Old bank in Illinois

People's State Bank, Orangeville Illinois
Date added: April 30, 2023 Categories: Illinois Commercial Bank
South and east exterior (2004)

Orangeville, Illinois, is located in northern Stephenson County, roughly two miles from the Wisconsin border, 11 miles south of Monroe, Wisconsin, 12 miles north of Freeport, Illinois, 35 miles west of Rockford, Illinois, and 60 miles east of Dubuque, Iowa. The People's State Bank, built in 1926, was the last significant historic public/commercial building constructed in Orangeville. The People's State Bank building was the capstone building of the downtown, reflecting the town's wealth and stature at its height. In 1926, the State of Illinois began construction of a bypass to the east of Orangeville, which began a slow decline from which the downtown has never recovered. In 1932, the bank folded and closed its doors.

The Peoples State Bank was built 76 years after the founding of the Village of Orangeville. The village was founded in 1851 and incorporated in 1867. The town founder, John Bower, plotted the village in April 1851. The lot where the People's State Bank building is located is across the alley west of Central House, and on the north side of the street that defined the north boundary of the original town, High Street.

In the 1830s and early 1840s, farmers from New York and Pennsylvania moved onto the fertile and cheap lands of the Central States. Dr. Thomas Van Valsah led a wagon train of Pennsylvanian settlers to Stephenson County in 1837. These people of German descent were known as Pennsylvania Deutsche (German) or "Pennsylvania Dutch." Thirteen of the first fourteen settlers to the area that would become Orangeville were Pennsylvania Deutsche. The fourteenth was German.

Simon Davis is given credit as being one of the first to settle in Oneco Township in about 1833. On January 1, 1838, John H. Curtis purchased eighty acres from the United States government at the Dixon Land Office, land that was destined to become Orangeville. Curtis built a primitive dam on the Richland Creek and constructed a gristmill and sawmill nearby on the west side of the creek. He also built a log cabin. In 1843 Curtis died and the mills lay idle until John Bower, who had visited the area in 1845, arrived with his family in 1846 and purchased the 80 acres and mills.

Daniel B. Bobb grew up in Oneco Township and provided some insight into the settlement of Orangeville in his autobiography (Quoted from the 1970 History of Stephenson County):

In the fall of 1845 David Bobb, John Bower, Jacob Walter, Daniel Riem, and Colonel John Gift came with wagons from Pennsylvania to Stephenson County. Daniel's father and Uncle Jacob finally found an empty basswood cabin "about sixteen by twenty-two feet and six feet high, one room, where Orangeville now stands, into which both families moved, sixteen persons all." [This may have been the cabin built by John Curtis, who had died in 1843.]

Initially, Orangeville was in direct competition with the village of Oneco as a growing center of commerce, and by 1854, the government determined that the population between the two villages was enough to establish a post office. According to a letter written by a resident of the time, the determination was made by announcing that, on an appointed day, people lined up on one side of the road or the other, depending on which village they supported. Orangeville won by the thinnest of margins. The Civil War had some impact on the development and growth of Orangeville, but the effects were not long-lasting. As stated in the 1880 History of Stephenson County by M.H. Tilden:

In 1861, the breaking-out of the war caused a large increase in the volume of business done by the merchants, which was materially diminished for some years thereafter, owing to the unsettled condition of affairs throughout the county, the departure of volunteers, and other causes producing similar effects elsewhere. The last half of the decade beginning with 1860, however, witnessed an improved state of public feeling, producing a better market for commodities and correspondingly prosperous times. Orangeville of course participated in these benefits, and so pronounced was the success which attended her development and building-up, that in 1867 the village was incorporated as a town, with such prerogatives and privileges appertaining thereto as by law are conferred, including town officers.

Orangeville continued to prosper. By 1887, Orangeville was well on its way to becoming the second city of Stephenson County. The downtown was essentially complete by the 1870s with all commercial lots having been sold and improved. By 1877, the Village had attained a population of over 300. In 1883, the first village newspaper, The Orangeville Alert, began publication. But the real commercial building boom began in 1888, with the coming of the Illinois Central Railroad. When the ICRR decided to link Freeport, Illinois, and Madison, Wisconsin, in 1887, the only incorporated village directly on the line between Freeport and Monroe, Wisconsin, was Orangeville.

The coming of the railroad set off an unprecedented boom in the building industry. Fourteen new brick buildings were erected as a direct outcome of this venture. They included the brick buildings in the downtown area minus the Wagner Building (1906) and the R. W. Moore Building (1899). Other businesses along the two streets between 1888 and 1914 included a drug store, barber shop, banks, restaurants, watch and clock repair shop and jewelry store, grocery stores, two meat markets and butcher shops, ice cream parlor, hardware and pump repair shop, cigar factory, implement shop, piano store, Lillian Nolf Mahaney's Hat Shop, tin shop, furniture store, furniture and casket factory, funeral parlor, harness shop, shoe repair shop and store, J. Musser Dry Goods and General Store, Wagner General Store and hardware, Confer Patent Medicine Company, tailor, two livery stables and feed sales, photography studio, millinery, and a new hotel, Central House, erected in 1890.

