Lima’s newest bank did a “thriving first day of a business” when it opened its doors at 130 S. Main St. on a Saturday morning 100 years ago.
“Greta Coon, 8-year-old daughter of Nathan Coon, 220 W. Circular St., made the first deposit in the new institution, her account being opened with a $10 savings deposit,” The Lima News wrote Oct. 9, 1921.
Seven months later, a significant withdrawal was made from the bank by a gun-toting young man, who entered the bank just after noon on a day in early May, jumped on a counter with what witnesses would later recall was “marvelous agility,” and fired a shot into the ceiling to show the bank’s four employees, who initially thought the whole thing was a practical joke, that it definitely wasn’t. He then herded the employees into a vault before stuffing more than $4,000 from the safe and cash drawers into his pockets.
“With one more surly order for silence,” the Lima Republican-Gazette reported May 3, 1922, “he walked nonchalantly to the front office. There he turned, made a casual attempt to smooth the bulging pockets of his coat, bestowed one more look at the vault and its occupants, and went out the door.”
Two days after the robbery, the gunman, along with three accomplices who had waited outside during the Lima robbery, were spotted in Canton. All four were killed in a one-hour gun battle with police and a posse of Canton citizens who joined in the shootout.
It had been an eventful beginning to the Lima Dime Savings Bank’s relatively short history, which lasted less than a decade. The bank opened with bright hopes at the dawn of the 1920s before dying in the dark, early days of the Great Depression.
“The Lima Dime Savings Bank, to be located at 130 S. Main Street, was incorporated at Columbus yesterday with a capitalization of $50,000,” the Republican-Gazette announced June 14, 1921.
Ira Wagner was one of four Lima businessmen named as incorporators of the new bank and was chosen as president by the bank’s board in September 1921.
“The bank will be similar to dime savings institutions in other cities and general commercial banking will be carried on, although the savings department will be the main feature, according to Wagner,” the newspaper wrote.
By 1923, the Dime Savings Bank was expanding into new quarters on the first floor of the Badeau Block, just north of its original location.
With the addition of the Badeau Block, the bank also had one of the more historic quarters in the city. Silas Badeau moved to Lima around 1860 and purchased the property on the southwest corner of the Square. In 1889, his widow, Elsie, built a three-story brick building on the site. At the time, the Republican-Gazette noted in October 1924, “the Public Square was void of brick buildings, save one at the southeast corner that still stands.”
The main tenant of the Badeau Block was the Cunningham Pharmacy, operated by Harold Cunningham, who established his business in 1887 and retired in 1919. Cunningham also was a president of Lima City Council in 1891 when the first permanent pavement in the city was laid on the Square. Other tenants of the building in 1890 were architect C.H. Miller and Matilda “Tillie” Badeau, the daughter of Silas Badeau, who established an art studio on the second floor.
By January 1924, the Dime Savings Bank was looking for more room. On Jan. 10, 1924, under the front-page headline “’Skyscraper’ Proposed as Bank’s Home,” the News reported, “It was proposed that the (Badeau) building either be razed, and a new block put up or else that it be remodeled… Several stockholders voiced the opinion that remodeling the old structure would be a waste of funds as the growth of the city makes erection of a modern office skyscraper a practical venture. A building that will be a credit to the bank and in future years dominate the Square as a landmark was spoken of.” The stockholders’ envisioned “skyscraper” would be 10 to 12 stories, the newspaper wrote.
In the end, a building half as tall was erected on the site, and the Lima Trust building, a 12-story structure erected about the same time on the northwest corner of the Square and Market Street, would dominate the Public Square. By October 1924, the Badeau Block was being razed to make room for a new six-story building.
The News reported in October 1925 that the new Badeau block was nearing completion.
“The entire first floor will be occupied by the bank and will have every modern convenience, and facilities for all banking requirements. The strong financial condition of the Lima Dime Savings Bank gives promise of its ability to serve its growing city for many years to come,” the News wrote.
In April 1926, it was announced the Northwestern School of Commerce (today’s University of Northwestern Ohio), which was organized in 1920, would join the bank in the new Badeau block. The was moved in August 1928 to the corner of Market and West streets.
The optimism of 1925 plummeted with the stock market in October 1929, and one of the early casualties of the ensuing Great Depression was Lima’s Dime Savings Bank.
“Liquidation of the Lima Dime Savings Bank under supervision of the state banking department is under way,” the News reported March 19, 1930. “This action followed a meeting of the board of directors Tuesday night and a notice posted by William Dauch, president, and H.M. Reed, secretary, Wednesday said this course was decided on for the best interests of the stockholders and depositors.”
Not all stockholders and depositors agreed, and a decade of litigation followed. The Badeau block continued as an office building, notably during the Depression as headquarters for the local branch of the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency employing millions to carry out public works projects.
Other uses also were found for the building. In 1936, fireworks were launched from atop the structure during the city’s Fourth of July celebration. Later that month, a “giant sky projector, a light with more than six million candle-power,” attracted crowds to the Square as its operators used the building as a screen for a light show, according to the News.
After years of litigation, the Badeau block was put on the auction block in February 1941 but failed to attract any bidders. A second auction also produced no interest. Finally, in June 1941, the building was purchased by Dauch Realty, owned by William Dauch, the Dime Savings Bank’s last president in 1930.
Over the next several decades, the building, which became known as the Dauch block, served as quarters for, among other businesses, Blue Cross-Blue Shield and One-Hour Cleaning Service, which according to the Lima Citizen, stood ready to press Richard Nixon’s pants should the need arise during the then-presidential candidate’s visit to Lima in October 1960.
The block was razed in June 1981 to make room for the Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.