THROWBACK THURSDAY: Empty downtown building was once home to Wallingford Bank and Trust Co.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Empty downtown building was once home to Wallingford Bank and Trust Co.

WALLINGFORD — Though the former Bank of America branch at the corner of Center and William Street currently sits vacant, the two-story brick building still has the words “Wallingford Bank And Trust Company” engraved along the top of the structure, serving as a historical reminder of the building’s history.

The building has served as a bank for all 128 years of its existence.  Over a century ago, Wallingford Bank and Trust Company opened in the downtown building.

According to Record-Journal archives, Wallingford Bank and Trust Company owned the first National Cash Register Bookkeeping Machine in New Haven County. The bank operated on its own until merging with Connecticut Bank and Trust Co. in 1962, thus officially becoming a branch of CB&T for the next 30 years.

CB&T, established in the 1800s, was armed with approximately $500 million in financial assets at the time of the merger.

Delavan Ives, the president of WBT at the time of the merger, said “we are joining a bank which has Connecticut roots reaching back 148 years, and which is serving the financial needs of the people of the state.”

Shortly after taking on the CB&T name, the Wallingford building received a major addition and remodeling, as the bank nearly doubled in size by 1963. By 1971, CB&T was considered the 52nd largest bank in the United States.

By 1991, CB&T had fallen on hard financial times. After merging with Bank of New England in 1985, CB&T’s sister company sank after the real estate market plummeted in 1989. CB&T was asked to loan billions to Bank of New England, and eventually, the FDIC seized the company’s banks.

Over $45 million was withdrawn from CB&T accounts across the state in January of 1991 as customers closed their accounts.

Unable to save itself, the Wallingford location was acquired by Fleet Financial Group in 1992, which remained in business until 2005, when Bank of America took over. Bank of America closed the branch in September.

Today, the Bank of America overhang can still be seen on the Center Street side of the building, while an old-fashioned vault alarm box still remains on the building’s William Street side.

For the time being, the inside remains empty.

Town Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan says he has not heard of any formal offers for the building, though there have been some “casual conversations” by some interested in turning the former bank into an entertainment facility, or even a wine bar.

Based on the banking industry’s heavy reliance on electronic transactions, the property at 100 Center St. could very well become something other than a bank for the first time in over 125 years.
Twitter: @ryanchichester1