Waukon State Bank celebrating 150 years in banking

Celebrating 150 years ... Waukon State Bank is celebrating 150 years of providing banking services to Waukon and the surrounding community this year. Originated in 1871 in the initial block of Allamakee Street, the bank has changed and expanded its location several times throughout its 150-year history, all within a couple blocks of one another in downtown Waukon. Submitted photo.

Where it all began ... The origin of the 150-year history of Waukon State Bank began in a grocery and dry goods store on the initial block of Allamakee Street in the stone building that currently houses Lucky Finds Consignment between the former Cotecolor Photography building and the Hills Plumbing & Heating building. The sign reading “Groceries • Dry Goods” (pictured just above the horse at the far right of the above photo) indicates where the bank was first established as “Waukon Bank” May 11, 1871 by Lewis W. Hersey of Waukon and J.B. Turck of Milwaukee, WI. Not quite eight years later, the bank moved into its own specifically-designed banking building just across Allamakee Street, the current home of Meraki Salon and Massage Therapy, before officially being incorporated into “Waukon State Bank” in 1892. Submitted photo.

Move to Main Street ... Waukon State Bank made its first move to Main Street in Waukon in 1912, erecting a new building (pictured above) that was more recently long-time known as the Fabric Chalet and is currently occupied by Aztec Parlor. That Main Street location was expanded in 1927 with the purchase of the former First National Bank building just a couple buildings to the east, the site of the eastern portion of the building currently occupied by Epic Wear. Submitted photo.

Moved to current location in 1937, expanded in 1959 ... Waukon State Bank’s current location was originally the Peoples’ National Bank building (pictured above), with that building being purchased by Waukon State Bank in 1937. The bank then purchased the adjacent building to the west (pictured below) in 1959 and expanded its banking services into that building as well. Along with its drive-through location on Rossville Road added in 1970, Waukon State Bank continues its operations following its origination in 1871. Submitted photos.

submitted by Gail Prestemon, Waukon State Bank President

May 11, 1871, the following article appeared in The Waukon Standard newspaper: “By the new advertisement in another column, our readers will see we have at last a Banking House in Waukon. Messrs. Hersey and Turck have established a banking and exchange office in the Stone Block, Waukon, and are now prepared to sell, exchange, receive deposits, make collections and do general banking and exchange business. The merchants and business men in this village and vicinity have long felt the need of a banking house and we hope this new enterprise will be well sustained.”

This news item briefly announced the opening of the first bank in Waukon. It was established by Lewis W. Hersey of Waukon and J.B. Turck of Milwaukee, WI. It was started with initial capital of less than $10,000. The location of the bank was in the south half of the stone block building on the east side of Allamakee Street. The groceries and dry goods store officially began bank operations May 11, 1871.  This building is currently occupied by Lucky Finds Consignment between the former Cotecolor Photography building and the Hills Plumbing & Heating building.

January 22, 1879, the first change of location for the bank was advertised in The Waukon Standard with the following article:  “The Waukon Bank of L.W. Hersey and Co. began business in their handsome new quarters yesterday and we believe they occupy the neatest and best banking room in Northern Iowa.”

The new location for the bank was directly across from the original location.  The new building was constructed by H.H. Stilwell and was designed expressly for the use of the bank. The building was on the west side of Allamakee Street in the previous “Home Mart” building, which is currently occupied by Meraki Salon and Massage Therapy. The officers of the bank were C. T. Granger as President, L.W. Hersey as Cashier and George W. Stoddard as Assistant Cashier. The bank now had capital of $10,000.  The Waukon Bank conducted bank business in this building for 33 years.

The ”Waukon Bank” was officially incorporated as “Waukon State Bank” April 22, 1892.  In 1892, the Waukon Bank of L.W. Hersey was growing and ready for expansion. A group of stockholders was formed, and an official application was made to the State of Iowa for incorporation of the bank. The Articles of Incorporation for Waukon State Bank were handwritten and dated April 14, 1892, and were filed by 11 original stockholders. The 11 original stockholders were G.W. Stoddard, C.T. Granger, Moritz Kerndt, S.H. Hazleton, L.A. Howe, L.W. Hersey, J.W. Thomas, Wm Kerndt, Henry Dayton, M.W. Eaton and J.C. Crawford. The State of Iowa officially approved the Articles of Incorporation April 22, 1892, with $40,000 of capital.

