Suzassippi’s Mississippi: Wilson Banking Company of Greenwood

Wilson Banking Company block

The Delta Daily News reported in March 2018 about the planned reopening of the former Wilson Banking Company building–as a bank!  On my recent first visit to downtown Greenwood, I stumbled across this beautiful 1913 Beaux Arts building designed by architect Frank R. McGeoy.  In August 1913, construction was begun on the building at the corner of Market and Howard streets “in the very heart of Greenwood” with a projected total cost of $25,000 (Jackson Daily News, 08 August 1913, p. 2).  McGeoy also designed and supervised construction of the addition in 1923.

Wilson Bank Now Enlarged: Addition to Building Makes Bank One of the Most Commodious in City of Greenwood–Announcing the completion of the enlargement of their bank building and the installation of new fixtures and safety deposit boxes in the new vault…(Greenwood Commonwealth, 01 July 1925, p. 1)

The building “has been doubled in size by an addition built on the north” and added marble interior and fixtures.  In writing the nomination for the Cotton Row Historic District National Register of Historic Places in 1980, Lloyd Ostby described the building:

Wilson Banking Company entrance and sides 2

…four-by-five bay brick with concrete cartouches, pilaster capitals and bases; aedicule corner entrance, flat roof, metal cornice.

Aedicule sent me to the dictionary to learn that it is “an opening such as a door or window framed by columns on either side, and a pediment above.”  Enlarging and enhancing a section gives detail on the metal cornice, and also reveals some damage from corrosion.

Metal cornice

Wilson Banking opened a branch on Carrollton Avenue in 1928, “located in the new Dahmer Buildings recently completed near Greenwood Drug Company” (Greenwood Commonwealth, 11 September 1928, p. 1).  The Dahmer Building was located on the corner of Carrollton and Lamar.  The branch location lasted a year and closed in September 1929 and was combined back with the Howard/Market location.

The_Greenwood_Commonwealth_Fri__Mar_7__1930_

Wilson Banking failed in December 1930, and precipitated a banking crisis in Greenwood.  Other banks closed temporarily to forestall further panic, but reopened shortly.  The Sun-Sentinel reported Wilson Banking Company was liquidated (25 December 1930, p. 1).

Remarkably, the building has survived and continues to function as part of Greenwood’s historic Cotton Row.

 



Categories: Banks, Delta, Greenwood, Historic Preservation

Tags:

27 replies

  1. i might have seen this building during a few childhood trips to greenwood, but it’s like ‘a new discovery’ seeing it again today. ‘multum in parvo'(much in little), as the saying goes—a lot packed into a small building’s two (and a half, if one counts the canted corner) facades– if one were to read about all the details, it might sound ‘overdone’, but seeing the building as it is, well, it’s not–though, yes, it approaches ‘too much’! but, throughout the history of banking in the u.s., buildings housing those facilities were meant to look grand and safe. don’t know the architect, frank r. mcgeoy, so a new topic for research. (and, wonderful that so many buildings in this group have been saved, even though one can see some unfortunate changes ‘here and there’). thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The one thing that has stumped me is I cannot figure out how the addition was done and exactly where. If it “doubled” the size of the building, I cannot seem to locate any tells as to where the addition went. Google maps and enlarging the photos do not indicate it. Must have been a seamless addition. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Wilson Bank story and building is legendary in Greenwood. On a Saturday in December, 1930, bank examiners showed up to close down the books after Mr. Wilson’s death, apparently standard procedure when a bank principal died. Their presence in downtown Greenwood when everyone from all over the county was in town shopping sent a wave of panic through the community, and by evening, every bank in town except the Bank of Commerce had collapsed. Dr. T.R. Henderson, president of Bank of Commerce, literally stacked money from the vault on the front counter and invited anyone who wanted theirs to take it. He had such standing in the community (for many reasons, not just the bank), that very few took him up on his offer. The facade of that bank is now incorporated into the renovated Staplcotn building, which wraps around the old Wilson Bank. Bank of Commerce long ago moved around to the 300 block of Howard Street, occupying the original First National Bank. An interesting “sidelight” on that structure is that the very, very faint carved “First National Bank” lettering in the facade is visible every morning, just for a few minutes, as the sun rises and strikes the top half of the building. It’s one of my favorite “downtown secrets.”

