A Brief History of The State Bank of Geneva

The forerunner of The State Bank of Geneva was the Gaunt and Field Bank which was organized in 1889 and which occupied the building at 209 West State Street, which in later years was the Central Market. Charles Field bought out W. H. Gaunt's interest in the Gaunt and Field Bank in 1901. In 1903 a group of business men, Edward Dickinson, John Wheeler, John T. Peterson, Mayer A. Joshel, Fred Bennet, James Cannon and Carl Kleinbecker, the original incorporators of The State Bank, took over the Gaunt and Field Bank. The Geneva Republican, in 1903, described them as "among our heaviest businessmen".

Charles Field was the first president, with George Peck the vice president. Initial deposits exceeded $125,000.00 and by October of 1903 were up to $142,000.00. In 1906 the Bank was moved to the northeast corner of State and Third Streets where a new bank building was constructed. The Starbucks Coffee store is located there now.

George Peck served as president from 1913 to 1921 and was succeeded by his brother Frank. In 1925 Oscar Nelson was elected president and the Bank was moved across the street to the southwest corner of State and Third where the August Wilson Co. built a new modern bank to handle the increased business. Oscar was becoming a popular figure in state politics and he resigned the Bank presidency in 1930 to take over his duties as Illinois State Treasurer. Corban Hagans, a former bank examiner, assumed the presidency of the Bank. He served a short time and Ralph Lofborn, also a bank examiner, took over as president and served until 1948.

By 1928 the Bull Market had started and everyone was buying stock and making money in the stock market, quite similar to what it is like today. On October 29 thousands of dollars were lost in the stock market as values sank to new lows. Masses of securities were thrown onto a market which had few buyers. With prices depressed, banks were forced to call in loans. Their own portfolios were affected and a panicky public was demanding cash for their funds on deposit which brought "runs" on the banks. Most of these deposits could not be liquidated quickly because they were invested in loans. A number of sound banks found it necessary to close their doors, most of them paying out deposits in full later on.

But "The Crash" was only a prelude to "The Great Depression" which followed. Unemployment grew from 12 million in 1932 to 20 million in 1933. Bank failures were common. President Roosevelt closed the banks and declared a moratorium. Many new government organizations were created, such as the WPA and NRA, to overcome the depression. Both Geneva banks were given permission to open on March 15, 1933, and The State Bank of Geneva was far more fortunate than many banks to survive the wave of bank closings. Wise leadership was given credit for this stability. As a result of the bank crisis, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was created to insure deposit accounts up to $5,000.00; the limit is now up to $250,000.

In 1948 Harry Hanson, a popular local attorney, former mayor, and a former chairman of local school boards, became the new president and served until his death in 1957.

Walter Nelson became president and in 1962 a complete remodeling of the interior of the Bank was undertaken. Walter Nelson retired in 1964 and Frank Cannon became president. Under his leadership the Board approved the building of a drive-up facility which was just starting to become popular in the banking industry.

The northeast corner of Fifth and James Streets was purchased in 1968. The building was completed and ready for service in August of 1969. A name for the new facility was chosen through a public contest. The name picked was "Stapeck Court". "Sta" for State Bank, "Peck" from the well-known family in the Bank's history (incidentally, they had owned the house on the site) and "Court" referring to the proximity of the county court house. Also, the contest winner happened to be "Mr. Geneva History", Alden Odt.

In 1972 Bill Peak, a director of the Bank, and vice president of marketing at Illinois Bell suggested to the Board, as a promotion, the hiring of Richard Lewis, a foremost watercolor artist who had painted scenes in 30 of the more popular cities in the nation, including Santa Barbara, Milwaukee, Chicago, Mobile and Winnetka being a few of them. Lewis was commissioned by the Bank to paint "The Face of Geneva" as a cultural contribution to the community. A contest was held to decide which scenes to paint with a painting to the winner's home as the prize. The popular Geneva barber, Jerry Perrone, was the winner.

The 12 scenes selected were Kane County Courthouse, Community Hospital’s entrance, the former Dodson House, the Mill Race Inn, Harding and Harding, the Jones House on South Fourth Street, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, the Fabyan Windmill, the lighthouse at Fabyan Park, the Little Traveler, Island Park, Robbins Bookshop, State Street looking west from Second Street, and Third Street looking south from State Street.

Richard Lewis was a very amiable person who loved to converse with the citizens as he worked and soon became a popular figure in the four weeks he spent here. He would chit-chat with the pedestrians telling them "You have a marvelous town here, the river is beautiful, you have so much. If I had found your town 25 years ago, I probably would have raised my family here instead of Winnetka".

The Geneva Historical Society researched the background of each site. From the material provided, the Bank summarized each painting in a brief narrative included with the color reproduction in the booklet. The 12 scenes were selected from more than 500 suggestions from Geneva residents. Lewis also was known to occasionally drop into the Twin Dor in the evening and talk with the patrons.

The original paintings are on display in the bank. Full sized prints were made and sold and it was said the Geneva Paint Spot had framed over 400 prints in a few weeks after the sale. Placemats of the scenes were made and Geneva restaurants used them. The Fox Valley Spectator stated the marking of the Bank's 70th birthday may have set off one of the greatest promotional ventures the community had known since Mrs. Edmund Raftery opened an antique shop in 1922.

In 1975 Frank Cannon retired after 50 years of service and was followed by Arthur Nelson. The Bank was now outgrowing its building and parking was becoming a problem so the Board authorized the purchase of the rest of the land east of Stapeck Court to Fourth Street. Architects were engaged to draw plans for a new modern building to serve the community. Ground was broken in the fall of 1977 and the new 18,000 square foot facility was completed and dedicated in the fall of 1978. Floyd Filbert, a longtime customer, cut the ribbon which was made of 75 one dollar bills, symbolizing the number of years the Bank had been part of the community. The new building was connected to Stapeck Court by an underground tunnel.

Arthur Nelson retired in 1979 and was succeeded by Russell Boyer who came from a bank in Palos Hills.

In 1985 the Unibank of Chicago made an offer to purchase The State Bank of Geneva. A majority of the Board of Directors wished to sell to them but Arthur Nelson, Gregg Nelson, Frank Cannon and a majority of the stockholders refused. A long and bitter battle ensued but eventually the Nelson group bought the shares of the other directors and The State Bank of Geneva remained to continue as a local institution.  At that time Gregg Nelson, son of Arthur Nelson, was named president.

In order to show appreciation to the bank’s loyal customers who stood by during the buy-out battle, 1985 was the year of the first customer fest. Customers were invited to enjoy fresh shucked corn, brats, hot dogs, pop, beer, gifts and entertainment in the parking lot. Over the years, the customer appreciation day has become a regular summer’s end party.

The State Bank of Geneva marked its 100th anniversary in 2003. Again first thoughts were of the customers and their continued support and trust. An ice cream social and customer appreciation day helped mark the yearlong celebration.

Gregg Nelson retired as president in March of 2012, and was succeeded by Lewis Deal, the banks former Senior Vice President of Operations and CFO.  Gregg Nelson remained as Chairman of the Board.

The State Bank of Geneva customers always expect the unexpected in the lobby, from Halloween costumes, the annual pumpkin decorating contest where the customers do the voting, and the beautiful employee decorated Christmas trees.

With what seems to be a bank on every corner, The State Bank of Geneva continues to successfully compete with larger conglomerates. "We have our roots where others have their branches", is certainly true in this time of buy-outs and mergers. The State Bank of Geneva was here yesterday, is here today, and will be here tomorrow.