February 1, 1912, a new bank building was erected on Main Street. This building was previously more recently known as the Fabric Chalet and is currently occupied by Aztec Parlor. The building was described by Historian Hancock, “An elegant new building in the very center of the business district, where they have roomy, well-lighted quarters, equipped with every modern convenience and protection, including safety deposit boxes for the use of its patrons.” Waukon State Bank conducted banking operations in this building for 15 years until 1927.

In May of 1912, it was time to renew the bank charter of Waukon State Bank that had been established in 1892. The President of the bank, L.A. Howe, and Cashier S.W. Ludeking made application to the State of Iowa for a renewal of the charter of Waukon State Bank. They submitted a balance sheet to the State of Iowa with total assets of $436,098, deposits of $370,598 and loans of $345,212 and total capital of $50,000. The charter was renewed, and Waukon State Bank continued to serve the community of Waukon.

In 1927, additional space was necessary due to increased volume. For the expansion at the bank’s Main Street location, the former First National Bank building was purchased September 23, 1927 and was occupied for a period of 10 years. This was a stone building with an arch design in the front. This location was the east side of the building that is currently occupied by Epic Wear.

Upon the move to the new location in 1927, the bank had total assets of $1,466,816, loans of $775,944 and deposits of $1,383,309 with capital of $83,506. Waukon State Bank was in good financial condition, which would carry them through the next few years, which would be difficult. Waukon State Bank was the only bank in Waukon to survive the Great Depression years. After the stock market crash in 1929, Waukon State Bank still maintained $94,026 in capital with total assets of $1,651,510.

In December of 1932 in the heart of the Depression, the bank continued to survive. The bank reduced in size to $1,232,247 in total assets, but it continued to remain open and serve its customers. Not one penny was lost by a Waukon State Bank customer during the Depression years due to bank failure or closure.

By 1937, Waukon State Bank had regained its original size prior to the Depression years. The need for a larger facility became apparent and the former Peoples’ National Bank building was acquired at the current Waukon State Bank location. In September of 1937, total assets of the bank were $1,668,193.

By 1955, capital stock increased to $125,000. In 1959 and 1960, the bank purchased the adjoining building downtown and remodeled it into additional banking space.

In 1970, a drive-in facility was added on Rossville Road.  The bank now had $1 million in capital and total assets of $14 million.

December 31, 1979, Richard Lomen, as the majority stockholder, sold the bank to Hawkeye Bancorporation of DesMoines. At that time, Waukon State Bank was $36 million in total assets. The bank continued with local management and Richard Lomen remained President of the bank.

February 27, 1987, a group of local individuals purchased Waukon State Bank back from Hawkeye Bancorporation to bring it back to local ownership.  This group included Richard Lomen, James Sweeney, Tom Thomson, Ray Sweeney, Alan Johnson, Robert Schultz, David Stilwell and David Hahn. Under the leadership of Richard Lomen and James Sweeney, Waukon State Bank has operated as a locally owned bank ever since. When the bank was returned to local ownership, total assets were $38 million, $16 million in loans and $34 million in deposits.

Waukon State Bank continued to grow and expand into new markets. A brand-new bank, Viking State Bank & Trust, was started in Decorah February 20, 1996.  This venture was the idea of James Sweeney and proved to be very successful. Viking State Bank & Trust was started with $2,500,000 in capital.

In January of 2012, Waukon State Bank and Viking State Bank & Trust merged into one bank charter. Viking State Bank & Trust continues to operate as a Division of Waukon State Bank.

In 2021, Waukon State Bank celebrated 150 years in banking. Today, total bank assets are over $360 million. Total loans are $248 million, and deposits are $315 million. Capital has now grown to over $37 million and represents a very strong bank.

Thousands of bank customers over the years have allowed Waukon State Bank to grow from those very humble beginnings to what it is today. Gail Prestemon, President expresses her thanks and sincere appreciation to all Waukon State Bank customers as well as staff, past and present.  Prestemon states, “The 150-year journey of Waukon State Bank has been extremely remarkable and the best is yet to come.”