Shawneetown Bank State Historic Site
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The Bank of Illinois, built in 1839-1841, shown in 1937
|Location||Corner of Main St. and Washington Street, Old Shawneetown, Illinois|
|Area||0.7 acres (0.28 ha)|
|Architectural style||Greek Revival|
|NRHP reference #||72000459|
|Added to NRHP||April 19, 1972|
The Shawneetown Bank State Historic Site is a historic bank building located in the U.S. state of Illinois. A Greek Revival structure built in 1839-1841 in Old Shawneetown, Illinois, the former Bank of Illinois is currently owned by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Pre-Civil War banking
When the Bank of Illinois opened its doors in 1841, banks had the right to print and issue their own paper money. A piece of bank-issued paper money was called a "bank note." The money was supposed to be backed by gold and silver specie, and the Bank of Illinois was built with a large bank vault to contain the precious metals. If a person presented a bank note at a bank for payment, the bank was supposed to offer specie in exchange.
Pre-Civil War banks often had trouble meeting the specie requirement. The Bank of Illinois at Old Shawneetown suspended its operations in 1842, only one year after opening its new bank building. Although Old Shawneetown was a thriving Ohio River port at the time, the bank building remained empty until 1854, when the State Bank of Illinois opened operations in the handsome structure.
Post-Civil War banking
During the American Civil War, the Northern states, including Illinois, were troubled by inflation. To lessen inflation and begin to control the money supply, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that effectively banned small banks like the State Bank of Illinois from printing and issuing their own bank notes.
However, the economic policies set in place during the Civil War and followed the postwar Gilded Age were also good for American banks. By enforcing a gold standard, the federal government favored lenders. Most of the American states created statutes and case law that also favored lenders, enforced the collection of delinquent debts, and made banks and bankers key leaders of their communities.
A disastrous flood
The Great Depression of the 1930s shook the banking industry of the United States. A final blow to Old Shawneetown came with a severe flood of the Ohio River in spring 1937. Many Old Shawneetown riverfront homes and buildings were badly damaged, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration encouraged many of the people of Old Shawneetown to move up atop a nearby bluff, where a new town arose, called Shawneetown, Illinois or New Shawneetown. The Shawneetown Bank State Historic Site closed its bank vault for the last time in 1942.
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