Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gray Lady Down

Nanticoke was once a city of banks. Great, hulking banks. Gray Ladies. Enormous money bins, giant becolumned edifices made of granite and glass and metal on the outside and polished marble and empty space on the inside, featuring enormous chandeliers and massive, impressive vaults and little pens chained to desks.

Those days are gone. Most banks no longer see the need for a vulgar display of their wealth with an imposing and impressive physical presence into which customers might enter and be reduced to motedom. Most do it these days by having the executive board rob the customers blind and bleed them dry and abscond with their money.

The buildings that were those great banks are also gone, mostly, torn down and replaced with much smaller and simpler structures, with drive-up tellers and ATMs on the outside. Customers no longer need to set foot within the premises for most transactions.

I think in all of Nanticoke there are perhaps three such structures remaining, out of perhaps three times that number that once existed. And I believe only one is still used as a bank.

First National Bank still exists as a building. But it has not been a bank for many years.*

The granite outer structure still exists. I haven't set foot in the building in decades, since it became a pawn shop of some sort. For the longest time a sign proclaimed "WE BUY GOLD AND SILVER", enticing the people of Nanticoke to cash in their heirlooms, or whatever heirlooms may have come into their possession, for quick cash. I don't know when the lower windows were smashed out and replaced with plywood. I never noticed the "FURNITURE MART / GIFT SHOPPE" sign until I took these pictures. Based on the archaic spelling, I'm sure the Gift Shoppe offered only the finest in merchandise.

Nanticoke, like much of Northeastern Pennsylvania, has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to the economic downturn. A ruin like this - like the other ruins in this city - does not do much to attract additional investment in the city of Nanticoke. Could there be any way to revive this fallen Gray Lady, to turn this liability into an asset?

*While this is true of this building, which has the words "FIRST NATIONAL BANK" engraved across the top, a quick check of the Nanticoke phone directory will reveal that there is in fact a "First Bational Bank" operating just a block away. But that's a subject for another post.

Title reference: The 1978 submarine disaster film Gray Lady Down.


Todd HellsKitchen said...

NYC has been creative... One of these is a spa for Men... Another one or two are or have become nightclubs...

Jason said...

Reminds me of the old Striped Bass on Walnut Street in Philly.