Main Street landmark disappears

N ov. 13, 2012 The Loss of Another Main Street Landmark-

Fire removed yet another historic part of Granville’s business district streetscape. The more-than century-old Washington County National Bank stood out from its adjoining buildings by its tall white marble façade with the name of the bank in low-relief within its pediment. The fire of 48 hours ago has reduced it to rubble and left a gaping hole in the once-continuous wall of structures which have been the heart of the town’s commercial center for two centuries.

At the beginning of 1900 it was the youngest “institution of banking in Granville” according to a special edition of the Granville Sentinel in 1908, and its future was promising. First organized and operating from the block where the Pember Opera House once stood, it soon moved into a building designed and built for it, the same building destroyed by the recent fire. Its narrow width was adequate to receive customers at the front, with rear rooms for a director’s room and consultation area. The banking business saw transactions of loans, accounts and certificates of deposit, as well as provisions for foreign exchange. Granville’s Main Street was healthy and busy. In 1891 the Farmer’s National Bank was being built a few doors west on Main Street with William H. Hughes as its primary member and supporter. With its business areas on the street level, its basement contained massive vaults and a director’s room. Its upper floor was utilized as rented office space. Built as a duplex business building, the Farmer’s National Bank was on the east side and the E.R. Norton Slate Co. on the west. The building was divided by a central hall and staircase. Today, more than a century later, it retains those basic features of its original construction.

Now the Granville Town Hall and courtroom, it alone remains as Granville’s finest example of its banking and business institutions in this historic business district. An application has been filed with the Office of Historic Preservation to place this building on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, it is among 30 or more applications awaiting review. The state historic preservation officer has been diligent in his efforts to move forward the difficult process and he is to be commended for that. With a greater awareness of the growing loss of our historic sites and properties in New York, comes the loss of available funding for preservation, leaving at best an option of preservation by eligibility for matching grants.

Historic preservation of its local sites and structures comes slowly to some communities and unfortunately the problems existing in our nation today effectually removes any hope of “free cash” that once existed, thereby placing the question of historic preservation in the hands and pockets of local preservationists and officials of the community.

The first president of the Washington County National Bank was a former farmer, educator and one-time pharmacist, James. E. Goodman. He had served as the first president of the Farmer’s National Bank, holding that position for many years before resigning to take a position with the Washington County National Bank. Goodman served also as supervisor of the Town of Hartford, and as an assemblyman in 1882. Highly esteemed by his business and social partnerships, Goodman was born in 1832 in Warren County and died in December of 1908, shortly after the special issue of the Sentinel was published. As a farmer, businessman and political leader, he entered many fields of work and apparently did well in all pursued. He and his family are buried in the Mettowee Valley Cemetery in Granville, a few rods up the road from the site of the Washington County National Bank, which he helped to reorganize and direct.

Edith Sparling, Town of Granville Historian

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