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Lawrence Savings & Trust - New Castle PA

In early 1901 a group of wealthy and prominent local businessmen, using a combined $300,000 as capital, formalized plans to establish a new banking institution in New Castle, Pennsylvania, to be known as the Lawrence Savings and Trust Company. The company was incorporated in March 1901 and opened an office in the City Hall building on East Street. George W. Johnson (1844-1919), a limestone baron and the founder of the American Car and Ship Hardware Manufacturing Company (later known as Johnson Bronze), would serve as the first president, while oil man and civic leader Percy L. Craig served as executive vice president. Other elected officials included attorney C. Henry Akens as second vice president and Edwin E. McGill as treasurer. Craig and McGill would be the primary champions and promoters of the company. Akens would be succeeded as second vice president by Matthias Henderson and then Elmer I. Phillips in the coming years.

Bank officials immediately began searching for a location of their own and soon acquired the three-story Knox building on South Mill Street. Initial plans were to remodel the Knox building, but they worked a deal to “trade” the building for the neighboring Wilder property at #125 East Washington Street (later re-designated as #223-225 East Washington). The property was a very desirable lot near the City Hall building and had previously began purchased by Vice President Craig. The old frame building on the site was once the home of the late Shubel Wilder, a city pioneer whose daughter Julia Wilder Kurtz was married to prominent attorney Davis B. Kurtz (1826-1906).

The New Castle News of Wednesday, December 25, 1901, reported, “The Lawrence Savings & Trust company will in the spring erect a great business and office building on what is known as the Wilder property on Washington street. The company acquired the site Saturday afternoon, through a consummation of one of the most important real estate transfers recorded in this city in months.”

The New Castle News of Wednesday, May 28, 1902, reported, “The contract for the construction of the new seven-story bank building that is to be built by the Lawrence Savings & Trust company on Washington street, was let Wednesday to William Hanley of Bradford. The building will cost about $80,000. Uffinger & Mowbray of New York, are the architects for the new structure. The building will have a fireproof steel construction, marble counters and wainscoating, bronzed metal screens, two elevators, and all other latest improvements in the building art. The material that will comprise the structure will be steel and pressed brick… William Hanley, the Bradford contractor, who will erect the building, is the contractor who is building the home of Edward King and the Episcopalian church in this city.” The bank planned to occupy the entire first floor and lease out the top six floors to local businesses.

Construction began in the summer as the old frame building on the site was demolished and work on the foundation commenced. One by one the floors went up as workmen labored through the fall and winter. On Thursday, February 5, 1903, a section of concrete of the seventh floor, once support beams were removed, suddenly collapsed and fell through an empty elevator shaft. Unfortunately, two of the four men removing the supports were dragged down the shaft to the basement. The accident killed one worker, fifty-year-old Gilbert W. Achre of Almira Street, and badly injured another, twenty-two-year-old Arthur G. McClure of Pittsburg Street. Both of these men were originally from Mercer County.

The New Castle News of Wednesday, February 11, 1903, reported, “By collapsing of a space of green roof, 16 × 20 feet on the Lawrence Savings & Trust company’s new seven-story building, one man was killed, another seriously injured, and a third was slightly scratched at noon Thursday. The two worse hurt were instantly precipitated from the sixth floor to the basement, a distance of 70 feet, and were there covered in the mass of ruins… Achre and McClure had seized upon one of the main supports placed at the center of the portion of the roof that caved in. Suddenly, and without warning, the section let go, crashed to the sixth floor and thence to the basement, carrying both men and parts of the lower floors of the building to the basement below.”

Contractor Hanley and architect H. Gilvery, who was slightly injured by falling debris, were on the third floor and rushed to the basement to start digging the men out. The authorities were summoned and scores of firefighters from the nearby Central Fire Station on East Street, led by Fire Chief Frank J. Connery, frantically joined the effort. McClure was found first, his head battered and bruised, and taken to a local doctor. Achre’s remains were located later and taken to the morgue.

The article elaborated on the scene, “News of the crash spread through the city like wildfire and it was but a moment after the fire company responded that a crowd almost blocked Washington street from one side to the other, gathered in front of the towering sky-scraper, eagerly awaiting the finding of the dead and injured… The affair created considerable excitement for several hours after it occurred and wild reports were afloat, greatly exaggerating the number of killed and injured. To clear away all the debris and replace the demolished parts of the six floors of the structure will be the work of several weeks and may delay the opening of the building for a month or more after the date originally set, April 1.”

A service was held for Achre at his nearby home and then his remains were returned home to Mercer for burial. McClure recovered and later worked for the Carnegie Steel interests in New Castle. He died at the age of sixty-eight in 1949 and was interred at Oak Park Cemetery.

An inquiry into the accident focused on the efforts of National Concrete Fireproofing Company of Cleveland, who had been sub-contracted by Hanley to perform the work of the collapsed section. It’s believed the concrete, which had been set several weeks prior, had not properly hardened due to the cold weather. A lawsuit was later filed against the National Concrete Fireproofing Company by attorneys representing McClure and the wife of Achre.

By the spring the building was nearing completion and the first tenants began moving in during April and May 1903. It doesn’t appear a major dedication ceremony took place, possibly due to the tragedy that occurred earlier in the year. The upper floors became home to a host of brokers, bankers, architects, lawyers, and doctors over the years. Among the earliest tenants were architects W.G. Eckles and C.C. Thayer and attorneys Robert L Wallace and George T. Weingartner. The Lawrence Savings and Trust Company offices did not open in the new building until August 1903. The vacated bank spaces in the City building, which had been lavishly decorated, were taken over by the City Treasurer’s office.

The bank continued to thrive at its new location and the New Castle News of Wednesday, June 20, 1906, mentioned, “The Lawrence Savings and Trust company of this city, one of the finest financial institutions of Western Pennsylvania, has been increasing its power and resources during the past six years at a rate highly creditable to its management. The wise and conservative policy followed is amply vindicated by the results.” The bank survived the Panic of 1907, a financial crisis that swept the nation after the Stock Market crashed and resulted in runs (mass withdrawals of funds) on numerous banks.

Efforts to improve the appearance of the grand building continued. The New Castle News of Friday, July 3, 1908, reported, “The Lawrence Savings and Trust company is a labyrinth of trestle work and plank, the scaffolding being necessary in order that the ceiling may be frescoed. When the building was erected the frescoeing was done before the plaster hardened sufficiently and there are several spots that have proved eyesores to the directors. The new frescoeing will be unusually pretty and will add much more to the appearance of the room.”

Locals seemed to take pride in their seven-story “skyscraper” as evidenced by the following article. The New Castle News of Monday, July 27, 1908, reported, “John E. Kocher, editor of the Connoquenessing Valley News and F. E. Poister, editor of the Ellwood Citizen, were in New Castle on Saturday taking in the sights of a great city. As they stood upon the Pittsburg street bridge and gazed to the dizzy height of the Lawrence Savings and Trust building, and on casting their eyes upon the busy mass of humanity that surged between the monument and the bridge, they were filled with wonder and amazement at the greatness and grandeur of Lawrence county’s capital.”

In addition to its normal financial services the bank operated a Foreign Department, staffed with linguists, to assist newly arrived immigrants in finding employment and housing, setting up banking and other accounts, and sending cables to family or traveling back to the old country. The department was located on Sycamore Way behind the main building, but later relocated to an office at #18 South Jefferson Street. Travel to and from Europe basically halted in 1914 due to the start of the Great War (World War I). German U-boat attacks on military and civilian vessels in the Atlantic Ocean made the journey perilous and as a result immigration slowed in a trickle. In 1920, after the end of hostilities in Europe, travel picked up and the bank split the Foreign Department to include a separate Steamship Department, soon renamed as the Travel Department. It acted essentially as an independent travel agency booking steamships to Europe, cruises in the Great Lakes, and train excursions out west.

The company continued to grow during the teens, but by the end of the decade a major leadership change was coming. In August 1919, due to declining health after suffering a stroke, George W. Johnson stepped down as head of the bank. The New Castle News of Monday, August 18, 1919, reported, “Owing to ill health, George W. Johnson, who has been president of the Lawrence Savings and Trust company since its inception, presented his resignation at the meeting of the directors on Saturday. He was elected as chairman of the board of directors. As the same meeting, E.E. McGill, who has been an officer in the company since its formation, was elected to succeed Mr. Johnson as president. Mr. McGill has been untiring in his efforts to develop the company into a banking institution of great strength and usefulness, and his selection for the presidency is a step that will meet with general approval, and means continued success for the institution. O. P. Brown, who has been a director and member of the executive committee for the past four years was elected second vice president.” Unfortunately, Johnson’s health deteriorated and he passed away in December 1919.

The “Roaring Twenties” was a time of unprecedented national financial growth and the LS&T prospered as a result. In 1922 the company expanded by remodeling the neighboring two-story building at #227 East Washington Street, formerly a hat shop for many years. An annex was opened in that building in December 1922 and housed the bank’s existing Foreign Department and new Travel Department, which acted as a travel agency for booking steamships to various countries. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also moved its local office to the second floor of the annex in April 1923.

In 1927 work commenced on a large seven-story addition at the rear of the main building. Local architect W.G. Eckles designed the structure and the construction was undertaken by local contractor Louis A. Haug. While the work was underway President McGill resigned in April 1927 and was elected chairman of the board. He was succeeded as president by Thomas H. Hartman (1879-1962), an executive with the Johnson Bronze Company. Hartman was the grandson of Capt. Thomas McConnell, the famous mill operator and namesake of McConnells Mill State Park. Hartman owned the mill property and much of the surrounding property and in 1946 sold it at low cost to a conservancy to ensure a state park was established.

The New Castle News of Saturday, July 21, 1928, reported, “With the work practically completed on most all of the floors and with a high speed passenger elevator already in operations tenants have commenced to take over their new locations in the seven-story annex of the Lawrence Savings and Trust Co., which has been in the course of construction for some time. The first tenant – the W. G. Eckles Company – moved into their new offices on the top floor of the structure yesterday. Others will commence to inhabit the rooms shortly. The new addition is connected with the main building on every floor and is erected so that as much light as possible flows into the offices.”

The economic boom of the 1920’s came to an astounding end, particularly after the Stock Market Crash of October 1929. It took some time, but the Great Depression firmly gripped the country within a year or so. A banking crisis swept the country in the fall of 1930 and between then and March 1933 it is estimated that as many as 30% of all American banks, about 9,000 in all, failed. The crisis only subsided beginning in March 1933 when incoming U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted immediate measures to restore confidence in the banking system. The banks in New Castle generally held firm and the Lawrence Savings and Trust was no exception.

In February 1930 the LS&T “merged” and absorbed the assets and liabilities of the Home Trust Company. The New Castle News of Thursday, February 27, 1930, mentioned, “The merger is of a corporate and physical nature rather than one involving a change of ownership as the entire capital stock of the Home Trust company was purchased by the Lawrence Savings & Trust company in March, 1919, since which time it has shown a steady increase in resources and earnings. The consolidation of the working force of these two prosperous and successful institutions will add strength and efficiency to the organization of the Lawrence Savings & Trust company and will enable them to render increased service to the people of the community.”

On Saturday, March 4, 1933, newly elected U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in at the U.S. Capitol and promised immediate action to combat the financial crisis. That same day Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot ordered a two-day banking holiday (temporary suspension of banks) across the state, however most banks, including those in New Castle, remained open.

On Monday, March 6, Roosevelt ordered a temporary national banking holiday. Banks could remain open but were restricted from conducting most of their normal activities. Banking institutions could fully reopen once they had been approved and deemed stable by the U.S. Treasury Department. The Lawrence Savings and Trust, along with most of the other banks in New Castle, reopened for normal operations on Tuesday, March 14, 1933. The measures continued but seemed to be effective.

The economy finally started rebounding in the late 1930’s, while at the same time active conflict soon raged in Europe and the Far East. The United States remained officially neutral while supporting England and other allies in every manner possible.

In late January 1941, at the annual meeting of the directors, Charles Harmony Johnson Jr., at thirty-six years of age, was elected as the new president of the Lawrence Savings and Trust company. He was the grandson of the original president George W. Johnson. The New Castle News of Monday, January 27, 1941, mentioned, “He is the son of the late Charles H. Johnson and Mrs. Grace Phillips Johnson and the grandson of the late Congressman Thomas W. Phillips, Sr. For a number of years Mr. Johnson has been active in the management of the bank and served as vice president. He succeeds Thomas H. Hartman, who takes the post of vice president.”

The world was turned upside down on Sunday, December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces attacked American air and naval bases in the Hawaiian Islands. The United States officially entered World War II while declaring war on Japan, which in turn brought us in conflict with Germany. The mass mobilization of the wartime industry was undertaken and the economy thrived like never before. Americans learned to go without as the rationing of critical goods was mandated and government defense bonds, soon known as war bonds, were sold across the nation to raise money for the military effort. Patriotism reigned supreme.

The cessation of hostilities in 1945 ushered in a postwar economic boom that lasted into the 1970’s. Americans, having sacrificed greatly the last several years, were ready to use their savings (and borrow money) to purchase goods like appliances and clothes, but also more substantial items like new vehicles and suburban homes.

The Lawrence Savings and Trust soon expanded and in November 1946 announced it had acquired the Peoples’ National Bank of Ellwood City, which was converted into a branch office. The Peoples’ National Bank, the largest bank in Ellwood City, was located on Lawrence Avenue and organized in 1907. The Oil City Blizzard of Thursday, November 21, 1946, reported, “Purchase of the Peoples National bank of Ellwood City by the Lawrence Savings and Trust Co., of New Castle, has been disclosed by A. V. Tindall of the latter institution. The price paid for the 30-year-old bank, Ellwood City’s largest, was not announced.”

President Charles H. Johnson Jr., while seeking treatment for an illness, passed away in a Philadelphia hospital in January 1955. He was only fifty years old. He had served as president for the last fourteen years and was succeeded in that role president by his younger brother Thomas Phillips Johnson (1914-2000), a Harvard Law graduate and Pittsburgh-based attorney. The younger Johnson was also a U.S. Navy veteran, concerned philanthropist, wealthy businessman, and minority owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates since 1946. In his lifetime he would serve on the board of directors for over fifty companies. He was a nationally known figure who had business dealings with such celebrities as entertainer Bing Crosby and golfer Arnold Palmer.

The expansion continued when in April 1955 it was announced that the Lawrence Savings and Trust would combine with the First National Bank of Volant. The Volant bank would become another branch office of the Lawrence Savings and Trust upon final approval. The New Castle News of Saturday, April 30, 1955, reported, “Mr. (Philip M.) Cox, who has served as Cashier of the First National Bank of Volant since 1925, will become a Vice President of the Lawrence Savings and Trust Company, and in addition to supervising the operation of the Volant office, will assist in the furtherance and development of the bank’s service to farm customers all over Lawrence County… Mr. (Thomas P.) Johnson stated that this move is in line with the present trend of the banking business toward multiple office operations, which in many respects are better able to serve the public.”

In early 1961 Lawrence Savings and Trust officials announced plans to open a modern branch in the Lawrence Village Plaza, a new shopping center nearing completion in Shenango Township. On Tuesday, June 13, 1961, a public open house was held at the new location and it officially opened soon after.

