First National Bank of Littleton

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National Register; Contributing Building to the Downtown District—1998
Local Landmark—1999

First National Bank of Littleton, 2509 W. Main Street 1916
The First National Bank of Littleton, 2509 W. Main Street, with Littleton Mercantile Co. to the left (west), Stephenson-Hunt Garage and a restaurant at the end of the block, c.1916.

The First National Bank of Littleton was the first bank constructed in Littleton. It was located on the north side of Main Street at the corner of Main and Nevada Streets. As reported by the Littleton Independent on July 14, 1905, the First National Bank of Littleton purchased 25x100 feet on the corner of Main and Nevada Streets and will join with Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lilley in the erection of a two-story business block which will be modern in every respect." Sam Frazier erected the bank building and managed the bank along with Casper Broemmel. The bank operations moved into the new quarters on January 27, 1906.

First National Bank is an excellent example of early 20th Century commercial architecture. The building has many fine architectural details, most notable is the over hanging cornice with the molded arcaded cornice trim. The recessed brickwork and stone sill course draw the eye to the second story windows. Brick piers project above the cornice and are topped with decorative finials. The first story has been altered over the years and currently has an inset corner entrance with a transom window over the door, plate glass display windows with clerestory windows above and brick below. On the east side of the building there is an arched window.

 First National Bank building 2015
First National Bank building, 2015.  Photo by Amelia Martinez.

When the brick building first opened for business, the bank occupied part of the main floor with the second floor rented out to the Fraternal Order of the Knights of Pythias. This bank, with initial capital of $25,000, quickly grew to be the largest in Littleton, although the Littleton National Bank followed closely behind. Several residents were instrumental in organizing the bank, William Shellabarger, Abraham Howarth, Casper Broemmel and Sam Frazier to name a few. Through their efforts the bank became successful and an important part of Littleton's daily life.

In November of 1915, a terrible auto-train wreck occurred in Denver at the train crossing near W. Mexico and Cherokee Streets. The driver, bank vice president William Shellabarger, and the front seat passenger, Mrs. Katherine Broemmel, died instantly. The back seat passengers, Mrs. Shellabarger and Mary Broemmel, died a few hours later. William Shellabarger was 67, his wife, 62.

A sensational daylight bank robbery occurred on April 19, 1927. Three men secured $52,666 in cash and Liberty bonds. One bandit was later found in Texas. All 3 were eventually apprehended and sent to prison.

During the Depression hundreds of banks in every state closed their doors. Littleton was not immune to economic troubles and on January 12, 1933, the First National Bank of Littleton failed. That Thursday morning the doors did not open. Federal Bank Examiner Ross M. Burt blamed the failure on frozen assets. Certainly the decline in local farm values contributed to the failure.

This sudden bank closure proved to be far from the panicked bank failure scene in the film, "It's a Wonderful Life." Littleton people did not panic, but instead organized a meeting at 11 a.m. the same day at the town hall. Seventy-five leading men and women met and agreed to continue business as usual as much as possible, and to put their money in the Littleton National Bank, located across the street from the First National Bank. Postmaster Fred Moore presided over the meeting. Well-known businessman Harleigh Holmes stood up and stated that he was going to put $2,000 into an account at the remaining bank. The President of the Littleton National Bank, P. B. Dunn, stated, "I can look the whole crowd of you in the face and tell you the Littleton National Bank is going to stay. We were examined only three weeks ago and we have met all the requirements of the examiner." The bank examiner stated that the Reconstruction Finance Corporation would also back the Littleton National. Mayor C. C. Harrod, Judge Ramsey, and several others spoke, urging the businessmen to have faith in the town.

On January 20, 1933, H. O. Murray of Kansas City was named receiver for the First National Bank of Littleton. He took charge immediately and stated that all those who owed the bank money would be given 100% credit for their deposits. Checks deposited the day before closing would not be returned, even though customers had placed stop orders on them. It would take two years to settle all of the bank's affairs.

Several businesses have occupied the red brick building since 1933, including Seaman's Furniture and Electrical Merchandise, the Arapahoe Clinic, the Littleton Cemetery Association, attorney's offices, and the Campus Barber Shop.  The building is currently the location of Colorado Home Realty, owned by Matt Hudson and Mike Cooke.  The First National Bank building has been named an historic landmark as well as part of the Littleton Main Street Historic District.

Bibliography

Littleton (Colo.) Independent. The Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-

Littleton Museum. Vertical File.

McQuarie, Robert J. and C. W. Buchholtz. Littleton, Colorado, Settlement to Centennial. Littleton, Colorado: Littleton Historical Museum and Friends of the Littleton Library and Museum, 1990.

Simmons, R. Laurie and Thomas H. Simmons. "Historic Buildings Survey, Littleton, Colorado, Littleton Townsite of 1890." Survey forms. Three volumes. Denver: Front Range Research Associates, Inc., 1997, 1998.

Front Range Research Associates, 1997 Inventory, Littleton Historic Buildings, Inventory Record for the First National Bank of Littleton, Colorado Cultural Resource Survey Inventory Form 5AH1282.

Inventory Sources:
Arapahoe County Assessors Records
Littleton Museum Photographic Files
Littleton Independent, July 14, 1905; July 22, 1938 and October 1905
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, 1908 and 1949
Littleton City Directories, 1905 and 1932-1965
McQuarie, Robert J. and Bucholtz, C.W., Settlement to Centennial (Littleton: Littleton Historical Museum, 1990) pg 72.
Waring, Houstoun, Hous's Littleton (Littleton: Littleton Independent, 1981), chapter 11
Hicks, Dave, Littleton From the Beginning (Denver: Egan Printing, 1975), pg 42
Cooper, Pat, Research on 2509 Main, September 1977

Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.

 

Compiled by Rebecca Dorwood and Kris Christensen

Last revised May 2017