    Delighted that Guaranty has moved into the Wilson Bank and hoping that some refurbishments to the entire building (which is owned by the upstairs law firm) will result. The inside of the bank is just as spectacular as the exterior. Thanks for highlighting this, Suzassippi.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I almost included the information on Wilson’s death, although I did not realize from the information I had that it related to the closure. Calhoun Wilson, the V-P had killed himself only 2 years prior.

      Like

      • After Planters Bank moved out, there was very little activity connected with the old Wilson Bank. But at some point, the Planters sign was removed, revealing, for the first time in a very long time, the “Wilson Bank” logo. Those of us who love Greenwood’s historic buildings dashed downtown to relish this unexpected find, assuming it would soon be covered up again. Took several years.

        Like

  3. /Users/marycarolmiller/Desktop/1905 Henderson Baird.tif
    The original Bank of Commerce, ca. 1904. Right side of photo shows the west end of the Famous Store, which would be torn down when Wilson Bank was built in 1913. Notice incomplete Leflore County Courthouse tower in the background.

    Like

  4. The corner door details remind me of the 1904 Bank of Yazoo City … that I believe was featured in the bank robbery scene in “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?”

    Like

  5. have done a little bit of net research since my earlier comments, and i have found out ‘bits and pieces’ of the life/career of frank mcgeoy—

    born tn (don’t know yet where) in 1890–haven’t found out a death date or place—in the mdah list of architects and bldgs, his last cited commission was ca 1950, so, that’s kind of a guide;

    quite prolific in greenwood and other delta towns, and believe he had his office in greenwood; have no idea of training, etc; nothing yet on pronunciation of name, but guessing of irish origin.

    do any of our readers know more?

    Like

    • According to the Greenwood Commonwealth, 13 Apr 1940, p. 1, Frank R. McGeoy, Sr. died April 13th, 1940 at his home at 905 Mississippi Avenue. The paper reported he was born in 1868 in Memphis, and moved to Greenwood in 1908.

      Like

    • Clearly, the date on the addition to the W.C. Williams School complex in Greenwood that you refer to must be earlier than 1950, if Frank McGeoy Sr. died in 1940. OR, the addition is by someone else. https://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/prop.aspx?view=architectural

      Like

    • I finally tracked down some information about the school. W. C. Williams school was named East Greenwood in the 1930s and 40s. In 1939, the Peabody Survey recommended immediate repairs and the addition of two classrooms to East Greenwood (Local School Buildings Rapped in Peabody Survey, Greenwood Commonwealth, 15 Aug 1939, p. 1). In October, “kitchens and attractive lunchroom” were set up “in the rear of the school building” and operated by WPA. This prevented the necessity of transporting children to another school for their lunch (Greenwood Commonwealth, 21 Oct 1939, p. 1). Both of these seem to suggest that likely the addition was begun in 1939 or 1940, prior to McGeoy’s death. He was also supervising architect for the construction of the WPA funded Armory at the time of his death. The Armory was completed and dedicated in 1941.

      Like

  6. would this sr mcgeoy be the father of the architect of the bank bldg, if he, the architect, was born in 1890(mdah data)? the sr ‘s dates could still allow for jr(the architect?) to have been born in tn—so, we can, perhaps, ‘attach’ memphis as the bplace for ?.

    Like

  7. am all confused but trying to get ‘un-confused’! and, strangely, when i looked up mcgeoy this morning, i didn’t find the very complete wiki link that i just found–the latter with all sorts of pertinent data–birth, death, family life, bldgs, etc—and, did i mis-read the mdah bldg list that said his last bldg was ca 1950? getting old is no fun, folks! but, am glad to learn about a new, talented ms architect! (in the meantime, i have found some goo info on greenwood, including a nice online version of a walking-tour brochure!)

    Like

    • Ed, it is confusing at times. I am only a novice at this myself, but I find that the newspaper archives really help–it is pricey, but a price I am willing to pay for the benefits it brings. News items can be wrong, but so far, I have not found they erroneously wrote about construction of a building years in advance of when we think it was built, or for that matter, reported birth or death in advance of either. I love the archives for the detail they included in the news.

