The "SBU" Bank
When Nicholas Devereux returned from Ireland in late 1813 following the death of his mother, he went back to work for his brother John's merchant store in the village of Utica New York. Nicholas became so involved working for his brother that in 1814 the firm became known as "John C. and Nicholas Devereux."
Nicholas began to handle much of the business responsibilities at this time. However, John remained heavily involved, considering he owned the business.
It was also in 1814 that the brother's moved their business into a new brick building. Inside the building they put a heavy iron strong box. Fear of fire, and the new threat of crime brought on by soldiers and contractors moving through the area due to the War of 1812, convinced some Uticans they needed a safe place to store their excess cash.
|The Original store at 167 Genesee St. (Picture Courtesy Partners Trust Bank, Utica)|
Thus began the early stages of what was to become the most successful business venture for either of the Devereux brothers. They began to store money for the citizens of Utica in their strongbox. Some of them even trusted the Devereux brothers enough to let them invest their funds. Though no formal charter had been issued one of the first savings institutions in the country had been opened. Most historians claim the first was "The Philadelphia Savings Fund Society" in 1818, however the Devereux brothers opened without a charter in 1816.
Completion of the canal between Utica and Rome helped to boost investments in the strongbox, workers stored their salaries in it. In 1818 there was so much money in the box that John and Nicholas applied for a charter, which was granted in 1821.
|The original strongbox used by the Devereuxs (Photo by Gary Fountain).|
By 1821 the canal was completed and many of the workers had moved on, so there was no need to put the charter into effect. However, what the completion of the canal took away from the Devereux bank, it gave back to the Village of Utica ten fold. Commerce and population skyrocketed through the 1820's, in 1832 the Village of Utica became the City of Utica.
In 1837 the newly recognized city became gripped in its first financial panic. The success of the Erie Canal convinced many Americans to invest in canals. Unfortunately the emergence of the railroad hurt the canal industry and all its investors significantly. Residents of the city were again convinced the safest place for their money was inside a bank, enter John C. and Nicholas Devereux once more.
|This is the corner at 167 Genesee St. as it appears today, the original bank would have been located right about where the Rite Aid is (Photo Courtesy Partners Trust Bank, Utica)|
On April 26, 1839 a second formal charter was granted and the Savings Bank of Utica opened its doors for the first time as an "official" banking institution. John C. Devereux was the first president and Nicholas served on the board of directors.
By this time the Devereux name was extremely popular in the city of Utica. A year after the bank was opened John Corish Devereux was elected mayor of the city by its residents.
The Savings Bank of Utica still operates today, though its name has changed to Partners Trust Bank. Portraits of both Nicholas and John C. Devereux still hang on the walls of the bank's main office in Utica.
Both of the Devereux brothers became very wealthy with the success of the bank, and both were essential to the city's growth. However, it was Nicholas who used his business savvy and wealth to become a more lasting figure in western New York as a whole.
|This is a picture of the main headquarters of Partners Trust Bank where portraits of the Devereux Brothers still hang (photo courtesy of Partners Trust Bank).|
A very special thanks goes out to Partners Trust Bank, especially unofficial bank historian Scott Fiesthumel, who was essential in the production of this page. Some of the information on this page was taken from the article "The Bank With the Gold Dome" by Scott Fiesthumel, which appeared in the Oneida County History Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1.