The Bank of Conway was the first banking house located in Conway. Prior to 1890, Conway businesses did their banking in Little Rock. The bank was chartered on April 29, 1890, with Captain W.W. Martin, Jo Frauenthal, S.G. Smith, J.H. Stubbs, W.F. Wilson and other local business leaders active in getting it started.
George W. Donaghey, who later became Governor of Arkansas and presided over the Arkansas State Capitol Building, constructed this building at 908 Front Street. It was his first contract to build a large building. It had a white stone façade with massive double doors that opened into the lobby. It was a beautiful building that would soon be bookended by a couple of small, plain brick stores on either side.
The 1929 Stock Market Crash would cause this bank, as well as the Faulkner County Bank (established in 1902) and the Farmers State Bank (established in 1912,) to collapse. The 43-year-old Bank of Conway, nicknamed “Old Reliable,” was the last to close, remaining open until January 28, 1933. First National Bank would open later that year, finally giving Conway one bank again.
After World War II, a national optimism regarding the economy spread to Conway and led to the establishment of a new bank. Thomas G. Wilson, who began his banking career in 1922 as an assistant cashier at the Bank of Conway, would partner with W.D. Ketcheside as co-founders of this bank in 1946, locating it in the old Bank of Conway building on Front Street.
Deposits on the first day of business, May 16, 1946, totaled $169,000 and paid in capital structure was $75,000. Leo Crafton was the first depositor in the new bank. Ketcheside served as the first president while Wilson was executive vice-president and chief executive officer. Other directors of the bank were J.R. Edwards, W.E. Jumper, Edward A. Halter, Dave H. Ward and J.R. Ott.
This first location had only three teller windows and was described as being not much bigger than a “hole in the wall.” But the bank grew and prospered, becoming one of the two major banks serving Conway.
By the time the bank celebrated its ten-year anniversary in 1956, deposits totaled $4 million. Wilson became president in 1957 when Ketcheside became Chairman of the Board. By 1959, with deposits approaching $6 million, the bank was making plans to build a new facility, having outgrown this Front Street location.
In 1960, First State Bank moved to a new facility on the southwest corner of Oak and Front Streets where the railroad park and drive had been. A 4,000-square-foot second floor was added in 1973 to accommodate the continued growth into a full-service bank. In 1984, the bank outgrew that facility as well and built a new three-story brick structure at 719 Harkrider.
It was also in 1984 that First State Bank became a part of Worthen Banking Corporation. The bank was then acquired by Boatmen’s Bank which was then acquired by Nations Bank. Nations Bank would then rename it Bank of America. Home Bancshares would occupy the upstairs offices of the Harkrider bank facility before it eventually occupied the whole building.
This old bank building would be occupied by Heiliger’s Books before it was torn down and replaced in the late 1980s. Crossman Printing now occupies the space. The bank building on the southwest corner of Oak and Front is now occupied by Conway City Hall.
Cindy Burnett Beckman is a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history. She may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.