Friday, May 8, 2015

FIRST FEDERAL SAVINGS & LOAN

This article first appeared in the May 2015 issue of GreeneSPEAK!


Since 1946, this building has been the home of First Federal Savings & Loan of Greene County.   It is shown here shortly after Union Deposit and Trust remodeled in 1922.

First Federal stands on the central lot in Downtown Waynesburg facing the Courthouse.  The building is important for its location and its stellar architecture.  The style is Italian Renaissance, a form of Classicism that was popular in the 1920s.  It was built by one of the most successful contractors in New York City, Fred T. Ley & Company, best known for the Chrysler Building.  The architect was Charles Bertram French, also of New York City.  

First Federal anchors a group of stately Beaux Arts buildings that define the character of Downtown Waynesburg, making the town a beautiful place.  The other buildings in this trio are the Fort Jackson Hotel and First National Bank, also designed by a prominent New York City architect.  All three were built in the “Roaring 1920s”.  During this decade, an additional eight major commercial buildings were erected in Downtown Waynesburg.  It was a time of optimism and investment in the future.

Readers may be surprised to learn that the First Federal building was not erected in 1922 but rather extensively remodeled.  The structure dates to 1896 when it was known as the Jacobs & Headley Building.  It was originally three floors of Edwardian design, similar to what the Blair Hotel (Locker Room) still looks like today.

The Jacobs and Headley Building was constructed in 1896.  Photo credit: greeneconnections.com
 
The owners were William Jacobs and Robert Headley who lived with their families on the upper floors.  The initial commercial tenant was Stoy & Cotterrel Drug Store.

In 1901, Union Deposit & Trust Company was formed and moved into the building.  The business prospered until the early spring of 1921 or 1922 when, according to John O’Hara in Fact and Folklore, a hurricane-like wind blew the metal roof off the building and set it down almost intact on the Courthouse lawn.  This calamity prompted a massive remodeling that was conducted with lighting speed.  The Ley Company began construction in April 1922 and six months later, the bank re-opened.  Union Deposit & Trust continued there until December 1945 when its assets were sold to First National Bank.   

The First Federal lobby with Wendell August Forge accessories.   Photo credit: First Federal Savings & Loan of Greene County
 
A few months later, First Federal acquired the building and moved in, redecorating the lobby with hand-wrought aluminum fixtures from Wendell August Forge.  They had earlier been located on South Washington Street in the building that is now Baily Insurance.   
Another early view of the Union Deposit and Trust Building, today First Federal Savings & Loan.  The three buildings beside have been demolished.

The Italian Renaissance design is highlighted by two tall, fluted Corinthian pilasters that separate the central and side bays that are filled with metal casement windows and metal ornamentation.  The entrance door is surrounded by an elaborately carved cornice.  Above this central composition is a wide frieze trimmed with block modillions and dentils.  Piers and a turned balustrade finish the top of the massive granite fa├žade.  Inside, the lobby walls are wainscoted with Indiana limestone from Bloomington, and the floors are covered with Halston limestone from Knoxville, TN. 

Like many who grew up in Waynesburg, I have fond memories of this building.  I remember climbing the stairs to the Children’s Library on the second floor before it moved to the Bowlby House.  WAMB Radio was there, too.  My fondest memories are of visiting my Dad, Dick Morgan, at his desk in the bank lobby.  It was the first one on the left, where he greeted everyone with a smile.

The first building to occupy the First Federal site was the log tavern shown on the right.  It was called the Richard Ledwith Inn, built ca. 1800 and demolished in 1895 for the Jacobs and Headley Building.  Photo credit: greeneconnections.com
 




 

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