      Like

  8. I’ve enjoyed the post and the comments, thank you to all. I do wonder why so many banks had a corner entrance – was it a safety precaution against robbery or perhaps just an established tradition.

    But, this has reminded me of the story my great aunt told me on summer afternoons. She and her husband lived in Greenwood and would tell me about the day the banks closed and no one had any money. I didn’t understand this until I was much older and after reading here I know even more about that day in Greenwood. I have to wonder where they banked. Fortunately, they had the remarkable sum of $14 between the two of them so they weren’t as inconvenienced as many others.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m going to get the whole lowdown on Frank McGeoy, who designed many of Greenwood’s best buildings, but it will take a couple of days. Ed, the name is pronounced like Mag-oy. The McGeoy building is still standing on Main Street, now houses a barbershop.

    Regarding W.C. Williams School, it’s now Threadgill Primary after being closed for several years. The Carrollton Avenue addition is early 1950s and very similar to Bankston Elementary in North Greenwood. As you’re driving by, you can still see the very charming East Greenwood School building, tucked in behind the 1950s wing.

    Like

  10. glad to know pronunciation! sort of like ‘mc coy’; wiki article, quoting from obit in gwood paper of april 13, 1940, said that he had three sons, so one would think that there are living relatives. i just looked on ‘anywho.com’ and only two mcgeoys in ms–man and woman, in pearl. none in tn or ar; one, a lady, in gretna, la. wonder where his office records are? does mr roselle know anything? what about mr white?

    Like

  11. buildings–ie banks–on corners kind of got lost in all the other comments; and, ‘buildings on corners, and how the architect chose to turn the corner’ could be a lengthy discussion. i know a bit about this topic but know there are others that do, as well; it is a tricky design problem, but corner locations were very desirable ’cause the building really could face three directions–each side and, then, the angle.

    course, this mostly applies to commercial building, on semi-regular blocks–though, in a city like paris or washington, dc, with all those ‘angular’ streets– there are multiple possibilities–one could include residential blocks when speaking of urban areas, too. banks liked these spots and so did hotels. but, think of churches, and the towers that often occupied the corner spots.

    ok, mr white, a quiz topic–unless you have already done it– the corners of a selection of ms buildings–can one recognize the building just from the corner detail? perhaps….

    mr gentry will probably remember the ‘old’ travis house, at the corner of (long) bay and hall avenue–large queen anne style house but done up with neoclassical details—very(very) prominent corner spot on two important(then–ca 1900–streets) in hattiesburg–very prominent tower, on top of two full stories, with wrap-around columned porches on both streets—the tower anchored the house, and the porches moved one’s eye around the facade—

    across hall avenue, diagonally, was a hospital, called the methodist hospital, when i was growing up. also, a very prominent location. occupied by a series of prominent buildings.

    all of this is from memory as a child–think there was a porte-cochere on the ‘inside side'(right, looking at the front from bay street) that connected the bay street facade to the court street ‘back’ of the lot. the house was in bad shape when i was a child in the 1950s, and my father bought a piece of the back side of the lot–the corner of hall avenue and court street–for his ‘modern’ pharmacy–i would often walk along the sidewalks and admire the house–sadly, i never took any photos of it–wonder if anyone on our site knows if photos exist–perhaps with the modern day travis family?

    Like

    • Would that be Kierney Travis, the Hattiesburg attorney? He’s my 104 yo aunt’s attorney. I’ll check it out. That horrible HPD annex, added to Mr. W. S. F. Tatum’s Methodist Episcopalian Church–South circa 1959, has been demolished as of two months ago. The HPD will continue to use the original extant 1927 building for administrative purposes.
      Check out the W.S. F. Tatum archives at the McCain Library. Dick Molphus is the curator of the Tatum archival collection.The Bilbo collection is well done, too. Check out Bilbo’s 1947 campaign speech at Pontotoc, Mississippi , in particular his comment about the forgiving of the $25,000,000,000 Land-Lease loan to Britain, and Ben Cohen arranging for a 3.75 billion dollar loan to the Brits which was to purchase, at 4 cents on the dollar, the left over Lend-Lease war surplus valued at $6,000,000,000. That war surplus went to Palestine.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: