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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

5. Commerce,   pp. 95-117


Page 96

Financial Institutions
Local financial institutions were important in the development of Janesville. Their capacity to
supply capital to area businesses and residents provided an important impetus to the city's
growth and development. Historically, banks were located in the heart of Janesville's
downtown commercial district, but as commercial businesses spread to suburban areas of the city,
so have bank branches. Many out-of-town banks have located in Janesville, and two historic
local banks have been acquired by banking chains.
Before enactment of the free banking law in Wisconsin, the banking business throughout the
state was carried on by private bankers and brokers, or by local merchants in their stores. One
of Janesville's earliest private bankers was Joseph B. Doe, whose office was in the Stevens
House on West Milwaukee Street as early as 1852. When the Stevens House burned in April
1853, Doe moved into William Tallman's building on West Milwaukee Street (not extant),
where he continued as a private banker until 1855. McCrea, Bell, and Company was another
private bank that conducted business in Janesville. The firm's Banking Exchange and Collection
Office in Janesville opened in 1851 in a small stone building on North Main Street (not extant).
(Brown 1908:480; Gregory 1932:665; Cunningham 1921",37)
In 1852, Wisconsin's legislature passed the state's first free banking law. Under this new law,
Tallman and Doe organized the Central Bank of Wisconsin. In 1853, more partners were
included when they reincorporated the bank. After one of the new partners suffered financial
difficulties, the plan for the bank had to be abandoned. Doe continued to use the Central Bank
name for his private bank until 1855. The first successful bank incorporated under the new law
was the Badger State Bank, formed by the private banking firm of McCrea, Bell, and Company
in 1853. In 1856, the bank had its offices in Lappin's Block in downtown Janesville, but due to
the financial panic in 1857, it closed. (Brown 1908:481-482)
0. W. Norton founded a new Central Bank in October of 1855. This bank entered the national
banking system in 1863, becoming the First National Bank. The First National Bank, given
charter number 83, was the second bank in the state to organize under the federal banking act.
A number of prominent Janesville businessmen were on this bank's board of directors, and the
First National Bank soon became one of the city's most important financial institutions. (Brown
1908:482-483; Spencer 190: n.p.)
During the nineteenth century, the First National Bank was located in a building at about 100
W. Milwaukee St.. In 1912, that building and an adjoining one were demolished for a new bank
building. This building (100 W. Milwaukee St.) was extensively remodeled in the 1970s. In
1982, Milwaukee's Marine Bank acquired the First National Bank, and in 1988, the out-of-state
Bank One chain acquired Marine Banks. Although the old First National Bank building houses
one of the most important financial institutions in the city, its historic appearance is gone,
making the building neither significant nor potentially eligible for the National Register.
The Rock County Bank is another of Janesville's important financial institutions. Many of
Janesville's mid-nineteenth century business leaders incorporated this bank in October 1855.
Timothy Jackman was the first president of the bank and J. B. Crosby was its cashier. The bank
originally had its offices in a small frame building at the east end of the Milwaukee Street
bridge (not extant). By 1861, the bank had moved into the newly completed Jackman Block at
the comer of East Milwaukee and North Main streets. In 1865, the bank organized as the Rock
County National Bank and operated out of the Jackman Block until the 1950s, when it moved to
new quarters at 1 S. Main St. In 1993, the Rock County Bank changed its name to the Heritage
Bank. (Brown 1908:482-483; Spencer 1902:n.p.)
Commerce
96


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