Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Discover Downtown's Corner Bank

You can’t help but notice the building if you get caught by the red light at the intersection of Campbellton and Broad Streets in downtown Douglasville. The tile work showcasing the business name, the little architectural flourishes that make the building so unique and the exquisite round and fan windows all boasting imported German glass takes you back to another time.
I’m speaking of the beautiful Farmers and Merchants Bank building, of course. The location happens to be the original home to the second bank organized in Douglasville. 

As the South moved from Reconstruction into the New South era there was a sudden spike in the number of applications for new national banking charters by business men who had taken over as the new leading class. These men understood the New South philosophy calling for changes in the southern economy in the areas of industrialization and in the textile industry in particular.
Douglasville Banking Company, our first bank, opened in 1891. The space that bears their name now serves as the welcome center for the City of Douglasville. 
The second bank, Farmers and Merchants Bank was opened in 1907 with assets of $25,000. The Farmers and Merchants Bank was established after a visit from W.S. Witham, the founder of the Witham Banking System. Witham Banks were state banks, organized under Georgia laws with individual officers and directors and each had their own individual capital.
The Witham Banking System focused on small rural areas with populations of 1,000 or less. Witham would meet with local citizens and persuade them they needed a bank. In Douglasville’s case he would push the fact that competition was good for the market. My research indicates Witham was a masterful speaker and his position on the State Sunday School Board for the Methodist Church probably didn’t hurt either.
You can finish reading this column over at Douglasville Patch.

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