Long Life & Happiness for All its Residents #62

Becky Weiser

Wednesday Jun 16th, 2021

If we live in Erie County we most likely have our money in one of the following banks:  First National, Erie, Citizens, Huntington, Marquette, Northwest, or PNC; or in a variety of Credit Unions throughout the region.  Prior to these, County residents have had many choices of where to put their money, other than under the mattress or buried in the back yard!  This blog takes a brief look at the history of banks here and you may find some familiar names associated with them.

The first bank established in Erie was in 1829 by Rufus Seth Reed, P.S.V. Hamot, John Avery Tracy and Charles Reed.  This “Erie Bank” only lasted until 1848 with Reed personally covering all outstanding notes due. 


The United States Bank of Philadelphia opened an office in Erie in 1837 and built the beautiful white marble building still located near 4th and State Streets.  Upon failure in 1840, the building was sold to the US government for less than half of the cost of its construction to become a Customs House for the Port of Erie.  During the Civil War the building was a post office, later it became part of the Erie County Historical Society, and currently it is part of the Erie Art Museum complex.


During the Civil War, six banks came and went quickly but one stuck around longer than the rest, the First National Bank of Erie, which was organized by Judah Colt Spencer. The building was constructed in 1886 and is seen on the far right of the photo above. It was originally located at 715 State Street then moved to East 26th Street and was part of Stairway’s Mental Health “Bloom Collaborative”, I am not sure what it is being developed into now.  Three generations of Spencer’s were President of the bank, and this carved rail, pictured to the right was part of the interior and is in the Hagen History Center collection.  More on Judah Colt Spencer at a future blog.


Organized in 1864, the Keystone National Bank was located on the NE corner of 8th and State Streets.  Orange Noble (see blog #15) served as the first President and Matthew Griswold (blog #5) was Vice President in 1888.  Also, in that year, the 2nd National Bank of Erie was begun by William Scott on the SW corner of 8th and State.  The following year, one of the longest surviving banks in Erie, Marine National Bank began and lasted over 100 years until being absorbed by PNC Bank.

If you are beginning to wonder why so many banks came and went so quickly, it was the nature of the unregulated financial system the United States had in place at the time.  Depressions and other financial panics were common during the 1800s.  It wasn’t until 1913 that a US Central Bank was established to create a more stable and secure monetary system.  Other federal laws and regulations have attempted to secure money but as we all know, no system is perfect. 


Another bank from the past included the Erie Dime Savings & Loan Company which was reorganized as the Erie Trust Company in 1902.  Their 1928 headquarters was built on the corner of 10th and State Street and was, and still is, the tallest building in the city.  The building is today known as the Renaissance Centre.  Sadly, the Great Depression ended the company in 1933.

Security People’s Bank, Lincoln National Bank, and Union Bank were all others who had relatively short lives here in Erie. Marquette Bank is the only remaining locally headquartered bank here in the region.  Begun in 1908 in Erie, it is still going strong and serving the community’s banking needs, as well as with a new Education Center being built on the corner of 10th and Peach Streets.


Banking continues to change.  My sons, who are in their early 20s bank completely online with an out-of-town entity.  Heck, I remember when ATMs were a new concept!  As the old saying goes “money can’t buy happiness”, but it certainly doesn’t hurt!  I wish you all enough money to keep you happy!