Highland News Leader

A look back at the history of banking in Highland and the recently sold chamber building

Post card of the 900 Block of Main Street before the 1943 fire.
Post card of the 900 Block of Main Street before the 1943 fire. From the Roland Harris Collection

The F. Ryhiner & Co. Bank, the first bank in Highland, was established on west Main Street in 1854, and it was the third bank in all of Madison County.

The Ryhiner Bank operated very successfully for many years. Then, internal family loans caused the failure of the F. Ryhiner & Co. Bank in 1885.

Highland really needed a bank, and so did the newly established Helvetia Milk Condensing Co., which in 1923 became Pet Milk Co.

Charles Kinne, originally spelled “Kuehne,” operated a saddler shop after the family came to Highland in 1840. By 1849, Kinne purchased his first store, which was also the residence of Garrett Crownover, at the northeast corner of Main and Laurel, for his saddler shop and residence.

By 1856, Kinne opened a general country store in this building and discontinued his saddler shop. The store grew slowly, but in 1861, Kinne was appointed postmaster of Highland. So he moved the post office to his crowded store building on the street level floor of his dwelling house.

By 1866, the name was changed to C. Kinne & Co., and Kinne built a brick, 30-by-60-foot building just to the west of his original house. He also, that year, took in his son, Louis E. Kinne, and his son-in-law, Selmar Pabst.

In 1870, Charles Kinne built the three-story brick building on the west corner lot. In 1881, Charles Kinne retired and sold his interest to his son and son-in-law.

The new owners of C. Kinne & Co. store came up with a plan. They would open a bank within their store. In 1885, they opened the new, private banking firm known as “Kinne & Pabst.” Louis E. Kinne was president and manager, and Selmar Pabst was the cashier

Then, in 1891, a charter was obtained from the state of Illinois for the new “Highland Bank,” which took over the assets of Kinne & Pabst and moved the banking business to the new building at 907 Main St. The Highland Bank operated for a dozen years, then converted to a national bank charter on March 3, 1903, and it became the “First National Bank of Highland.”

On Dec. 18, 1943, the bank building burned. All that remained on the inside was the safe. Here is how it was described in the Dec. 21, 1943, News Leader: “About midnight, Thursday night, Miss Sophia Duncan, the night telephone operator, noticed the First National Bank phone line acting oddly and called the police.

“Night patrolman Frank Knemeyer was sent to investigate. He noticed a volume of smoke emanating from the basement windows and he called Roscoe Menz, who called in the fire alarm. A few minutes later, the fire department was on the scene.

“Entrance to the building was very difficult, and as a result, the basement timbers were a blaze. From there, the flames spread up, with the whole interior burning. The American Legion rooms on the second floor of the bank only suffered minor and repairable damage.

“It was found that the origin of the fire was the old fireplace on the east wall of the first floor. Though not in much use of later years, the fire place had been in use on Wednesday and Thursday, because the oil-heating furnace, had not been operating satisfactory.”

The whole block of buildings was endangered, but firemen did a great job, as only the second floor of the east C. Kinne & Co. building suffered some smoke damage to its wareroom and contents. The old fireplace let the fire go down and ignite timbers below, and the fire gained headway. Most of the exterior brick walls were preserved, and the bank building was rebuilt and the concrete block front was replaced with brick and granite. (See photo with today’s column, of how the buildings looked before the fire.)

After the fire, the First National Bank of Highland continued to grow, and with growth in all departments of the bank, made the quarters on Main Street inadequate. After some years of planning, the southeast corner of Broadway and Washington was purchased, and a new building erected.

By Nov. 13, 1967, the First National Bank moved into its new, large, single-story building at 1000 Broadway. The new building also boasted two drive-up windows and a basement.

The old bank building at 907 Main was given to the Highland Chamber of Commerce for its office and extra rental space. The chamber just sold the building to a yet unnamed buyer. The chamber, along with the Highland Area Community Foundation, will be moving offices just down the street to 1216 Main St., the former location of Cutting Connections hair salon.

In 1990, the First National Bank was purchased by Central Bank, and after many changes, is now the U.S. Bank.

For other information, reread my columns of Nov. 25, 2011, and Feb. 7, 2013.

Information from the C. Kinne & Co. (1856-1906) Golden Jubilee booklet, Highland Sesquicentennial Book, Highland News Leader, 1912 History of Madison County, and the photo thanks to Terry L. Clayton.