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Howard National Bank

Howard National Bank

Location Class:
Built: 1887 | Abandoned: 1990s
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (December 22, 2020)
Status: AbandonedUnder Renovation
Photojournalist: Emily Cowan

Howard National Bank
Kansas State Historical Society

In April of 1877, the Elk County “State” Bank was organized with George W. McKey as President. Just a few short years later the bank was converted to the Howard National Bank. And in May of 1888 work would start on a massive castle-like building for the bank. The Citizen newspaper states, “The Howard National Bank has had the old buildings removed from the lot cornering on —- and — and will commence at once the erection of a handsome business house. The corner room will be occupied by the bank, the second story would be cut up into commodious offices that will be rented.” On June 8, 1888, The Howard Courant reported the contract would soon be let in a few days for the stonework. The basement excavation had been completed, and work on the drain was underway. By the end of June The Citizen indicated Ephron Nichols was laying the foundation. J.B. Anderson was awarded the contractor for the construction of the building.

When driving through the small town of Howard the stoic building is too big to miss. Grand in today’s time, imagine those honored with the task of building it all the way back in 1888. Some of the tenants that resided in the spaces above included: John Marshall Attorney Oct. 1888, Osborn Bros. Loan Office Mar 1889, The Citizen newspaper, and C.L. McKesson Attorney Mar 1895. Multiple parlors were located in the basement such as Bon Ton Shaving Parlor, Mitchells Shaving Parlor and Clay Rush the Barbor.

The Howard National Bank has withstood the testament of time and tribulations. In 1906 the Howard Bank showed how it would support its community when the Elk County Courthouse burned on October 24, 1906. To show support the Howard National Bank built a small cement vault on their lot for the county to store their records in until the new courthouse was could be built. In 1911 the Howard National Bank became a member of the Federal Reserve System. This helped ensure that the bank would survive the Great Depression when many banks died out.

As the bank progressed and became bigger the risk of robbery grew as well. On October 24, 1941 the Howard National Bank experienced just how real this looming risk was. Entering the bank shortly before noon an armed bandit approached bank Vice President Ray Dudgeon. The man gave him a sack and brandished his weapon saying “fill it up.” Dudgeon then took the sack to the cashier’s cage stuffing it with all available money. The robber held Cashier Ben Eby and Clerk Caroline Brown at gunpoint on the ground. When given the sack of money it contained $914, he then ordered them to wait until the noon whistle to get up. The man escaped in an automobile “presumably driven by a confederate” where they left town quickly.

Over the decades the Howard National Bank was met with great success. In 1933, having celebrated 56 years in business with no deposit ever being restricted and open every day since its opening in 1877 when it was still Elk County Bank. In 1952 the bank celebrated 75 years of service being the oldest bank in the county. But the glory didn’t last forever, eventually, the bank became too big for just the first floor. In 1958, the Howard National Bank purchased the location of the former First National Bank. The building was demolished and a new building was erected on the property. In 1960 the Howard National Bank moved into its new home vacating the castle-like structure it had occupied since 1887.

In later years the offices above were turned into apartments, at one point rented by Lela May and Grover Cooley. But alas the apartments were vacated and the roof compromised after years of abandonment. But in recent years there has been a movement to preserve and save the historic building. The Elk County Preservation Society has been working to raise money and applying for grants to restore the building. As of December 22, 2020 the nomination to put the building on the NRHP was accepted making applying for federal and state grants to fund the restoration a bit easier. If you would like to donate click here.












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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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