There were tears and sad farewells among customers and employees, said Lansing Town Clerk Bernice Prestwood. She and the town's board of aldermen have been seeking a replacement bank since First Citizens announced its closing in late January.
First Citizens Bank purchased Northwestern Bank in Lansing in 1985. Closing it was a business decision, said Barbara Thompson, manager of corporate communications for First Citizens Bank in Raleigh.
“The bank is always evaluating its branch network, and this was a business decision to close as there is another office in close proximity,” Thompson said in February, adding that the West Jefferson branch remains open and is located within eight miles of Lansing.
When asked the reason for the bank's closing, Thompson said, “People are banking in many different ways. We looked at the best way to allocate resources, and will continue to offer tremendous service to customers in the area.”
One of the original employees of Northwestern Bank in Lansing, Larry Elliott, has fond memories of the bank and those he worked with.
The original staff included Parks Colvard as branch manager, Larry Elliott as loan officer, and Jarrett Miller and Carolyn Hart Lewis as tellers. Elliott took over as branch manager after Colvard retired in 1979, and Miller took over as branch manager from Elliott in 1991. Miller retired in September 2008 with 38 years of service, after which Cathy Finley took over as branch manager and was serving in that position when First Citizens Bank in Lansing closed last week.
When Northwestern Bank opened in Lansing in 1973, it was the first bank in the town for decades.
Northwestern Bank was thriving in the early 1970s, said Elliott, when business people in Lansing got together to see about getting a bank in the town. He said he believes there was a Bank of Lansing early in the 20th century that failed during the depression, and there was no other bank in Lansing until Northwestern opened.
“People from the community flew to Raleigh to meet with the banking commission,” said Elliott about the effort to bring a bank to Lansing. “Northwestern Bank was headquartered in Wilkesboro then.”
Elliott said the first board members for Northwestern Bank in Lansing included Richard Shepherd, Ralph Davis, Bernard Miller, Walter Osborne, and Ed Eller who was mayor of Lansing.
“Ed was so excited,” Elliott said of opening day for the new bank. “He wanted to be the first to open an account. While he was out front greeting people, Richard Shepherd snuck in and I opened the first account for him.”
Elliott also recalls the flood of 1977 that had water from the creek across the road standing two feet deep in the bank and piled up railroad ties and debris from where the Virginia Creeper train tracks were being dismantled. “People were riding in canoes behind the bank,” he said.
The bank in Lansing has been present for numerous changes in the community, and its closing leaves the town without a bank presence.
“People were happy to have the bank, and sad to see it closing,” Elliott said of last week’s closing of First Citizens. “We're very sad and sorry for the people in Lansing. They wholeheartedly supported the bank in every way. It grew to be a very successful bank.”
The building occupied by First Citizens Bank was leased from James Blevins, Sr. of Burlington, said Prestwood.
At a previous meeting, town aldermen discussed possible uses for the building once First Citizens had left, and that included seeking another bank to locate in Lansing. Meetings have been held with banking officials, but none have yet offered to locate a branch in the town.