WESTMINSTER — Union National Bank, one of the few institutions that is older than the county itself, will celebrate its 175th birthday Friday with cakeand coffee for its customers in each of its seven branches.
The bank also is inviting the media for a tour of its Museum Room.
"We have several extant documents and other memorabilia from those pre-Civil War days," said Joseph H. Beaver Jr., president.
"The old handwritten ledgers tell the history of Carroll County's familiesand their fortunes in a way no history book can capture."
Originally chartered on April 20, 1816, the bank is 21 years older than the county, which was chartered Jan. 19, 1837.
"The bank started at the 117 E. Main St. location," said Dominic Pagio, vice president for branch administration and marketing. "The original building looked different, but it was at the same location."
"A History of Union National Bank" explains how the bank was formed by petition for a charterfrom the Maryland General Assembly in 1814.
The petition was granted in December 1815 and the bank opened as the Bank of Westminster in April of the following year.
The bank has been in continuous operation since then, through the Civil War, two world wars, the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.
The bank was reorganized and its name changed to Union National in 1865 after the National Bank Act almost put the Bank of Westminster out of business.
Union National's colorful history includes the story of a bank director,who, during the third quarter of the 1800s, had a distillery from which he distilled pure corn whiskey.
"They kept a barrel of whiskeyin the lobby as a kind of hospitality thing," Pagio said. "It was just 'help yourself,' I think."
Indeed, "A History" notes that "every citizen of Westminster knew that he was perfectly welcome to go into the bank and get a free drink, and could do it without even asking."
And a mural in the entrance lobby of the main branch depicts a scene from those early days when a glass of spirits was the bank's wayof showing appreciation.
"In these tamer days," Pagio said, "cakeand coffee constitute the bank's way of saying 'thank you' to the people of Carroll County who have supported its growth for a century and three-quarters."
Other refreshments will include specially molded chocolate candies with a 175th birthday logo on them, he said.
Despite economic ups and downs, and acquisitions of small institutionsby large corporations in recent times, Union National Bank has been able to remain independent, Pagio said.
"It's unbelievable really," he said. "Back then we took gold and handed out currency in exchange."
Today, Union National has grown to seven branches: one each inFinksburg, Sykesville and Hampstead, and four in Westminster (East Main Street, West Main Street, Cranberry Mall and Route 140 Village).
The bank's historical museum room depicts these various events. Members of the public, school groups or other community groups who would like to visit the museum should contact the bank at 848-7200 or 876-2051.