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Second National Bank of Meyersdale

Great Allegheny Passage

Commerce, Economy & Work

The name of the original tenant of this Classical Revival building, the Second National Bank, remains carved on the frieze.

Photo by: Nyttend/Wikimedia

Although today the resplendent building at 151 Center Street bears a sign for the Somerset Trust Company, it was originally the home of the Second National Bank of Meyersdale. Despite its name, this was actually the third or fourth bank in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, when a group of local businessmen founded it in 1901. Meyersdale was in the midst of an industrial boom at the time, as railroads crisscrossed Somerset County loading up coal and timber and agricultural products passed through on their way to Cumberland, Pittsburgh and beyond. The bank’s founders exemplified the commercial diversity in the area; they were investors or directors of coal mines, sheet steel companies, manufacturing firms, telephone companies, groceries, hardware stores and hotels in Somerset County.

As written on the bank’s pediment, the Classical Revival building was erected in 1909. The grand architecture was a physical expression of the bank’s success and its faith in Meyersdale’s future. [1] Fun fact: Under the National Banking Act of 1863 the Second National Bank was one of the many across the nation that were chartered to print paper currency. The Second National Bank printed what were called “national bank notes” from its founding in 1901 until 1935, when the government phased them out. The bank founders paid in $65,000 when they chartered the bank, and according to the law, one-third of that amount had to be used to purchase U.S. Treasury bonds that they deposited with the government; for the Second National Bank of Meyersdale that amount would have been just over $20,000. [2] They could then issue bank notes worth up to 90% of the value of the bonds ($18,000 for the Second National Bank) in denominations ranging from $1 to $1,000. The design of these notes was standardized, and all of them were printed by the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, but each bank did have its name, location and charter number engraved on its notes. [3] For three decades, you would have been able to go into cash registers in Meyersdale and find paper currency with “Second National Bank, Meyersdale, Charter 5801” printed on it.

 

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