First National Bank opened up on the northwest corner of North and Front Street in 1933. The timing was a bit unusual since the Depression was in full swing and most banks were failing about that time. The last bank in town, the Bank of Conway, established in 1890 and the oldest bank between Little Rock and Ft. Smith, had closed January 23, 1933, leaving Conway’s 5,000 citizens without a bank.
When the Depression began, President Hoover formed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) as an emergency measure to strengthen confidence and stimulate the economy. Harvey C. Couch, Sr., founder of Arkansas Power & Light (now Entergy), was appointed to the RFC’s seven-member board.
On April 24, 1933, Harvey C. Couch, Jr., his son, made a visit to Conway to talk to the Chamber of Commerce and local businessmen about starting a new bank here. He already had assurances from the RFC that it would buy stock in it. Local businessmen agreed that Conway did not have any hope of emerging from the Depression unless a sound bank was established.
Under the direction of George L. Bachelor, president of the Chamber of Commerce and local hotel owner, a one-day canvass was held to secure stock subscriptions and on May 10, a formal petition for the organization of First National Bank of Conway was sent to Washington, D.C. The bank had $50,000 in capital stock and a surplus of $6,250. The petition was approved by June 8.
First National Bank of Conway opened for business on July 1, 1933 in the building that had housed the Farmers State Bank before it declared bankruptcy in 1931. You can still see the Farmer State Bank name etched at the top of the building that is now First Security Bank.
Harvey C. Couch, Jr. was named the vice president and cashier. The entire Harvey C. Couch family came for the opening and Harvey C. Couch Sr. was the first depositor in the new bank.
Other officers were R.W. Robins, president; Tom E. Wofford, teller; Wilma Russell (later Mrs. Shannon Whitten), bookkeeper and stenographer; and T.M. Boyd, janitor. The original directors were E.T. Black, Mayer F. Gates, Guy E. Smith, Jason I Summers, Robins and Couch.
In the mid-1970s, the bank purchased an entire block to build a new bank. The block was bordered by Court, Prairie, Chestnut and Main Streets in downtown Conway. One National Plaza opened June 30, 1975, offering full service banking to its Conway customers. Regions Bank bought First National Bank in 1998 and until recently it was the main tenant at 1 National Plaza.
Salter Properties bought the building in 2013 and remodeled it to become Metro Square Courtyard. Office space is now available on the upper floors while Regions is still on the lower floor. The fountain in front of the building that fascinated children for several generations has been updated and outdoor seating has been added.