Built to service a prosperous riverport town, the grand old bank was abandoned after a disastrous 1937 flood
Climb the steps of this 180 year old bank building. We will peek in the windows and learn a little bit about the bank and the town.
Walk with me as I explore this 180-year-old bank building
The building was placed into renovations in the 1970s, but those were abandoned midway. Now the building stands proud but in decline.
The big historic abandoned bank in Old Shawneetown, Illinois
This is Old Shawneetown, Illinois and it used to be a very prosperous river port town. This bank was built between 1839 and 1841 and is the oldest building in Illinois that was purpose-built as a bank. It’s designed in Greek Revival style, and it’s constructed of brick with a limestone facade. Banks were in this building into the 20th century.
Legend says the bank once declined to buy the first bonds issued by the city of Chicago, thinking the city had no future.
Established along the banks of the tempestuous Ohio River, Old Shawneetown — including the bank — was abandoned, and the community relocated after the devastating flood of 1937. The city of Shawneetown is now several miles inland. Although a small community still exists in Old Shawneetown, most of the historic downtown is gone.
I’ve visited many towns along the Ohio River, and the flood of 1937 is still a very present topic. It must have been tragic.
John McKee Peeples and the First National Bank
I was contacted by a gentleman whose family operated the bank in the early years. Below is his statement published verbatim. His family records indicate that the bank opened in 1865, but my research shows the building completed in 1841. The original bank went through several iterations before the Civil War, but was closed during the war because managers feared it might be overtaken by Confederate soldiers. It was reopened in 1865 by John McKee Peeples.
“My great-great-grandfather, John McKee Peeples, opened the First National Bank of Shawneetown in that building in 1865, according to our family history. My great grandfather, William A. Peeples I, was a president of that bank. My Aunt Persis-Jane Peeples Cline and Uncle Edward T. Peeples visited the bank when they were kids, circa the teens, she told her son, my first cousin, Ted, who added that PJ said she and Ed especially enjoyed the spiral staircase north of the vault. Their brother and my father, William A. Peeples II, was named after WAP I. I have a photo of WAP I holding baby WAP II, circa 1922. We thank Ted for finding and sharing this priceless bit of deep history for our family.” — Submitted by Stephen Peeples, 2021.
Many thanks to Mr. Peeples for sharing that history!
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