Pikesville Home to Scarce Notes|
August 26, 2013
This column is dedicated to hometown national banks, but I recently realized that I had never done a proper article on my own hometown national bank. Over a decade ago, I had included a photo in an amalgamate article on some local Maryland banks, but I had not done a thorough job. So this month, we’ll take a look at the history of my hometown, Pikesville, Md., and its national bank.
I was actually born in Baltimore, but we moved to Pikesville, a suburb, when I was 10 years old. I grew up in this suburban town, and while I left for some years to attend college and graduate school, I returned and live here now.
Pikesville is a suburban locality located just northwest of the city of Baltimore, in Baltimore County. Originally, Baltimore County included the city of Baltimore and stretched northward from the Baltimore harbor of the Chesapeake Bay to the Pennsylvania line at York County. However, in 1851, the city of Baltimore elected to become an independent city and seceded from Baltimore County. Accordingly, Baltimore is one of only four major cities in the country to not be part of any county—it is an independent city and Baltimore County, which surrounds it, does not include Baltimore City.
Accordingly, the county seat was moved from Baltimore to Towson in 1851. Unlike most other counties in the nation, Baltimore County includes no incorporated towns—the subdivision operates on a county-wide level. Accordingly, while there are many unincorporated places, there are no actual towns, to the extent that the word “town” indicates a mayor or local police force. The police force is county-wide, as is the public school system. Though Pikesville was never a real “town” in the truest sense of the word, to its inhabitants it certainly was town enough.
The actual “town” of Pikesville was formed shortly after the War of 1812, when the U.S. Army chose the location to build a fortified arsenal. Land was purchased from local landowners, and soon the construction attracted merchants and residents who purchased lots surrounding the arsenal. The locality was named Pikesville by the major landowner in honor of Gen. Zebulon M. Pike, of “Pike’s Peak” fame, who had died during the Battle of York (Toronto) in 1813.
In the ensuing years, Pikesville grew into a small community of a few dozen homes with the U.S. Arsenal as its focal point. Eventually, a small railroad connecting Baltimore with Reisterstown to the north passed through Pikesville. During the Civil War, the arsenal was kept quite busy providing arms to Union troops, and additional soldiers were quartered in the vicinity as Baltimore had been the scene of considerable anti-Union violence in 1861. After the war, the need for arsenals of this type gradually faded, and in 1879, the U.S. Army closed the arsenal.
The property was eventually sold and in 1888 became the Maryland Line Confederate Soldiers’ Home, a rest and retirement home for Maryland Confederate veterans. It remained in operation until 1932. A brochure published by the home in the 1890s describes it as providing the veterans with “a haven of rest…to which they may retire and find refuge, and, at the same time, lose none of their self-respect, nor suffer in the estimation of those whose experience in life is more fortunate.”
At the time of its opening, the Maryland Line Confederate Soldiers’ Home was a prominent feature of Pikesville. The population of the home reached 139 after the first five and a half years of operation. A place of special pride at the home was the relic room, where trophies and memorabilia were displayed along with portraits of Confederate military leaders including Harry Gilmor, Henry Little, Lloyd Tilghman, Isaac Trimble, William Murray, and Raphael Semmes.
After the Soldiers’ Home closed in 1932, the property was sold to the State of Maryland, which then chose it to be the headquarters of the newly formed Maryland State Police. The original building was enlarged, and additional buildings and facilities were added over the years. The site remains the Maryland State Police headquarters to this day.
Although an attractive suburban location today, with a large population, for most of its life Pikesville was nothing more than a village, with suburban growth not starting until the late 1950s. Accordingly, such a small town would become home to a very small national bank.
The Pikesville National Bank, charter 8867, was a classic thinly capitalized small town bank the opened for business in the summer of 1907. The first president was Paul A. Seeger and the first cashier was Charles K. Hann. The bank operated until the beginning of 1932, when it was closed by the receiver for failure of assets. Despite almost 25 years of operations, the bank remained one of the smallest in Maryland, with a total issue of just $130,000. As such a thinly capitalized institution, it left just $6,250 outstanding at the close.
The original Pikesville National Bank building was located at the corner of McHenry Avenue and Reisterstown Road. It was a small granite-faced structure located at the focal point of the town. After the bank failed in 1932 and closed, it was replaced by the Pikesville People’s Bank, which tore down the old bank building and built a much larger bank/office building on the site. That bank had many reincarnations over the years, as the result of mergers and acquisitions.
Today, the Pikesville People’s Bank building still stands, but no bank uses it. It now houses some law offices and a gold-buying shop. I have included photos of the original Pikesville National Bank, a drawing of the original Pikesville People’s Bank, and a photo of that building as it appears today.
I am sure some of my readers are lucky to find that their hometown national banks are large issuers or the notes are otherwise generally available for purchase. Not so with Pikesville. This remains one of Maryland’s rarest banks, with just three large and two small notes reported. That census information has remained constant for many years; the last and only public offering of any note from the Pikesville National Bank was in a Hickman-Oakes sale in 1986.
I was fortunate to obtain a nice large-size $5 note on Pikesville over 20 years ago; the small note eluded me for some time. The note that was sold in Hickman-Oakes ended up in the hands of a strong collector who collected not only Maryland National Bank Notes but also special serial numbers on small-size Federal issues. He eventually sold his entire collection, much of which was auctioned by Lyn Knight many years ago. However, the only note he kept was the small-size Pikesville note, since he was from Pikesville also. I hadn’t heard from him for some time when out of the blue, he called me one day. He had moved to Florida, and had given the Pikesville note to his daughter. Now grown, she had no interest in the note, and wanted money to buy a car. He inquired if I was interested in buying it. You know the answer.
I have included photos of the notes from my collection. The large note has lovely pen signatures of Harry M. Benzinger, president, and T. Earl Steffey, cashier. The small note bears the same signatures. As a boy, I can recall the Steffey family owning a paint store in town. It is long gone.
I am delighted to have this set of notes from a very difficult hometown bank. If I was trying to get them today, it would be an impossible task. Thanks for taking the time to read about my hometown bank—I hope this encourages you to seek out and obtain a note from your hometown.
Readers may address questions or comments about this article or National Bank Notes in general to Mark Hotz directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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