In the early morning hours of Monday, October 9, 1961, thieves were in the process of drilling into a safe in the Lawrence Village Plaza branch office when an alarm sounded. They fled on foot as authorities raced to the scene. The FBI and State Police deemed the job the work of professionals and said it was similar in nature to recent robberies in the region. The New Castle News of the same day reported, “Police discovered fresh footprints in the vacant area between the bank and the Shenango High School, indicating the get-a-way car may have been parked in the high school parking lot. The prints were wide apart leaving officers to assume that they were made by someone in a hurry. A team of FBI agents and state police were combing the area for any other possible clues. The FBI said the safe crackers tripped the alarm as they were about to sever the locking bar inside the safe and gain entry.” The investigation continued but it doesn’t appear the culprits were ever arrested.

In April 1962 the expansion continued as the Lawrence Savings and Trust Company acquired the First National Bank in Wampum. The New Castle News of Monday, April 30, 1962, reported, “Thomas P. Johnson, in issuing his statement, commended the First National in Wampum for its many years of service to the western and southern sections of the county. “It is the aim of the new Lawrence Savings and Trust branch in Wampum to continue thus high level of service, and to provide greater and more diversified services to the people of the Wampum area.” “We hope to make firm and lasting friendships in Wampum,” Johnson said.”

The New Castle News of Tuesday, January 29, 1963, ran an article about the Lawrence Savings and Trust’s year in review. It read in part, “The Lawrence Savings and Trust Co. with offices in Ellwood City, Wampum, Lawrence Village Plaza, Volant and New Castle saw a number of significant forward steps during 1962 while the economy of Lawrence County maintained itself on a relatively stable plane… Also during the year 1962 the bank acquired the First National Bank in Wampum through the purchase of assets on Sept. 1. The Lawrence Village Plaza office continued to increase. This office is located in Shenango Twp. The bank acquired the old Victor Theatre property adjacent to its main office on E. Washington St., and also acquired the Universal Printing property. This now gives the bank ownership of the full block of property behind the main building. During the year Senior Vice President and former President T. H. Hartman, who had been in ill health, passed away. Mr. Hartman had served the bank the time of its organization and in all those years there were many instances when his wise counsel served the bank well.”

In January 1967, during the annual board of directors meeting, Gust Sanfilippo was elected as the new president. Thomas P. Johnson was elevated to chairman of the board and chief executive officer. Sanfilippo truly was a local success story, having rose up through the ranks after having joined the company as a clerk in 1922. He was succeeded in the post of executive vice president by Kevin V. Funkhouser, a longtime employee and executive with forty years of service with the company.

Federal and state urban renewal programs were a hot topic in the 1950’s, initially seen as a way to improve inner city housing. In the early 1960’s the city council, through the New Castle Redevelopment Authority, formulated plans to receive state and federal funds to acquire and demolish older properties in designated areas to make way for new development. Several projects were devised, the largest of which was the Central Area Urban Renewal Project in the business district surrounding the area around the intersection of East Washington Street-East Street.

It was approved by the city council in August 1967 and would result in the building of the Neshannock Village housing area and a retail and office complex known as the Washington Centre. A new Post Office building was also part of the original plan, but it was continually delayed and eventually built on Cascade Street. Within the boundaries of this project were about 225 properties (161 businesses and numerous private residences) that would need to be acquired through negotiations or eminent domain proceedings if necessary. The properties included the Lawrence Savings and Trust building, the Johnson Building, and the First Baptist Church. The complicated process was slow moving and time consuming and by mid-1970 only 50% of the properties had been acquired.

With new development on the horizon the days of the grand ‘ole Lawrence Savings and Trust building were numbered. In 1970 the New Castle Redevelopment Authority offered $827,000 for the building, but bank officials countered with 1.2 million. Negotiations stalled and resulted in several years of legal wrangling.

In June 1970 the Lawrence Savings and Trust and First Seneca Bank and Trust Company of Oil City agreed in principal to a merger. The action, which would take time to gain approval from federal regulatory officials, would form a new First Seneca Bank and Trust Company with corporate offices in Butler. Meanwhile, progress continued as a new Lawrence Savings and Trust branch on Route 18 in Neshannock Township was opened on Tuesday, February 16, 1971. While progress continued, President Gust Sanfilippo, who had served the company for fifty years, passed away at the age of sixty-seven in June 1972. His death was a huge blow to the company and the community. It does not appear a replacement was elected before the merger with First Seneca Bank took effect.

