The Sycamore Historic District: Location 11 By Steve Bigolin - Chronicle Columnist
By the year 1910, three banks were to be found along West State Street, from Maple Street to just west of Somonauk Street in downtown Sycamore. The bank that was around for the shortest period of time was Citizens' National Bank, and was located at 219 W. State St., now the home of Villa Verone restaurant. Citizens' National Bank first came to my attention during the late 1970s, when I had access to a 1912 promotional publication about Sycamore. One of the illustrations it contained was a picture of this particular bank, which was established on Nov. 4, 1909. In less than four years, the bank had resources totaling $500,000. The bank boasted: “We Solicit your Banking Business, no matter how large. The fact that our Resources have passed the One-Half Million mark in about three and one-half years is positive assurance to you that we have pleased our patrons.” The interest rate paid on deposits was 3 percent. Five officers of the bank were listed. C.E. Walker was president, while E.M. Delana and J.E. Claycomb were both vice presidents. The cashier was A.E. Hammerschmidt, and J.D. Organ filled the position of assistant cashier. Walker and Delana were both accounted for in various historical sources. Bank President Charles E. Walker was a native of Kane County, born there in 1855. His parents were Canadian; his father, John, was engaged in farming. The family moved to Sycamore Township in the early 1870s; by 1880 they were residents of the town of Sycamore, and John was retired. Charles' first local job was as clerk in the abstract office of John B. Whalen. In 1886, Charles was hired by Sycamore National Bank, where he spent the next 24 years, rising through the ranks. By 1892, he was already cashier. He was listed as a stockholder and director of that bank in the spring of 1901 and went on establish Citizens' National Bank in 1909. (This information comes from the 1876 “Voters & Taxpayers of DeKalb County, Illinois”; the U.S. Census of 1880; 1892's “Plat Book of DeKalb County, Illinois”; and the 1906 “Illustrated Prospectus of Sycamore, Illinois.”) Vice President Edward M. Delana also was from Kane County, born in 1850 in St. Charles. When “Past and Present of DeKalb County, Illinois” was published in 1907, he had been junior partner in the firm of Wood & Delana, a creamery business, for more than 15 years. Although Wood was an Elgin resident, he made his home in Cortland after 1881. “Past and Present of DeKalb County, Illinois” said, “In his home place he has two and a half acres of land and a beautiful suburban residence which stands in the midst of fine old shade trees. The house has been thoroughly improved according to modern ideas, has been supplied with modern plumbing and all conveniences, and he keeps a driving horse for his own pleasure.” The headquarters and factory of Wood & Delana were both located in Cortland, and the business operated three DeKalb County creameries. The 1885 “Portrait and Biographical Album of DeKalb County, Illinois” stated that “the butter and cream factory of Wood & Delaney(sic) is one of the institutions of Cortland. It is considered one of the best in this region in the country.” The 1899 “DeKalb Chronicle Illustrated Souvenir Edition” said the Cortland facility was “receiving 7,000 pounds of milk a day.” Not pictured elsewhere Streetscape views of downtown Sycamore that I am familiar with from the 1880s through the early 1900s do not depict the Citizens' National Bank building, which is just two doors down from the historic George's Block. This says to me that the structure may well have been specifically erected to house the bank, replacing an older 19th-century building. Except for the ground floor, the upper fašade remains much the same way it was pictured in 1912. The former bank building is primarily brick, with distinctive stone trim. Classical Revival was popular for such buildings in the style's early days - the design was seen as imparting a feeling of strength, confidence, dependability and trust. The style told people that this was a safe place to deposit one's money. Two-story Doric columns on tall stone bases rise up to the building's entablature, which once had the bank's name emblazoned across its surface. Atop this is a small pediment, with no carving or decorative detail. The smooth brick wall on the second floor contains a pair of double-hung windows on stone sills, capped by stone lintels. The 1912 rendering shows the words “E.M. Burst Law Office” on the right-hand window. Burst, a prominent attorney, was written about in the 1897 “Souvenir Edition of the True Republican”: 1906's “Illustrated Prospectus of Sycamore, Illinois”; the 1907 county history “Past and Present of DeKalb County, Illinois” and other sources. In 25 words or less, Burst was once Sycamore city attorney, DeKalb County state's attorney and likely also the attorney for Citizens' National Bank. According to Bob Rozycki of the Sycamore Coin Gallery, who has extensively researched DeKalb County banking history, Citizens' National Bank went out of business on Jan. 2, 1926, a little more than 16 years after first opening its doors. --- Steve Bigolin is a DeKalb County history expert.