From Hats to Helping Hands: Supporting Connecticut Communities and Customers for 150 Years

From Hats to Helping Hands: Supporting Connecticut Communities and Customers for 150 Years

150 years ago, on June 20, 1866, the Legislature of the State of Connecticut authorized the incorporation of the Union Savings Bank of Danbury as a mutual savings institution, headquartered in trustee Samuel Stebbins store on Main Street in Danbury. From the original community bank store front to our present-day main office landmark building listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Main Street Historic District in Danbury, to our 26 western Connecticut branches, to our over 375 employees, $2.3 billion in assets and $5 million in charitable contributions, our success has always been tightly woven into the very fabric of Connecticut’s own growth story.

One-hundred-and-fifty years later we’re celebrating the vision of our founders with a look back at some of our major historical milestones, but also with our collective sights firmly focused on the future. Through wars, the Great Depression, the valleys and peaks of the stock market, inventions and innovations that changed – and are changing – the world, we’ve worked alongside our customers and in their communities to make Connecticut a wonderful place to live and do business. That’s exactly what we’ll keep doing as one of the best banks in CT – hopefully for the next 150 years!

Economic winds, politics, advances in technologies and other elements that influence individual and business financial health may not always be in our control, but there’s one thing that we can guarantee won’t change. Just as it was 150 years ago, our reason for being here is still to “safeguard the encouragement of thrift and the savings of friends and neighbors.”

That was the need that fueled our founders’ decision to form a mutual bank. This group included some of Danbury’s leading citizens at the time, people like James S. Taylor, the Bank’s first President. Taylor was a descendant of Thomas Taylor, patriarch of one of the eight original families that founded Danbury. Marshalling the collective strength of community to help both private citizens and local small business secure, manage and grow assets for everyone’s economic benefit is as important today as it was then.

As part of our 150th Anniversary, we’re celebrating one particular industry that was once essential to the economic wellbeing of our hometown and local banks as well as our entire state. We have partnered with the City of Danbury to dedicate a new sculpture by renowned New Fairfield-based artist David Boyajian that honors Danbury’s hatting heritage. This beautiful work, as the plaque reads, is dedicated to “the hard working men and women of the hatting industry who provided a solid foundation for future generations of The Hat City to prosper.”

While the hatting industry in Danbury is now a historical chapter, we continue to be a local small business banking partner with former hat manufacturers that have innovated to produce different products today that ensure their sustainability as a strong business. We’re quite proud to have been part of their original successes as well as their current transformations.

Helping customers build, grow and reimagine started when Margaret Pepper walked through our newly-opened doors in 1866 to make the first recorded deposit. It included our own transformation, through several renovations, expansion to new local banks and then our 2010 acquisition of The First National Bank of Litchfield, the oldest nationally chartered bank in the state. It continues today with customer success stories such as Connecticut’s Washington Supply Company and South Farms.

Whether you do business with us in the community bank at our historic main office (where the original vault supplied by Cincinnati’s Hall Safe & Lock Company is still in use) or use one of our other 25 branches from as far south as Ridgefield, northward to Goshen and Canton, you’ll find evidence of our team’s passion for community support everywhere. Over the past five years alone, our charitable giving programs have funneled over $5 million in contributions and upwards of 80,000 employee volunteer hours to local no-profits. Last year alone, our Union Savings Bank employees gave 20,000 hours of their time to community charities and programs that touch literally everyone in the state.

This year will be the first full fiscal year for our new community relations group, a full-time team exclusively dedicated to ensuring that Union Savings Bank delivers each and every day on our community service commitment. From donating hyperlocal funds through our Community Share program that lets every branch decide where best to deploy their giving budget, to our annual grants program, administered through our own Foundation, our mission to give back is alive and well.

We’re fortunate to live in a state so rich in history. The next time you’re in Danbury, stop by and tip your modern-day hat to the new hatting industry sculpture that we unveiled on June 20th, or swing by 226 Main Street and enjoy our headquarters’ signature Tiffany-style McClintock chime clock, added in 1927, along with the meticulously preserved architectural details of the entire building. Wherever your nearest Union Savings branch is, be sure to visit the best banks in CT – there are local 150th Anniversary celebrations happening throughout this week.

Both past and present employees and customers have lived through dramatic changes since the community bank was officially incorporated on July 23, 1866. Yet, after 150 years, our conviction – that there’s no better place to live, work and enjoy the fruits of our labors than our Nutmeg State – is as strong as ever.

Written by Cindy Merkle
President and CEO, Union Savings Bank