After a long wait the merger proposal passed its final hurdle and the New Castle News of Monday, October 2, 1972, reported, “The former Lawrence Savings and Trust Co. started its first day of business under the new name of First Seneca Bank and Trust Co. The LS and T – First Seneca bank merger became effective at 11:59 p.m., marking the end of two years of planning. The first announcement of the pending merge was made in June of 1970.” Thomas Phillips Johnson, formerly chairman of the board for the Lawrence Savings and Trust, would retain that position with the new company. Joseph S. Harvey of the First Seneca Bank would remain as president and chief executive officer. The merger gave First Seneca Bank and Trust twenty-four locations in six counties. The Lawrence Savings and Trust Company, founded by prominent New Castle industrialists in 1901, came to an end after seventy-one years of service to Lawrence County and surrounding areas.

The fight over the building on East Washington Street continued, with First Seneca Bank officials now dealing with the city. First Seneca agreed to open a new branch office in the proposed Washington Centre complex, which they would own. While negotiations continued, demolition of the smaller buildings along Mill Street began in late 1972.

In early September 1972 the New Castle-based Joseph Cioffi firm, with a low bid of $139,000, was awarded the contract to demolish the structures bordering the eastern side of North Mill Street. This area would be the actual physical site of the Washington Centre, while the adjoining properties to the east, including the First Baptist Church and Lawrence Savings and Trust building, would be the main parking lot. That same month the First Baptist Church agreed to a buyout of $813,000, but would not move until a new church was built elsewhere. Demolition of the buildings along North Mill Street began in December 1972, while negotiations continued.

While First Seneca thrived as a company, its building on East Washington Street was dying a slow death. The New Castle News of Tuesday, July 17, 1973, reported, “In a slow and methodical way, the vacancy rate at rate at First Seneca Bank and Trust Co. building, formerly the Lawrence Savings and Trust Co., has shown a steady increase as a result of downtown urban renewal. A new First Seneca will not be ready for perhaps a year or more and, while tenants could probably remain until the present building is demolished, many of them are moving into new quarters now.”

The article elaborated on the situation, “The urban renewal project has had its most dramatic effect on the attorneys who have called the LS & T building their home for several years. It is the second building housing a large number of attorneys that has been affected by the Central Area project. The other was the Johnson Building, which was torn down earlier this year. Many of the attorneys have gone to the Central Building at 101 S. Mercer St. or have established offices in the privacy of their homes. The Central Building has become an attractive location for attorneys and other businesses since Kraus and Lexenberg Associates have begun remodeling the structure… According to the Redevelopment Authority, 26 businesses including attorneys have moved from the LS & T building. A total of 25 small businesses covering attorneys, insurance firms, physicians and realtors still remain.”

A Board of View, consisted of three county-appointed attorneys, held a hearing on Tuesday, July 31, 1973, to listen to both sides and set a value. The board settled on 1.2 million, but the New Castle Development Authority quickly appealed and things slowed again. Construction of the Washington Centre finally began in December 1973. When the First Baptist Church relocated to Neshannock Township in April 1974, the old church was quickly demolished and work on a parking lot commenced.

In December 1974, after four years of back and forth, a Beaver County judge was set to make the final ruling on the value of the old bank building. The First Seneca Bank and Trust was awarded 1.17 million for the building, essentially saving the New Castle Redevelopment Authority $300,000. The last few tenants moved out and in January 1975 the building was completely vacant. The last remaining major obstacle was now removed.

A public auction of the remaining contents of the building was held on Saturday, February 1, 1975. A crowd of over 700 eager people crammed into the lobby at 10:00 am to listen to instructions from the auctioneers, who were from the Harry Davis Company of Pittsburgh. The auction raised about $45,000 and some of the most popular items sold included tables, desks, chairs, lamps, safes, electric typewriters, and law books.

