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Stop 15: The 1889 Bank of Pasco County

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The Wells Fargo bank building clutches precious local history. Its forerunner at the location, the Bank of Pasco County was chartered in 1889, as the third charter granted by the Florida State Treasury and the first bank to open in Pasco County, Florida. It originated with Victorian arabesque style architecture, resembling the Tampa Bay Hotel constructed by Henry B. Plant which holds Tampa Bay notoriety (now an integral part of the University of Tampa and home to the Plant Museum). Moorish arches over the windows and a minaret-like cupola over the door created a treasured banking space just across the street from the famed 1909 Pasco County Courthouse. 

 

    The structure weathered time with an overlay of stucco which attempted to keep it in tack but hiding its glory, and replacement of the statuesque arches. As street lights were added to Dade City in 1920, the marble counters replaced the wire teller cages. With the removal of the teller cages, management posted a sign, “Please do not spit on the floor. To do so may spread disease.” 

 

     The bank survived an attempted robbery in 1904, when safe blowers dynamited the large iron doors leading to the bank vault. The charges of dynamite were so heavy that the building was cracked and the plate glass windows were blown out. The structure persevered.

 

     The bank acquired the adjoining building that housed Sunnybrook Tobacco Company/Massey building, once the largest employer in Pasco County. (Remember you learned about that in stop 3.) Unfortunately, in 1988, the façade of the building was demolished by then owner First Union National Bank. Locals are however, ultimately very grateful to them however, because they researched and employed restoration experts and expense to create a very similar replica of the original building which continues the task of anchoring the historic town.

 

     Known as “Old Reliable,” the Bank of Pasco was one of very few that weathered the Stock Market Crash of 1929. It closed for only ten days, and reopened with the unadulterated joy and relief of citizens. It overwhelmingly beat the odds by surviving the 1926 Real Estate Boom as well and then withstood the 1929 Stock Market Crash, as the only bank in Pasco County to survive!

  • 1889

    Bank of Pasco County chartered on September 5, 1889 (third charter granted by the Florida Treasury Department and first bank to open in Pasco County).

  • 1904

    Survived an attempted robbery and charges of dynamite that cracked the frame of the building and blew out the plate glass windows.

  • 1915

    The cupola was removed in 1915 as it was considered old fashioned and a bit too ornate and natural red brick was covered with grey stucco.

  • 1919

    Weekly advertisements in the Dade City Banner included a report and tip on money management with the advertisement (usually on the final page of the newspaper). The December 1919 statement said, “Dade City, at the close of business on December 31, 1919: Assets: $481,878.21; “The Old Reliable.”

  • 1920

    Street lights were added.

  • 1926

    Real Estate Boom did not shut down the business.

  • 1929

    New York Stock Market Crash that was the catalyst event for the subsequent Great Depression did not end the bank.

  • 1960

    Original bank building got face lift as stucco was covered with a layer of plywood with a pebble finish.

  • 1961

    Laura Spencer Porter retired after serving the bank from 1908-1961; the Half Century Club of Florida Bankers presented her membership on her 50th anniversary.

  • 1983

    At the opening of its sixth full-service branch office at Ridge Road, assets were $140 million and the Bank of Pasco County was the only independent, home-owned bank in Pasco County.

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