Saturday, August 3, 2019

The First Local Punta Gorda Bank Born 120 Years Ago Evolved into Bank of America in Punta Gorda

From Vernon Peeples Photograph Collection

The Punta Gorda Bank, Punta Gorda’s first true local bank was chartered 120 years ago in 1899, an outgrowth of an earlier branch bank of the State Bank of Fort Meade, opened in 1894 (see sketch  below of building destroyed in 1905 fire).  Actually, Punta Gorda had another branch bank even earlier in 1889, a branch of the Polk City Bank managed by S.P. Hinckley (the Hinckley-Harvey house still stands on Retta Esplanade).

From Vernon Peeples, Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor Area.

The 1899 bank opened its doors at the northwest corner of Marion and Cross Street (now 41 south).   Perry W. McAdow, a wealthy owner of goldmines in Montana, had just relocated in Punta Gorda and needed a bank.  He constructed the one-story building and helped recapitalize the original Fort Meade branch bank, becoming the first President of the Punta Gorda local bank.  The building housed the bank on the corner with Earnest Dry Goods, the Punta Gorda Trading Company and a community social hall comprising the rest of the space.   A Charlotte County Historical Marker noting where the bank was located can be seen on 41 South before reaching Marion Avenue on the west side of the street.

In 1917 the bank’s assets were turned over to form the Punta Gorda State Bank with the wealthy cattleman, W. Luther Koon, as its first President. Originally operating in a leased building at Olympia and Nesbitt, it moved to a new building on the southwest corner of Marion and what is now North 41 in 1921.

Punta Gorda State Bank in 1931 during Barron Collier Bridge Opening Celebration. From V. Peeples Collection.

The stock market crash of 1929 hit the banking business in Punta Gorda hard.  The Punta Gorda State Bank was the only one to survive it, according to legend, by a suitcase full of cash brought to the bank by Barron Collier. 

The bank continued to grow through acquisition, and  then in 1960 was reorganized as First National Bank of Punta Gorda1.  At that time a one-story building was built on the corner of Olympia and Nesbitt to house the growing business.  In 1975, the building was remodeled and a four- story building was added, to become the tallest business building in the City. It reorganized and was renamed several times after that (First Florida Bank, Barnett Bank, Nations Bank) until in 1999 when it was merged into and began operations as Bank of American in Punta Gorda. 

1 The original First National Bank of Punta Gorda was the name of the Merchants Bank after it was federalized in 1914.  That bank went under during the Depression.  Its building though still stands on Marion Avenue and in write-ups recording it is often referred to as the “Old” First National Bank of Punta Gorda to distinguish it from the renamed Punta Gorda State Bank. 
2 The long winding history of this bank is very confusing especially given the reuse of names.  While we believe what is presented to be the accurate course of this business based on extensive research, we welcome corrections.

Sources include:

Peeples, Vernon, Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor Area, 1986.
                                Punta Gorda in the Beginning, 1965-1900, 2012.
Williams, Lindsey, Our Fascinating Past, 1996.
Rhode, Byron, Punta Gorda Remembered, 1988. 
Punta Gorda Herald, articles 1890-1900 in Vernon Peeples Collection.
Fort Myers Newspress, Jan. 1, 1981.
Historical Market Charlotte County, Punta Gorda Bank.
Sanborn Map, Punta Gorda, 1914.

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