Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tulsa Banks: The Farmers/Exchange/NBT/BOk

Tulsa's first bank was born July 29, 1895 in a brick building that sat amid the dust and prairie chickens, cooling themselves near the foundation.  Called the Tulsa Banking Company, it boasted when deposits reached $65,000 from a population of 1,300 later that year.  

Oil had not yet been discovered and loans were given mainly to those ranchers with a large herd of cattle and horses.  A few short years later, though, banks were everywhere.  This diagram from the Nina Dunn Book "Tulsa's Magic Roots" helps illustrate how just this one bank grew in a few decades:

Then Came Oil Money
In 1909 the intersection of Second and Main was known as "Financial Row" with banks on all four corners.  The Farmer's National was on the southeast corner, the First National in it's "skyscraper" 5-story building sat on the northwest corner 

First National Bank
with Planter's National  on the southwest and the National Bank of Commerce  on the northeast corners.  

The Farmer's National Bank was organized in 1903 by the Marr's brothers.  Oilman Charles Simmons took the helm in 1909 and the bank rose to be one of the largest in the city.  Controversy over connections with the failed Columbia Bank in Oklahoma City however, caused deposits to drop and the doors were closed.  The night after the failure, thirty of Tulsa's wealthiest oilmen met and formed a plan for reorganization.  In February of 1910 the bank reopened the same doors, but with a new name: Exchange National Bank.

In 1917 the fast-growing bank moved into it's new twelve-story building at 302 S. Boston.   
As Exchange Bank absorbed more and more of the smaller neighboring banks, it's home grew as well.  During 1922-23 the second section of the building was extended to include the full block from Third to Fourth Street on the west side of Boston.  

Artist pen and ink drawing of the future bank building.
In 1927 a four hundred foot tower was completed atop the building, making it the tallest in the city and dominating Tulsa's skyline for the next thirty years.  It was during this time that a new vault weighing 55 tons was added, requiring intricate construction.  It is said that temporary railroad ties were laid from the train station to the construction site to transfer the vault to the bank.

In 1938 The Exchange was illuminated creating an impressive nighttime picture.  The weather lights were added to the tower in 1960's, changing colors to give the forecast.  Although sources give the years 1967 to 1973 as the time period for the "weather teller" this postcard indicates that the idea, anyway, was much earlier.

Even when the Depression hit, many of the large stockholders advanced money into the bank to help meet demands and remain in business.  In 1933 the Exchange National Bank was reorganized and the name changed to the National Bank of Tulsa.

Forty two years later, the name was again changed, this time to Bank of Oklahoma and in 1976 the bank's business was moved into a brand new 52-story skyscraper.  They celebrated 100 years of business in 2010.

Sources:  Tulsa's Magic Roots by Nina Dunn; Tulsa World; Bank of Oklahoma


Unknown said...

Very interesting post with lots of history and photos. Your blog stands as a great source of information.

Angeli Wahlstedt said...

Just a quick note to let you know that I am enjoying this blog. Though I haven't lived in Tulsa for years, I still consider Tulsa to be my hometown. Keep up the great work.

Nancy said...

Thanks Bill and thanks Unknown!

Rela said...

Commercial loans, primarily to the energy, services, health care, and wholesale and retail industries, make up a majority of BOK's loan portfolio. Commercial real estate, residential mortgage, car, and consumer loans round out its lending.