Thursday, March 12, 2020

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Cape Cod Bank & Trust

     In the modern world of the 21st century the connections to the past seem to disappear more and more as the days go by. Technology advances, businesses close and change hands, fads come and go, sometimes the only thing that stays the same is that things keep changing. On the Cape Cod peninsula the most frequently seen change is that of businesses opening and closing. In addition to restaurants and shops one type of business that always seems to change is that of the banking industry. Looking around the Cape these days there are few if any stalwarts that remain. Cape Cod Five and Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod are two that have made it. However there was one banking giant on the Cape that had roots as old as Cape Cod Five and did manage to make it into the 21st century. That bank was Cape Cod Bank and Trust and here is its story.

     The story of Cape Cod Bank and Trust is the story of the coming together of two Cape banking giants. On May 21, 1855 the Bank of Cape Cod was established in Harwich by Prince Crowell among others despite opposition from then-Governor Henry Gardner. Its original headquarters, a Greek-revival style building at the corners of what are today Main Street and Bank Street cost $1,915 ($56,783 in 2020). The Governor however came around on the bank when in 1861 it loaned him 10% of its capital to help the Union Army fight the Civil War. With a need for more capital due to the thriving local fishing industry the state bank became the Cape Cod National Bank of Harwich in 1865. The bank remained unchanged until 1914 when it moved into a new location across the street from the original which then became a telephone exchange and later part of the Brooks Free Library. In May 1920 the Cape Cod National Bank of Harwich was liquidated and was renamed Cape Cod Trust.

The original Cape Cod Trust building in Harwich, now part of the Brooks Free Library.
(Christopher Setterlund)

     In Hyannis in 1865 a meeting was held at the headquarters of Cape Cod Railroad treasurer Alvin Hallett. A new bank, the First National Bank of Hyannis was born there. Its first office was located on the second floor of the Daniel Crowell Building, above his shoe store, at the east end of Main Street. That building later went on to house the Hyannis Inn and later the Velvet Hammer nightclub. It opened on March 6, 1865 with Alexander Baxter as its first president. It remained in that location until 1894 when it moved into its own private headquarters. The bank went into voluntary liquidation in 1916 and was reopened as Hyannis Trust in September of that year. Its success was immediate and a new office was badly needed. A new headquarters was built on the land once occupied by a Masonic Lodge at the beginning of Main Street, opening in April 1924 at a total cost of $120,000 ($1.8 million in 2020).

     Cape Cod Trust and Hyannis Trust came together in April 1964. A merger was approved between the two by the Federal Reserve System. The two banks with their combined assets of approximately $23.5 million ($195.5 million in 2020) immediately became the largest bank on Cape Cod, more than twice the size of any other local bank. It would be known as Cape Cod Bank & Trust with the former Hyannis Trust headquarters on Main Street serving as the new bank’s main office. Ralph Farnham, the president of Hyannis Trust, was named the first head of the new bank.
CCB&T began with branches in Orleans, Osterville, and Hyannis’ West End in addition to the former headquarters of Hyannis Trust and Cape Cod Trust in Harwich. South Yarmouth got the first new branch of CCB&T in February 1965. Its most visible location at the Airport Rotary in Hyannis came soon after.

     In May 1974 a merger was approved between CCB&T and Buzzards Bay National Bank. This brought the company’s total branches to eleven and stretched their reach from Buzzards Bay to Provincetown. The increasing success of the business led to the bank’s main office on Main Street got a hug upgrade with the construction of a $1 million ($4.8 million in 2020) two-story addition to its old brick headquarters in late-1975. The building was state-of-the-art with a spacious basement employee lounge and even a garden on the roof for employee use during the warmer weather.

CCB&T Ad from 1976
(Yarmouth Register) 

     The company sought new ways to gain exposure and create revenue for itself. In 1980 CCB&T added a Money Making Hot Line for information on financial management. This was followed by their stock being traded on the NASDAQ National Market System in 1986. The CCB&T Investment Company opened in October 1992.

     At the turn of the 21st century CCB&T showed no signs of slowing. They took over several local branches of the defunct Fleet company in early 2000. Internet banking was opened in the spring of 2001. In fact 2000 was CCB&T’s best year financially with its total assets reaching $1.2 billion. CCB&T was ranked 8th out of 200 community banks in a 2001 issue of U.S. Banker magazine.

     However despite a seemingly steady climb upwards of success for CCB&T the commercial banking giant itself was swallowed up by a bigger fish. In December 2003 the company was purchased by Banknorth for $300 million, absorbing CCB&T’s twenty-six locations in Barnstable and Plymouth counties. The changeover was well underway by May 2004 with Banknorth’s name replacing CCB&T at all their locations. Banknorth at that time had more than 350 branches across New England and upstate New York. Banknorth became TD Banknorth in 2004 and finally TD Bank in 2008 after subsequent mergers.

The former CCB&T headquarters, Main Street Hyannis
(Christopher Setterlund)

     From its humble beginnings as the Bank of Cape Cod in Harwich and First National Bank of Hyannis in the mid-19th century, all the way up being a billion dollar behemoth at the dawn of the 21st century Cape Cod Bank and Trust became one of the most well known entities on Cape Cod for decades. It was born through progress and mergers and was ended through progress and mergers. CCB&T’s story truly was a full circle.

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my websiteChristopher

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