Charter One bank has notified customers it plans to close its ornate downtown branch in early March, ending a 105-year history of banking at 337 N. Huron St.
In a letter to customers dated Nov. 27, the bank said the branch would permanently close March 5. Three other area branches — in East Toledo, on Lagrange Street, and in Oregon — will remain open.
But what will become of a large painting depicting Gen. Anthony Wayne’s 1794 victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers that hangs in the downtown bank is unclear. The impressive work by Italian-American painter Ettore Caser dominates the bank’s lobby.
The mural, titled Battle of Fallen Timbers, was commissioned by what was then People’s Savings Association as the company in 1930 was remodeling the inside of its building, which dates to 1909. According to a 1967 publication by People’s Savings Association marking the bank’s 80th anniversary, Mr. Caser was chosen for his ability to work with bright colors. He painted the mural using the egg tempera technique, which helped preserve the vivid colors.
Mr. Caser spent three months preparing for the work, which he painted in the bank lobby. The 1967 publication said the mural was completed and applied to the lobby’s rear wall in August, 1930.
People’s paid $17,500 for the work, the equivalent of more than $244,000 today. Mr. Caser died in 1944.
Today, the bank building is owned by local real estate developer David Ball, who bought it from the bank several years ago and leases the space back to it.
He said Tuesday he was aware of Charter One’s plans to close, though he did not know what its motivations for doing so were.
Mr. Ball said he was not sure if he or the bank own the mural. “We’ll look into that when they’re ready to vacate,” he said.
The bank’s branch manager said Tuesday he was not permitted by the company to speak with the media.
A spokesman for RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc., the Providence, R.I., parent company of Charter One, declined to answer any questions about the closure, how many employees the bank had, or what the future was for the painting. She did, however, issue a statement on behalf of the bank that said Charter One continually reviews customers’ patterns and preferences to refine its approach to meeting its customers’ needs.
“Given the increasing popularity of mobile and online banking, we significantly expanded those services last year and are continuing to invest in this area as we also make improvements to our ATM network and in-branch services,” the statement said. “We continue to serve customers at other local branches including our East Toledo branch, which is located approximately a mile away.”
The bank operated as People’s Savings Association until 1992 when it changed its name to Charter One.