The New Castle News of Monday, February 3, 1975, remarked, “The New Castle Redevelopment Authority sponsored the auction as a preliminary move to the demolition of the building. But there was no sense of eulogy Saturday. Although the building had been a part of the city since 1900, the people who filled its halls weren’t worried about history – they were concerned about bargains… The auction started on the seventh floor of the building and worked their way down to the bank. As potential costumers worked their way up the narrow, twisting staircases and into the empty offices, the auctioneers peddled their wares… By late in the afternoon when the sale finally came to a close, the Lawrence Savings and Trust Building was one step closer towards its eventual destruction.”

In March 1975 bids were received for the demolition and the lowest bidder, Ohio Contracting Company of Youngstown, was awarded the contract for $37,800. The highest bid was considerably higher at $84,600. Demolition commenced on Tuesday, March 25, 1975, and mostly completed within six weeks. At that same time the grand opening of the Washington Centre, with week-long festivities, was held on April 14-18, 1975. The large parking lot was soon expanded over the former site of the Lawrence Savings and Trust building.

First Seneca Bank and Trust, which became the First Seneca Bank in 1982, went through a series of mergers and acquisitions to become part of Integra National Bank in 1991 and PNC Bank in 2009. Thomas Phillips Johnson, one of the last remaining ties to old Lawrence Savings and Trust leadership team, remained as chairman of the board until he retired in 1985. Johnson lived a full life and passed away in May 2000 at the age of eighty-five.

Urban renewal programs, which began in earnest in the 1960’s, were designed to clear away existing blight and promote the rebirth and revitalization of American cities. The controversial programs, often using eminent domain proceedings and ignoring the significance of historic structures, generally failed for various reasons. Businesses and residents continued to flee to the suburbs, while leaving behind increased poverty and a decreased tax base. New Castle was no different and the loss of downtown structures like the Lawrence Savings and Trust building, in many cases demolished to make way for parking lots, can never be rectified.

The seven-story LS&T building, designed by the New York City-based architectural firm of Ufflinger & Mowbray, opened for business beginning in June 1903. It was situated next to the old Municipal Building on East Washington Street. (c1906)

A drawing of the LS&T building that shows the red bricks used in its construction. Among the longtime tenants were the rival architectural firms of C.C. Thayer and W.G. Eckles. (c1924)

The first floor of this ornate building housed the LS&T bank, founded in 1901, while the top floors were home to a host of brokers, bankers, architects, lawyers, and doctors over the years. (c1908) Full Size

Another view of the LS&T bank. (c1905) Full Size

A typical advertisement for the bank, this one appearing in the New Castle News of Febuary 19, 1916. Full Size




An old view of East Washington Street, with the LS&T building visible on the right. In the late 1960’s, as part of an urban renewal project, the New Castle Redevelopment Authority planned to demolish the building and many others around it. This led to a long and bitter dispute over its value. (c1905)

In September 1973 the LS&T Bank was merged to become the new First Seneca Bank. In late December 1974, after a judge set the value at $1.17 million, the bank and all tenants vacated the sturdy old building and turned in over to the city. (c1910)

Looking west on East Washington Street in the summer of 1948. The First Christian Church on the Diamond is visible in the background and the old Municipal Building/City Hall dominates the bottom right corner. The LS&T Bank is well identified by the sign painted on the side of the building. After the building was turned over to the city most of its remaining contents were sold at a public auction in early February 1975, and the structure was sadly demolished beginning about six weeks later. Full Size


  1. What a grand old building! My grandfather and father both worked for LS&T, so we got to watch parades on Washington Street from the roof! Such a shame that the city didn’t have the desire to save it.

  2. My Great Uncle, Gust Sanfilippo, was the president of this bank for some period of time.

  3. My father, George McKenzie in partnership with Abe Greeen were the founders of the Lawrence Savings and Trust.

  4. My grandfather had the only crane and helped to build the LS&T building.


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