odd, but is one of the characteristics of the professional gentlemen who take your money, and then return the empty wallet.  Sending the returned documents from Philadelphia is probably “a blind”; and no one need look for the robbers, or their plunder, in that city.”

     The men responsible for robbing the Scituate National Bank were never apprehended.

 

 

A New Lease On Life For The Former Smithfield Exchange Bank

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine, May, 2020

A New lease On Life For

The Former Smithfield Exchange Bank  

Bu Jim Ignasher

 

A circa 1900 view of the Smithfield Exchange Bank, Greenville, R.I.

     The former Smithfield Exchange Bank in Greenville Center has recently undergone extensive renovations under the new ownership of local businessman Jerry Haggarty.  Although the well-known landmark hasn’t been used as a bank for decades, it’s still referred to as “the old bank building” by many longtime residents.      

     Mr. Haggarty owns Alliance Business Products located at 7 Industrial Drive South in Smithfield. He’s an avid history buff, and the old building has always caught his interest when he would pass through Greenville. Then one day last year he noted a sign in front indicating that it was for sale and decided to buy it.   

     The Smithfield Exchange Bank was chartered in 1822, and its offices were originally located in the back ell of the Waterman Tavern.  (The ell still stands today and is currently undergoing restoration by the Smithfield Preservation Society.)  In 1856, the bank administrators built the brick structure that we think of today as “the old bank building”, and relocated their offices there.  The new building signified the success and security of the institution, and put forth an image of prosperity for Greenville.   

     In 1865 the bank became The National Exchange Bank of Greenville, and in 1928, the name changed to The Greenville Trust Company, which was later acquired by Citizen’s Bank in 1954.  When Citizen’s Bank relocated to another part of Greenville, the building was occupied by various businesses over the ensuing years.      

    The bank’s money was protected by a cement-lined walk-in vault entered through two solid steel doors.  In the years after the building was no longer a bank, it served as storage space. Today the former vault is bathroom, and with the antique steel doors no longer needed, they have been given to the Smithfield Preservation Society to be re-purposed. 

     From the street the former bank building appears to have two floors, but it actually has three, as well as an unusually deep basement.

     The first floor, which is accessible through the back of the building, once housed the Greenville Volunteer Fire Company.     

The Water Witch

     In 1870 Greenville obtained its first fire engine dubbed “The Water Witch”.  It was a horse-drawn apparatus known as a “hand-tub” and required a team of able bodied men to operate.  It was initially kept in a nearby barn until 1885, when the lower level of the bank was converted to a fire house.  The fire company remained there until the Greenville Fire Station was built in 1939. 

     The second floor is where the bank offices were located.  Old interior photos show dark raised-panel wood adorning the walls, and an ornate teller’s counter with caged windows.  Unfortunately this has all been lost over time as the building changed hands.  However, the ornate wood work surrounding the interior clock and main entrance has survived. 

     The third floor once had apartments, of which there were at least two – possibly more.  It seems odd today to think that there would be living space  above a bank, thereby opening the possibility to someone breaking in through the ceiling, but there was a time when such things were fairly common. 

     The apartments were still in use in the 1950s as evidenced by a newspaper article about a Georgiaville woman named Marion E. Lakey, who was the first woman assistant treasurer of the Greenville Trust Company.  Not only did she work for the bank, but she lived in one the third floor apartments.        

The interior clock and woodwork above the front door after restoration in 2020. The clocks were added in the 20th century.

     Mr. Haggarty’s decision to purchase the former bank came after much thought because it needed extensive work.  For starters, the water pipes had burst ruining vast areas of the first and second floors and requiring the removal of walls back to the studs.  Wood floors needed refinishing and replacing. The electrical and plumbing systems needed to be completely replaced, as did the ancient furnace in the basement.  There was also some work to be done on the outside bricks and mortar, as well as certain interior cosmetic work such as replacing ugly florescent light fixtures with decorative chandeliers.    

     And then there were the two clocks; the one on the outside-front of the building facing Putnam Pike that has read ten minutes after four for the last umpteen years, and an interior one, set in the wall above the front doors.  Both are now working again.

     “From the day I saw it,” Haggarty related, “I said I’d make those clocks work.”

     All throughout the process care was taken to preserve the historical integrity of the building as much as possible. 

     The renovations began in September of last year, and were completed by Ocean State Properties in March of 2020.  Mr. Haggarty says he plans to rent the building as office space.  And thus the story of one of Smithfield’s iconic historical structures continues. 

East side of bank looking out towards Rt. 44.

Photo taken 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Smithfield Exchange Bank Interior

Smithfield Exchange Bank Interior

Greenville, Rhode Island

Photos courtesy of the Smithfield Historic Preservation Society.  The date of the photos is unknown.

Click on images to enlarge.

Smithfield Union Bank – 1806 Banknotes

Smithfield Union Bank- 1806 Banknotes

Click on images to enlarge.

Images courtesy of Katie Law of the Smithfield Preservation Society

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