2021-05-17_bob_cox_yesteryear

The Unaka and City Bank opened in 1911 at the corner of Main and Spring streets in downtown Johnson City. It later became Hamilton Bank.

Ladies out for a day of shopping down-town were encour-aged to stop by The Unaka and City National Bank for a look at free personalized checks and to also take advantage of a “special restroom” where they could read, discuss the news of the day or receive friends.

According to a commemorative brochure printed in 1911, when the bank opened at the corner of Main and Spring streets, it was “fitted up for women patrons.”

“Here they will find a pleasant, well-decorated room with comfortable chairs, magazines, and a lavatory,” the brochure states.

The gentlemen of the day weren’t left out of the accommodation either. According to the brochure, the men patrons have been similarly pro-vided with a room on the mezzanine floor for a meeting of their friends and committees.

The mezzanine was enclosed long ago to make a second floor for what is now known as the Hamilton Bank building, and what is believed to be brass elevator doors have been painted. But when it opened in 1921, the building was considered something of an architec-tural marvel — one of the most modern in the South.

Plans and specifications were drawn by someone with wide experience as a bank architect, which enabled him to design a bank building. The simple design without unnecessary frills was nevertheless complete in every respect, the brochure said.

“The construction is of brick, stone, steel, and concrete,” the brochure said. Good lighting and a cool breeze for hot summer days were apparently of importance in those days, since the brochure makes a point of saying “the main banking room is flooded with daylight and the excellent ventilation provides, throughout plenty of air.

”The brochure also contained a fair warning for possible burglars: the new “burglar and fire-proof vault” sports a manganese steel door weighing 12,000 pounds.

Safe deposit boxes inside rented for $2 a year. When the bank opened, the Unaka Bank had been in business for 20 years on Main Street. City National apparently labored under the same conditions. The two banks merged.

The term consolidated was used then in 1920, and a new location was chosen to provide “improved facilities, up-on-date,” a publication read.

Contained in the brochure are the pictures of the bank president, L.H. Shumate; first vice-president, Henry C. Black; second vice president, W.B. King; and second vice president J.B. King.

“Old friends are invited to utilize our services even more fully and new friends are assured a hearty welcome,” the brochure read. “Make this bank, which has merited the motto: ‘A good bank in a good country.’ ”

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Johnson City native Bob Cox is a longtime contributor to the Johnson City Press. He shares his vast knowledge of his hometown's history with readers each week. Reach Bob Cox at boblcox@bcyesteryear.com or www.bcyesteryear.com.

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