Focus on Fostoria - June_16_04

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Fostoria Focus - June 16, 2004

Emerine Helped Create a Pillar of Fostoria Economy
by Leonard Skonecki

The name of Andrew Emerine is in the news these days. The historic Emerine mansion at Wood and Tiffin Streets is for sale by Virgene Barkley. It even made the Blade.

Who was Andrew Emerine Sr. and why does he matter to Fostoria's history? Emerine is important for the same reason Willie Sutton gave for robbing banks — "Because that's where they keep the money."

Emerine didn't rob banks. He ran one. In 1882, he founded one of Fostoria's most successful financial institutions, the First National Bank.

Emerine and a baker's dozen worth of investors cobbled together $50,000 to capitalize the new bank.

Andrew Emerine Sr. was born Dec. 3, 1830, in Wittenberg, Germany.

His story is classic Americana. He was 6 years old when his parents came to America. The family lived in Tiffin briefly before moving to Fostoria.

At 14, Emerine became an apprentice to John Fritcher, a harnes maker. He soon had his own shop.

He was so successful that he had three harness makers working for him. He took his profits and opened a brokerage and real estate office, paving the way for his sortie into banking.

Now that Emerine and his partners had working capital, he needed a building. He rented space from H.J. Lockhart at 110 S. Main, which was Isaly's Dairy from the ‘30s to the ‘50s and the Clothes Closet until the late 1970s.

Prosperity smiled on the First National Bank. In 1892, Emerine built a new bank where Readmore is located today.

In 1893, Emerine opened his new building. It was an odd coincidence because the year that promised bright things for First National proved the undoing of former governor Charles Foster's bank. The Foster Banking Co. failed in the Panic of 1893, a nationwide economic depression.

For the first 41 years of its existence (1882-1923), Emerine Sr. ran the bank. During that time, Andrew Emerine Jr. was paying close attention.

When the elder Emerine retired in 1923 at the age of 91, Andrew Jr. stepped into his father's shoes. The senior Emerine died Nov. 3, 1924 at 93. The junior Emerine proved he was a chip off the old block.

First National remained at Main and Center until 1934. In 1898, the Mechanics Savings Bank opened and in 1907 was reorganized as the Union National Bank.

In 1929, the Union Bank built a new buils=ding, the one that's still there at Main and Tiffin Streets. The Unio Bank did not flourish.

In 1929, the stock market crashed. By 1933, the country reeled under an avalanche of bank failures that claimed the Union National.

In 1934, the younger Emerine obtained a 10-year lease on the Union's building and relocated the First National Bank. That was the same year John Dillinger robbed it.

Unlike the Union National, First National Bank weathered the Bank Panic of 1933 just fine. Andrew Emerine Jr. made two bold decisions in those dark times.

First National was the only bank in Seneca County that didn't limit how much a customer could withdraw from his or her account.

Secondly, Emerine was one of a small handful of bankers who ignored President Franklin Roosevelt's "Bank Holiday" order to close. Emerine kept his bank open, knowing he risked a "run" on it.

The Depression came and went and when it was over First National was still doing business.

Andrew Emerine Jr. didn't last as long as First National president as his father. He only made it 29 years before retiring in 1952.

He kept everything in the family, however. The new president was Eldren Layton, Emerine Jr's. Son-in-law. At that time, the bank boasted assets of over $12 million.

Andrew Emerine Jr. died in July 1967 at age 94. He lived one year longer than his dad.

First National Bank didn't go out of business so much as it faded into the mists of mergers and acquisitions. In 1963, First National became Tri-County Bank when it merged with Tiffin's City National Bank.

Tri-Count merged with Society Corp. of Cleveland and bacame Society National Bank of Northwest Ohio. Then Toledo Trust and Trustcorp came along.

Today Larry Manley and Cheryl Buckland own the building.

In an odd sidelight, Andrew Emerine Jr. didn't just run a bank. He made toy banks a hobby as well.

The Emerine Bank Collection, once housed on the bank's mezzanine, contained hundreds of banks from the period 1870-1900. Some of the banks were mechanical and did tricks when you deposited a coin.

The characters and subjects of the banks ran the gamut fro Little Red Riding Hood to the Bible to Uncle Sam to animals to historical and sports figures. A Jonah and the Whale bank swallowed Jonah when the coin was deposited.

Emerine's collection was so novel that it was featured in the May 3, 1947, issue of Saturday Evening Post.

The First National Bank was a pillar of the Fostoria economy for a long time. It was involved in the establishment of many local businesses and community institutions, including the Fostoria Country Club, Fostoria Women's Club, WFOB and many others.

In 1907, a gent named Clyde Caldwell wrote a history of Fostoria's economic development for the Fostoria Board of Trade. It was called "Fostoria: A Story of Industrial Growth." First National Bank was 25 years old at that time.

Caldwell wrote that First National Bank "has stood the test of years, is backed by men of undeniable financial responsibilities and enjoys the merited respect and confidence of all."

And it stayed that way a long time.


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