Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Merchant's Bank of Punta Gorda


The Merchant's Bank of Punta Gorda opened on April 9, 1912. The following summary of the history of bank  located in the beautiful brick building on Marion Avenue, right across the street from the site of the old Hotel Charlotte Harbor, comes from the Historic Register application submitted in late 1990. The Serendipity Salon and Spa now occupies the building.
"The Old First National Bank Building, at 133 West Marion Avenue, is located in the downtown commercial area of Punta Gorda, Florida. Constructed circa 1912, it is a two story, masonry Neoclassical commercial building.
The bank was state chartered in 1912 under the name of Merchants Bank of Punta Gorda. It was the second bank to open in Punta Gorda, preceded only by the Punta Gorda Bank. In 1914, it switched to a federal charter and became the First National Bank of Punta Gorda, By 1927, it was the most prosperous of the three banks located In the city.
The collapse of the Florida Land Boom in 1926 deflated land values and set off a state-wide financial crisis. In 1929, all three banks located in Punta Gorda failed. Throughout the state that year, a total of 9 federally chartered banks and 43 state char-tared banks closed- The Old First National Bank of Punta Gorda did not reopen.
The bank building is significant for its role in the development of commercial business in Punta Gorda, During the 1920s, Punta Gorda, like other areas of Florida, underwent a period of rapid growth. Tourism, fishing, and agriculture were major sources of income for the local population. The Old First National Bank was a leader in meeting the financial needs of the local business community.
Today, the Old First National Bank Building is the oldest existing bank building in Charlotte County. In addition, it is one of the few commercial buildings in Punta Gorda which retains its historic integrity.
Compiled by Jim Dodez (For  "This Day in Punta Gorda History" Series)

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