In 1925, the two state banks of the then three banks in town merged, and began construction of the last significant commercial building in the historical downtown, the People's State Bank building. However, during 1926, just prior to the Great Depression, Illinois State Highway 74 (later Illinois State Route 26) replaced Church Alley on the east of the village, bypassing the heart of the historic downtown. The business district no longer was served by the traffic flow of a major thoroughfare. Despite this major turn of misfortune, many of the downtown businesses continued to survive, at least for a time. But by 1928, the signs of a slow decline for the once-thriving community of Orangeville were becoming clear. With a shriveling downtown business presence and a bypass mentality, the Village experienced little expansion, negative growth, and moved toward bedroom community status. The bypass around the Village and the 1932 Depression continued to affect the town negatively. In 1932, the Peoples State Bank, the last remaining bank in Orangeville, closed. The building was sold to the new American Legion Post #720 (formed 1921), and the building began its long service as the American Legion Hall. In 1956, the building was resold to a group of local people who wanted to restart a bank in town. The building remained a bank until 1980, when it was sold to serve as a radio sales and repair business. In August 2002, Stateline Communications closed its doors and sold the building to ACT - A Community Together, who sold it to the current owners, John and Caryl Buford, in October 2003. The building has been vacant since August 2002.

Building Description

The only commercial-style building with Classical Revival influence in the town, the People's State Bank building is located immediately to the west of Central House, which presides at the head of the town's business district, at the "T" intersection formed by Main Street and High Street, the two major commercial streets in the town's business district. The rectangular footprint of the building measures 30' x 64' (exterior) and has one floor plus a full basement. The upstairs is comprised of a foyer and eight rooms: a small room on each side of the foyer, a main lobby, the main vault, and in the north (back) one-third of the main floor, a small vault, closet, storage area, and bathroom. The building is constructed of brick with a poured concrete basement. The building is the most ornate building in the downtown area, located on the second-highest lot. (The hotel occupies the highest ground.) There is no landscaping on the property. According to Richard Longstreth in his book The Buildings of Main Street: A Guide to American Commercial Architecture, the one-part commercial block has only a single story, which is treated in much the same variety of ways as the lower zone of the two-part commercial block. The one-part commercial block developed during the mid-nineteenth century and became popular across the country. The examples from this era were very simple in design and were common for retail businesses. The street frontage was narrow and the facade comprised little more than plate glass windows and an entry surmounted by a cornice or parapet. During the Victorian Era, the one-part commercial block was also applied to banks. The banks, which were mostly brick, differed from the retail one-part commercial blocks in that they were generally taller and more ornate. In the early twentieth century, the differences between the retail shops and banks were less pronounced as the designs of both became more restrained. While composed in an orderly manner, most examples from the period have few if any historical references. The examples of one-part commercial blocks built during the 1920s showed a return to ornamentation.

The Peoples State Bank is an example of a Commercial Style building with Classical Revival detailing. It is a one-story building with a coherent classical vocabulary expressed in brick, glass, and concrete. The concrete foundation walls are about twelve inches thick. The roof is tar paper over wood. The interior walls and ceiling are lathe and plaster. All first-floor windows have concrete sills. The main lobby ceiling soars fourteen feet over a terrazzo floor. The side walls are graced with four paned windows with arched tops that reach 13 feet; the three-bay front contains a central door with sidelights flanked by one-over-one windows with diamond-patterned transoms.

The south facade is three bays wide. The main entrance is centered on the symmetrical facade and is recessed. The original large wood and glass panel door is flanked by symmetrical side window lights. The original front door, in fair condition, remains in place, with a diamond-patterned transom above the door and surround. There is a one-over-one window with a diamond-design transom above on each side of the entry (central bay). These window lights were boarded over for many years. Below the window in the west bay shows signs that some brick was replaced in the east quadrant. In 1956, when a new bank, the Orangeville Community Bank, opened in this building, a night depository safe was installed at this location. The depository safe was removed and the area patched when the Community Bank moved to a new location in 1980.

East Elevation: The concrete foundation on which the bank sits, recedes as the ground slopes upward from the south (front) to the back of the building. At ground level, three covered window wells allow light into the basement. The northernmost window well has a wooden cover, which has been in place since at least 1956. There are four evenly spaced, single-hung three over-one paned windows with arched top fanlights that provide light to the main lobby. All windows are original construction. Near the north end of the wall is a metal door, probably not original, which allows access to the back of the building.

West Elevation: The west elevation is like the east elevation without the door.

The north elevation has two one-over-one double sash windows, providing light to the back room. In 1956, wrought iron bars were installed over the windows when the building was opened as the Orangeville Community Bank. One of these bars was cut and bent in the 1980s to allow the owner at that time to store and remove long mobile radio antennas in the basement.

