CoreStates Financial Corporation
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|Industry||Bank holding company|
|Fate||Acquired by First Union Corporation|
|Successor||Wachovia (now Wells Fargo)|
|Founded||1803 (As "The Philadelphia Bank")|
The bank was renamed in the mid-1980s after a series of mergers. After being acquired by First Union Corporation, which later merged with Wachovia National Bank, CoreStates Financial Corporation became a part of Wells Fargo in 2008 due to the Wachovia-Wells Fargo merger.
Philadelphia National Bank
The bank was founded in Philadelphia on September 8, 1803, as The Philadelphia Bank. George Clymer was the bank's first president. Later, the bank became known as Philadelphia National Bank, or PNB.
During the early years of the United States, Philadelphia developed as the banking center of the country. The First Bank of the United States chartered in 1791, was based in the city until its charter expired in 1811 and was purchased by Stephen Girard and then renamed Girard Bank for its founder. The Second Bank of the United States was directed for most of the period 1816 to 1836 by Nicholas Biddle, the nation's first chief banker and scion of the city's most iconic family.
The Philadelphia National Bank was neither the oldest nor the most aggressive of the big banks headquartered in the nation's birthplace for most of the city's history; that title went to the First Pennsylvania Bank, the "Pennsy Company", founded a generation earlier in 1784 and led in the twentieth century by an increasingly ambitious and risk-taking board of directors. PNB, on the other hand, maintained a reputation for financial caution, civic responsibility, and, not coincidentally, social exclusiveness. On occasion, the bank made headlines for quiet innovations, such as when during the late 1960s it led all the nation's banks in ending the practice of "redlining" poorer neighborhoods so that personal and small business loans could be extended to residents of poorer city districts, or when, during the middle 1970s, the bank helped universalize ATM banking by building one of the nation's first and largest network of banking machines, known by their acronym, "MAC", for Money Access Center.
By the dawn of the new age of banking in the late 1970s and 1980s, when lending grew highly competitive and banks began vying for power and influence by buying each other, PNB was well positioned to compete. It maintained offices in all of the major financial capitals of the world with headquarters of its subsidiary, Philadelphia International Bank (PIB), in London and New York City. The bank was particularly aggressive in the then-developing Middle East oil-rich states. The real estate bust of the late 1970s, accompanied by high interest rates and rates of foreclosure, did not hurt PNB to the extent it did its more highly exposed crosstown rival, First Pennsylvania, which never completely recovered from the temporary collapse of the real estate investment trust (REIT) industry and was eventually swallowed up by PNB in 1990.
Creation of CoreStates
PNB's first merger involved Hamilton Bank of central Pennsylvania; later, in the mid-1980s, it would take control of New Jersey National Bank of Trenton, New Jersey. Corestates Financial Corporation evolved out of the merger of PNB with Hamilton. Meanwhile, Corestates Bank of Delaware would focus on lending to the many corporations, including chemical giant DuPont, headquartered in the low-tax First State just south of the Pennsylvania border. After it acquired First Pennsylvania Bank in 1990, CoreStates/PNB spent $20 million to win naming rights for 20 years for the new arena being built next to Philadelphia's Spectrum that would subsequently be known as the "CoreStates Center" associated with the bank holding company.
In the fall of 1995, CoreStates acquired another regional rival, Meridian Bancorp, at $3.2 billion their largest acquisition to date. George W. Strawbridge, Jr., a Campbell Soup Company director, heir to the Strawbridge & Clothier department store fortune, and major shareholder in Meridian Bancorp, became director and largest individual shareholder in the Corestates Corporation, continuing an ongoing marriage between the bank and one of the region's most iconic companies, the Campbell Soup Company, that had in the 1970s made G. Morris Dorrance, Jr., scion of the Campbell clan and prominent Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, socialite, PNB's board chairman.
Acquisition by First Union
In the rash of regional bank takeovers that occurred near the end of the twentieth century, CoreStates was then acquired by First Union Corporation of Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1998. The CoreStates-First Union merger, at $17 billion, was then the largest bank merger that had ever taken place in the United States. First Union later bought Wachovia National Bank in 2001 and the combined company took the Wachovia brand name.
Wachovia Bank, suffering losses during the financial crisis of 2008, was purchased by Wells Fargo, an old and similarly fabled bank holding company headquartered originally in San Francisco, California.
The company's original headquarters building is located at the corner of Broad and Chestnut Streets in Center City Philadelphia and is now known as One South Broad. It has long been known for the oversized bell on its uppermost floor that once tolled noon over the city's financial district, once centered at the foot of its building but now moved farther west among the office buildings lining West Market Street. First Pennsylvania Bank's Centre Square twin office towers, with their iconic "Clothespin" sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, shifted the center of that district west at its opening in 1976.
In 1973 the bank opened a second Center City office complex on Independence Mall at Fifth and Market Streets that became headquarters for its operations divisions. In keeping with the company's civic commitment to the City of Philadelphia, the bank simultaneously redesigned and rebuilt SEPTA's Fifth Street/Independence subway station on the Market-Frankford/Blue Line at the intersection's northeast corner, a station whose design subsequently won international awards for its striking combination of colors, textures, and materials.