Where Research is a Delight!
Uncommon and unusual objects sing an irresistible siren’s song to me (much to my bank account’s dismay). I just can’t stop myself when I find a listing for an Asheville object such as the item pictured below.
This diminutive metal bank measures 3.25 x 2 x 1.5 inches. It rests neatly in the palm of my hand; the handle easily allowed a child’s grip on the way to deposit their dollar’s worth of coins. Before doing any research I guessed that The Battery Park Bank was located in the old Battery Park Hotel to provide services for their guests. Much to my surprise it was not.
In Harry Gatton’s Banking in North Carolina, A Narrative History he writes that prior to the Civil War a branch of the Cape Fear Bank provided banking services in Asheville. From 1865 to 1879 the only banking service in Asheville was provided by the private banker, E. Sluder. The only bank that appears in the Asheville City Directory of 1884 was The Bank of Asheville. In 1890 Asheville had three banks: First National, The National of Asheville, and The Western Carolina Bank. J.E. Rankin was cashier at The Western Carolina Bank. The Battery Park Bank was chartered in 1891 and first appears in the records of the Register of Deeds in 1892.
A close look at the letterhead shows us that savvy businessmen knew how to use the fame of the Battery Park Hotel to their advantage. The names on the letterhead are a who’s who of Asheville’s movers and shakers at the time. Capt. James P(inkney) Sawyer was a partner in Snider’s Grocery on Pack Square prior to becoming bank president. The family names of Coxe and Rankin were also associated with other successful businesses in town.
The bank’s building stood at 13-15 Patton Avenue throughout its existence. You can spot the date on the cornice above the building on the right.
The Battery Park Bank survived the panics of 1893 and 1897. An article in the Asheville Citizen-Times on October 22, 1897 detailed the run on banks in town. The writer praised the calm actions of the bank president (J.P. Sawyer) acting as a substitute cashier as he alone dealt with customers on that day. J.E. Rankin, the bank’s cashier, was recuperating from an ailment at Tate Springs near Bean Station, Tennessee. “Behind the cashier’s desk stood President Sawyer with silver to the left of him, stacks of greenbacks and beautiful piles of gold to the right of him and the great vaults behind him giving to all who had the right to demand and did so.”
The Battery Park Bank continued in business through WWI. In 1923 it merged with the Asheville branch of Wachovia Bank and Trust of Winston-Salem. A Coxe and a Rankin were both employed by the Battery Park Bank at the time of the merger; the president of the Wachovia branch was one T. S. Morrison.
Posted by Terry Taylor, Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member