All walls and ceilings are plaster. With one exception, the original pine doors are in very good condition and remain where originally hung. The one exception (one of the doors to a main floor office was removed during the 1956 renovation) is being replaced with a new door that will match the pattern of the historical doors. All windows have been restored to working condition. The building originally was heated with oil-fired radiated steam heat. In the 1960s, the steam power plant was replaced with gas-fired hot water heat and the original radiators were replaced. Electrical service was upgraded in 1956, in 1981, and again in 2004.

The main entrance leads to the foyer which measures about 5 1/2' x 10'. The foyer has a 7 1/2-foot ceiling with a central translucent globe light (probably original), and a terrazzo floor. At the north end of the foyer is a glass-paneled door that leads to the main lobby of the bank. Flanking the foyer are small offices of identical size, 10 feet x 11 feet 4 inches. The floors of the two offices are yellow pine. The stained and varnished period pine door to the west office is set close to the foyer door and is accessed through the lobby. The east office has two similar doors leading to the lobby, one on the east side, next to the east exterior wall, and one on the west, placed symmetrically to the west office door. This door to the east office is the new door. The west door is original. The ceilings above the two offices are open, giving a view of the fourteen-foot ceiling. With the exception of the 58" central one-over-one window with diamond pattern transom in the south wall of each office, there are no other windows in the offices. There is also a six-foot-long diamond-patterned transom above the ceiling of the foyer and in the south exterior wall.

The lobby is the largest room in the bank building, the interior measuring approximately 27 2 feet wide and 38 feet long. The floor is terrazzo and has a terrazzo baseboard that covers the first eight inches of the wall. The south wall forms the two offices and the foyer, but extends only eight feet of the fourteen feet to the ceiling. The east and west walls each contain four 58" single-hung Palladian windows with fanlight transoms that reach from four feet above the floor to a thirteen-foot height. The center-stained and varnished original pine door on the north wall leads to the back room area. Above this door and centrally located, is the air conditioning vent, installed in the 1960s. On the northwest wall is a Mosler vault door dating to the period of the original opening of the bank. However, the door is not original to this bank. When the bank closed in 1932, the original door was sold. When the building was renovated to be a new bank in 1956, a vault door was purchased from a folded bank in a nearby town (Rock Grove, IL), and moved into this building. The ceiling and walls recently have been reconditioned: plaster patched and newly painted. The sconces which were located between the windows have been rewired. The original fixtures had been removed and new fixtures have been installed. New wiring also includes the addition of electrical sockets along the east and west wall. In order to cover the wiring, wainscoting has been installed to window level on the east, south and west walls, to include the east, west and south walls in the two front offices. The main vault measures 9' wide x 11' deep and is accessed only through the vault door.

The north one-quarter of the building contains a hallway (being converted to a kitchen area), a minor vault with a vault door that was installed in 1956, a closet, a one-half bathroom, and the stairs to the basement. The floor in this backroom area is yellow pine. The air conditioner unit is suspended from the 10-foot ceiling. In the southwest corner of the ceiling is access to a four-foot attic that covers only the backroom area.

Access to the full basement is gained by a stairway that begins just south of the rear exterior door. The two-level basement has a concrete floor. The north half of the basement, measuring about 27 1/2 feet wide by 34 feet, is elevated and contains the heating unit and a small vault, 8' x 15') in the northwest corner. There is no vault door. In the 1980s, this area was further subdivided by non-supporting walls with drop ceilings. The two window wells that originally would have allowed light into this north half have been covered over from the outside. The west window is paneled over. The main south room is lower by two steps and is entered through a double swinging door, presumed original. The room measures about 27 1/2 feet wide and 30 feet long and has a nine-foot ceiling. The east and west walls each have two original window wells, allowing some light from the outside. The windows are one-over-one double sash.

The building has seen several changes over its lifetime: the addition of a drop ceiling and covering of the exterior fanlights, addition of storm windows, and removal of a small bathroom in the first-floor southwest room in 1956; the addition of central air conditioning in the 1960s; addition of a mansard roof, an interior non-supporting wall, another drop ceiling, and paneling, in the early 1980s. The drop ceilings, storm windows, exterior covering over the fanlights, the non-supporting wall, and paneling have been removed, returning the exterior and interior structure to its original configuration minus the bathroom.

People's State Bank, Orangeville Illinois South and east exterior (2004)
South and east exterior (2004)

People's State Bank, Orangeville Illinois Front door (2004)
Front door (2004)

People's State Bank, Orangeville Illinois West exterior (2004)
West exterior (2004)

People's State Bank, Orangeville Illinois Main hall (2004)
Main hall (2004)

People's State Bank, Orangeville Illinois Main hall (2004)
Main hall (2004)

People's State Bank, Orangeville Illinois Main hall with vault (2004)
Main hall with vault (2004)