Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

December 9, 2013

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Lowertown hosted first Lockport banks

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

Fifty-seven of Niagara County’s leading citizens, and others from out of the area, signed on as stockholders. One of those was Aaron Burr, the former U.S. vice president who fatally shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Thirteen of the men were named as directors and three as commissioners. Shares in the bank could be bought for as little as $1. A handsome, two-story, red brick building was erected on Market Street near Chapel Street. 
For eight years the bank thrived at the center of the community. This was at a time when Lowertown was much more commercial and had many more prominent residents than Uppertown. In fact, Lowertown was the place to live and do business in Lockport in the 1830s and many fine homes were built along Market Street, many of which are still standing. The major hotel was the Lockport House, an imposing Greek revival style edifice at the intersection of Market and Exchange streets. 
It was believed that Lowertown would always be the center of Lockport’s economic and social life. Unfortunately, a series of circumstances occurred that in turn caused the decline of Lowertown and the rise of Uppertown.
One of the setbacks Lowertown experienced involved the Lockport Bank. After eight years of assisting farmers, merchants and individuals, the bank came under attack from the state Legislature and its charter was revoked for “illegal and highly improper practices.” The bank directors disputed these claims but the charter was revoked anyway. 
The directors immediately petitioned the state Legislature to charter a new bank, the Lockport Bank and Trust Co., to be operated out of the same building. It is interesting to note that this charter was granted until 2101, more than 260 years in the future. 
This second Lockport Bank only lasted until 1852, when Lowertown began to lose its prominence to Uppertown. In 1834, Uppertown businessmen began to petition the New York State Legislature for a bank above the locks. It took four years before the “powers that were” granted a charter for the “Canal Bank” in Uppertown. It was located at 77 Main St. So from 1838 to 1852 Lockport had a bank to represent each of its two sections.
After 1852, Lowertown would not have another bank. The building that housed the bank in Lowertown reverted to a residence and later a school for a brief time. It is still standing on Market Street.

Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.

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